Arsenal needs minor miracle in Munich

Arsenal have dug themselves a hole so deep that it’s going to be nearly impossible to climb out of after dropping a 3-1 decision at home on Feb. 19 to Germany’s Bayern Munich in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie in the European Champions League. It was a rather sloppy affair in the first half with the Gunners improving greatly in the second 45 minutes, but they were simply beaten by a better side on the night.
The effort couldn’t be faulted, but shoddy defending and not being ready from the opening kickoff was their downfall again. It’s certainly going to take a Herculean effort to overcome this score line, but all the team can do now is head to Munich and give it their best shot. Manager Arsene Wenger will now have some time to figure out what his best plan of attack will be and will probably make a few changes to the starting 11 next time out.
However, it looks like he’s basically stuck with the same back four unless he gives Carl Jenkinson a shot and Kieran Gibbs makes a speedy recovery. The team’s defending is often a comedy of errors and they’re usually punished for it. The attack was almost non-existent in the first half, but things did pick up in the second half. However, the third Munich goal extinguished any hopes of a comeback.
Wenger will undoubtedly come under more criticism for the loss as well as the strange press conference leading up to it. Many fans want to see him ride out on the sunset, but even if he does leave it’s not likely to happen until the season’s over. Meanwhile he’s got to try and motivate his players for huge upcoming league matches against Tottenham and Everton if they hope to finish in the top four and make the Champions League again next season.
The game got off to a lively start in front of a vocal crowd, but the home supporters were dumfounded after just seven minutes when Bayern took the lead on a smashing shot from about 18 yards out by Toni Kroos. Thomas Muller set it up with a cross the Arsenal defenders couldn’t handle. Just 14 minutes later the lead was doubled off of a corner kick.  Daniel van Buyten met the corner with his head and keeper Wojciech Szczesny could only parry it right back out too Muller, who flicked it into the net from a couple of yard out.
Arsenal looked like they might lose the plot when Bacary Sagna and Mikel Arteta picked up yellow cards soon after the goal. They hung in there for the remainder of the half though and went into the break dejected and down 2-0. The second half brought a ray of hope though as the Gunners narrowed the score to 2-1 after 55 minutes when former Bayern player Lukas Podolski headed in Jack Wilshere’s corner from the right side of the pitch.
It looked like Arsenal had the time and energy to level the score and Wenger brought on Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky for Podolski and Aaron Ramsey with 20 minutes to go. The move almost paid immediate dividends As Giroud was set up by Walcott, but his shot was aimed directly at keeper Manuel Neuer. The first leg was put to bed in the 77thminute when Bayern scored a scrambled goal, much like Blackburn did in the FA Cup match at the Emirates on Saturday.
Winger Arjen Robben beat Thomas Vermaelen rather easily and passed to Phillipp Lahm who overlapped him on the right wing. Lahm crossed the ball into the six-yard box and Mario Mandzukic beat Bacary Sagna to it. The ball hit his leg and flew up in the air and came down over Szczesny and into the net.
Arsenal’s next game is at home at the Emirates against Aston Villa on Sat. Feb. 23 with the return leg in Munich taking place on Wed. March 13 at the Allianz Arena.
Arsenal Player Ratings vs Bayern Munich Feb. 19
Wojciech Szczesny 5.5
Couldn’t really be blamed for any of the three goals that beat him. However, he needs to work on his rebound control. He’s parrying shots right back into open play and to the feet of opposing players far too often.
Bacary Sagna 5.5
Didn’t have a very impressive outing. He was mediocre with the ball and the same without it. He didn’t mark Mario Mandzukic very well on the back-breaking third goal.
Per Mertesacker 5
Was caught standing around with several of his teammates on the first two Bayern goals. Was out of position far too often.
Laurent Koscielny 5.5
Was the best of a weak back four. Cut off several passes and crosses, but was also a bystander on the first two goals.
Thomas Vermaelen 5
He had a problem playing the left side and was beaten too often. Weak on the goals and didn’t contribute much to the offence.
Mikel Arteta 5.5
 A decent showing by Arteta, but not his best. Played better in the second half, but still looked lost at times.
Aaron Ramsey 5.5
Ramsey worked hard, but it didn’t really pay off in much. His passing was suspect on occasion and he needs to improve defensively. Came off after 71 minutes for Tomas Rosicky.
Jack Wilshere 7
Wilshere tried his best as usual, but he didn’t control the game as he usually does. He lost the ball several times and his passes weren’t as accurate as they usually are. Still the best of the Gunners and all heart.
Santi Cazorla 5.5
Cazorla didn’t have much success either when trying to create some offence. He also lost the ball more often than usual and his defensive play was on the weak side.
Theo Walcott 6
Walcott didn’t really get much service at all and therefore didn’t have much of an impact on the match. Put in a good effort, but to no avail.
Lukas Podolski 6
Scored the Arsenal goal on a header off of a corner. However, he didn’t really contribute much else in the way of attacking. Phillipp Lahm marked him well. Came off after 71 minutes for Olivier Giroud.
Substitutes

Tomas Rosicky 6.5
Came on for Ramsey after 71 minutes. He added a bit of a spark when he first came on and helped set up Giroud right away. Played well and should be considered for the second leg.
Olivier Giroud 6
Came on for Podolski after 71 minutes  Had an immediate chance to score when Arsenal were trailing 2-1, but keeper Manuel Neuer was equal to the task. Wenger might also want to start him in Munich too as he seemed to create a bit of trouble for the Bayern defenders.

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