Arsenal take on Bayern in Munich (again)

By Tim Todd der Weinermeister

I’ve been there, twice. Away fans in the Allianz arena are segregated high up in the corner of the stadium, as far away from the action as possible. As far away from Bayern’s “ultras” as possible.

The vast majority of the fans in the Allianz arena are middle-class blanket warmers. Like Anfield or any of the big clubs I’ve seen in Europe, most fans are older, moneyed, and mostly annoyed at the idea of having to chant or sing. At the Allianz arena they handed out clappers one year, a fan-like device which made a loud clacking noise when you waved it, and the next year they handed out rattles. The Bayern fans sat politely with their blankets on their legs, spinning their rattles whenever their team did something well.

I remember Podolski’s goal. I remember that Bayern felt he fouled Lahm in the build up. But the ref allowed the tackle and while Bayern were waving imaginary rattles, Podolski waltzed in and fired a rocket past Neuer. Podolski only ever fired rockets, when he could be bothered to bring his shin pads.

I remember the match in 2013. Arsenal went into the tie basically defeated after a 3-1 loss at home to the Bavarians. But an early goal by Giroud and some stalwart defending gave the Arsenal supporters hope heading into the second half. And then in the 85th minute, from seemingly nothing, Koscielny scored a second goal. Arsenal were level on aggregate but needed an extra goal to go ahead on the away goals rule. Those final 8 minutes were among the most tense, the most hopeful I’ve ever felt at an Arsenal match. I just knew, KNEW, that we were going through to the next round. But Bayern shut up shop and Arsenal couldn’t even create another shot. Just like the only other time I felt that hopeful and certain of an outcome, the League Cup final against Birmingham, Arsenal fell just short.

And now here we are again, back in Bavaria, with a slight twinge of hope that Arsenal could progress. After all this isn’t the same killer Bayern side that Arsenal faced years ago. Lahm and Alonso are about to retire at 35 years old, Robben and Ribery should have retired a few years ago but play on at age 33, Lewandowski is starting to fade, Muller is a shell of himself from the last few years (though United reportedly bid £80m on him!), and Vidal has always looked like he was on the verge of physical collapse.

Despite some ageing stars Bayern are hardly a collection of old men. Alcantara, Costa, Kimmich, Alaba, and Kingsley Coman are available and they are among the world’s best young physical specimens. Judging by Wenger’s comments in the pre-match build up where he states “Bayern will, as always, try to dominate the game and have lots of possession. We will play an offensive team with a high tempo and lots of experience. That’s why we’ll have to give a big performance.” And Aaron Ramsey suggesting that Arsenal need to get in their face a bit, it seems like Arsenal are going to try to outhustle Bayern in this match. Combined with solid defending, this is a good strategy. We saw PSG deploy this strategy against Barcelona and walk away 4-0 winners.

Arsenal need to control Bayern’s midfield duo of Alcantara and Alonso. Alcantara is an especially tricky player to control and it will be interesting to see what kind of lineup Wenger chooses in midfield to try to get the ball back off him. I expect a 5-man Arsenal midfield with Alexis actually dropping in to help press Xabi and Thiago and Özil playing furthest forward.

As for Arsenal, almost everything will depend on taking our chances. Bayern won’t give up many shots, they conceded just 6 per game on average in the Champions League at home. But they will concede at least one or two big chances in this match. Given the dearth of opportunities, Arsenal absolutely cannot be wasteful today if we want a win. Though, a 0-0 draw is acceptable, that away goal is crucial, it’s just that little bit of an edge and insurance in the return fixture.

To all the Gooners who are in Munich, have a great time and raise a toast for me. Here’s to a memorable night.

Qq

80 comments

      1. Not sure about 4-0 but ECI had the away team as favorites to win 40% of the time, while the home win and draw were roughly equally probable at 35%.

        Win probability is just that, it’s not meant to be a prediction.

  1. The most memorable moment from that glorious failure for me was the arrogance of Bayern keeper being taken down a notch or two, when he was flopping about deep into his goal mouth trying to waste as much time as possible by covering up the match ball after Arsenal scored their second goal.

    Bayern , despite their recent series of good results, are not the same club they were last year under Guardiola and its just too bad Arsenal don’t go into this game playing well, because just like Barca yesterday, I feel Bayern are ripe for a take down.

  2. Perez is turning into the next Poldi, with Wenger unwilling to utilize his directness and great conversion rate.

    Disappointing, as I feel he’d have been useful tonight. Also, rumours that he wants to go back, with us not giving him playing time. Sad thing, if true.

    1. He has a slight injury keeping him out tonight, but definitely think he could have been given an opportunity to start previously this season. Seems like a real fighter who is as happy to create as to score. Team player.

    2. Can’t say I see the similarity at all. Podolski offered goals and nothing else, Lucas has a more rounded game, but less likely to piledrive a hole into the net. Poldi got dropped because he didn’t defend, Lucas because of nagging injuries and a logjam of players for the wide-forward position (Walcott, Welbeck, Ox, Alexis if Giroud plays). Pretty different IMO.

  3. It’s really sad to see Wenger undoing the work of twenty years in this manner. He just doesn’t seem able to organize a team any more…or the players no longer respond to his promptings. For everyone’s sake, the club needs a clean break. This has been an utterly embarrassing evening.

  4. I brought up the ECI odds earlier to give context to this match. We think of Arsenal and Bayern as two of the top teams in Europe, and they are. But Bayern should be regarded in a different bracket from Arsenal and the ECI brings numerical context to that. Bayern are 3rd in the world on 4134 points, which is 707 points higher than 10th placed Arsenal at 3425. If we look to see what teams are separated from Arsenal by 707 below them, we end up in between 49th placed 1. FC Koln and 50th placed Sparta Praha of the Czech championship. That theoretical difference was wholly and completely demonstrated on the pitch tonight.

    I began watching this match with reluctance because I knew the most likely outcome was a rout. Arsene could try to tactic his brain out and it still wouldn’t change that probability. I’ll also draw attention to the fact that other luminaries of English football aren’t at this stage either because they stunk too much last season or because they couldn’t navigate the group stage. We won the group stage, got one of 3 teams we had no real chance of beating, and so here we are. Obviously losing Koscielny was a huge turning point at 1-1 just after halftime; I feel they probably still would’ve won 2-1 or 3-1 but it wouldn’t have been this lopsided. Without our best defender the task became impossible.

    Underlying it all is a sense of inertia which I’m sure many people will bring up. I would caution running away with that thread too much, simply because of who we faced tonight. It’s been a wretched run for us in terms of opponents in the last 16, Monaco aside. I’m not trying to absolve Arsene of blame. He’s brought in these players and has had plenty of time to build this team. Clearly we’re no closer than we were to either the PL or CL, which have to be the targets for us, no matter the size of the gap between ourselves and those few clubs who are ahead of us.

    1. I understand your point in the first paragraph but I think a fairer comparison would be to look at the amount of resources available to both clubs no? The difference in resources available to Bayern and Arsenal is ~ €125 MM total revenue. To put that into perspective, a club earning that much less than us would rank somewhere between Juventus and Dortmund in the Deloitte money list. Can you see us beating them 5-1? Two times in a row on top of that?

      1. This changes the emphasis from where Arsenal ARE at the start of this match to perhaps where they should be. That’s a different conversation. Yes, we should be closer to Bayern than that, but we aren’t.

  5. A sadly bang on performance and score. What ever did we expect? Mustafi defends like a professional golfer playing a charity football match.

  6. @Dr Gooner: The beauty of sport is that it allows you to dream, to hope, and by extending yourself in the direction of your dreams, to actually achieve more than you logically should. Forget the odds!I’m irked by the current Arsenal iteration’s lack of coherence of vision or cohesion in execution. There was scant evidence of preparation. Even when the tide started to turn with Koscielny’s injury-enforced substitution and Lewandowski’s header soon after, there was no discernible hardening of resolve by the players, tactical change or guidance from the bench. They were just left to fend for themselves and predictably fell apart. Again. That’s unacceptable and has nothing to do with pre-game statistical odds!

    1. Dreaming and hoping is one thing; expecting is different entirely. Words like “coherence” “preparation” “hardening of resolve” are all subjective. Those kinds of intangibles are especially difficult to see in your team in the moments after a heavy defeat.

      When the odds are against you, you have to play perfect ball. We didn’t do that and got blown out. Perfectly legitimate questions should be asked of the playing personnel and of the managers but it has to be done in the context of the likelihood of success and prior performance.

      1. Without that innate belief in one’s ability to buck the trend on a given day (which is the beauty of knockout football like the Champions’ League), then every elite level sportsman becomes a charlatan and fraud. I can’t exonerate a top level team like Arsenal for its increasingly shambolic displays against supposed peers. I really can’t.

      2. I don’t buy this prior performance nonsense at all. It just makes it too easy to say hey we were shit before and we are shit now – so I guess that’s okay. I agree with asking the questions in the context of the likelihood of success but after a performance like that (and let’s be fair, we have had several of them), I think context goes out the window. There is a time for heads to roll and we are perfectly poised for that.

      3. See I just don’t buy into the idea that questions should be asked in the context of prior performance. That’s just makes it too easy to say, hey we were sh8 before and we are sh8 now so I guess that’s okay. I can, to some degree, understand why the questions should be asked in the context of the likelihood of success but I think that too has it’s limits and when you lose 5-1 away to the same team twice in a row and keep repeating the kind of horrible performances that we are routinely guilty of, those contexts go out of the window. Then it’s a simple matter of why are we such a stinking pile of poo and what do we need to do to change it? Then it’s time for heads to roll and the time for that at Arsenal has been long overdue.

        1. I don’t think we’re a stinking pile of poo. But we’re not nearly as good as the elite teams, and they’re the ones inevitably in the way when we get this far in the competition. It was really rotten luck to draw Bayern in this round after we won our group (which contained PSG, who were the better team!)

          Context is everything in sports management and heads rolling will only help if it leads to tangible improvement. In my view there is a better case for bringing a director of football to work with Arsene on building his squad than for firing Wenger the coach, although like I’ve said before, I would be open to a coaching change as well as long as it’s a strong candidate who will be part of a well thought out succession plan.

  7. Aren’t our odds were calculated from prior performances? Tactics won’t help our results is a bollocks statetements. Having an actual tactics and specific strategy helped immensely. It will help prior performance and also this match too. Conceding to Bayern just because they have a bigger odds is absolutely an underhanded tactic to try to absolve the blame from the manager and the player, no matter how you think you try to blame them too.

    To put it simply, we actually on par with P5G, but I have 100% conviction that we won’t get the result that PSG done recently to Barcelona. PSG actually have almost the same record against Barcelona as us against Bayern. How did they done the thing they did yesterday? Tactics and strategy is one of the most important element of that.

    1. Yes, ECI is caculated based on performance and no, we’re not on par with PSG, though it’s closer, about a 300 point difference.

      My point is tactics and strategy only gets you so far. Remember when we played Ludogorets Razgard? They had pretty sound setup tactically but we blew them out because our players were better and more dangerous across the board. Same story pretty much when we play any team in the bottom 14 of the PL. You need great tactics AND great team execution of those tactics, and even then you need some luck to go your way. That’s how you win a game like tonight’s.

      You can have your conviction and think of my post what you want, it won’t change the numbers.

      1. completely agree,quality wise arsenal are just not in the same class as Bayern, but probably also not inferior by 4 goals too? This kind of pasting just happens too often than expected…

      2. Is this how you’re going to argue? Escape through some random points? Tell me what groups are we in and which one were the first and second place? Those conviniently escapist point that you trying to present will only be just that. An escape from facing the problem. And I’m only just going to emphasis on it.

      3. Doc, I appreciate you trying to rationalize the heavy defeat but are you seriously saying that Ludogorets: Arsenal = Arsenal: Bayern? Look if you are saying the gulf in class is similar then I sadly agree with you – and that’s a problem.

        1. NYC, yes I do think the gap between us and Bayern is similar to the gap between ourselves and Ludogorets. They’re a pretty good team, but we’re a class above them. Same scenario with us and Bayern.

          Nikki, I’m not sure how you want me to argue. I’ve made my points, so state yours. You can’t just tell me my points are invalid, that’s not how debate works.

  8. Adding to how our performance is definetly down to our manager and no mattwr how you argue, even with some random points which if you want to be critical, also down to our manager, is the perfoemancw of Coquelin. I’m sure that some here still think that he is somewhat fine for us, but no tackles and 6 passes for 77 minutes. This is the kind of performances that those people reluctant to see with him. I can tolerate his passing, him missing in when we’re in possession if he can have a Kante like number in defensive stats. He didn’t. Stop making excuses and became an apologist for him and tell it what it is. For our stature of the club, his performance doesn’t belong at our club. When we needed him the most, which is in big games, he goes missing when we are in possession and also out of possession.

    1. Coquelin was at fault on the opening goal because he tried to jump Robben’s right foot pass which allowed him to shimmy onto his deadly left for the shot. It’s inexcusable to show Robben inside from the right channel, it’s a mental mistake and it’s not the first for Coquelin.

      If you’re saying he’s not good enough to be starting for Arsenal in a match of this caliber, I won’t argue. That accusation could’ve been leveled at a few players out there today. Yes, the manager does pick the team, but it’s a lot easier to be in Ancelotti’s shoes and be able to call upon the names he’s got. They have an absurd roster. It will take years of savvy squad building and heavy investment, just like they’ve done, to come close to what they have.

  9. I would just like to say I thoroughly appreciate the measured intelligence of the respondents on this site. It’s like listening to radio 4 after radio 1. (Brits will understand) . For the record I think this groundhog day is really tiresome now. It’s time

    1. Groundhog day! I just saw the movie again a couple of weeks ago (on groundhog day of course). You are right. This is exactly what this feels like.

  10. If I look like I’m too confrontational to Dr. Goomer, I apologize. Some points we actually agree, like the Alexis one or when I wonder whether Tim is right on Mustafi, he gave a good statistic, which if there still a like button, I’ll give it. To be fair, Tim argument on Mustafi needing a running start on his jumping still proof to be right.

    The main thing is this, even if you concede that we’re going to lose. If our gulf in some ECL points is too huge, those points does not predict how much we lose. We could lose 1-0,2-1, or even 3-1 and I could at least still have some believe in this team. Tactic and startegy will help us that even if we’re going to lose, it’s not that heavily. That is by taking the argument of ECL points, but let’s think for a seconds, Why are Bayern seconds? Who did Bayern lose points too. What are those teams ECL points. The answer might actually gave you more question.

    1. Regarding the heaviness of the defeat, I think that’s down to losing Koscielny at a crucial point in the game. It’s not just his individual quality but also the cohesiveness of the back four that’s compromised. It was a huge shift in that situation. With Koscielny in the there, I don’t think it gets that lopsided.

      Bayern haven’t been doing too much losing lately. We got them at a bad time, even for them. They lost to Dortmund earlier this year but it’s a very different situation now. They’re obliterating their domestic league. That’s why I’m saying, the form they’re in, the players they’ve got, Arsene could tactically spin on his head for 90 minutes and it probably wouldn’t matter.

      1. Ah, I think your last sentence is the main point of the debate. Our stance on tactic and ECL points is on polar opposite. I think Arsene could tactically spin it and the result will be different. It’s what matters for me whereas ECL points for me wouldn’t matter. We could disagree on this and that would be fine by me. At least we come at the same points on Coquelin stature on him starting big games.

  11. @Doc: You think “the gap between us and Bayern is similar to the gap between ourselves and Ludogorets,” and I totally agree with you (which is rare indeed). Aren’t you thereby making a cogent case for getting rid of Wenger? Surely you’ll agree that given our financial muscle, we should at the very least be competitive, at least to the degree that Atletico/Dortmund have now been competitive for at least the past 5 years. We have been laughable and laughably dismissed time and again. What would it take for you to pull the plug on Arsene? We don’t even play attractive football very often anymore. i miss the Cesc-Hleb-Flamini years when we were beautiful losers. Now we just lose ugly.

    1. It’s a different conversation and it gets to many more layers and years of squad building/development. I think that’s a better case for Wenger’s failure than what tends to happen on matchdays when his teams meet Barca or Bayern. It’s also only half of his job, and not the half he likes best, but obviously it has a huge impact on what his teams can do on the pitch.

      Like I said above, I’d be open to a coaching change, have been for months. But it has to be well thought out and the replacement must be right. I think bringing in a director of football to assume Arsene’s office duties on transfers might be the best course to take.

      1. I don’t think anyone has ever suggested a less than thoughtful approach to this eventual managerial change. I for one am hoping that tonight’s defeat is the lost battle that wins us the war by setting us on a thoughtful search for a new direction and new manager. I want to recapture that hopeful feeling again, even if it means a few rebuilding years.

        1. Glowworm:
          The writer of this very blog has suggested a less than thoughtful approach to the managerial change. And still does, as you can see. I’m a little alarmed how often I’m told the things I say are believed by no one. If that was really the case, believe me, I wouldn’t waste my breath. It seems to be a convenient way to make me seem like the outlier, when in fact I’m only responding to things that were expressed by others on different threads.

          Tim:
          The debate we are having can be parsed into one question: How much impact does a manager have on the outcome of a single match? I would argue in most cases, very little. His influence can only be felt through tactical adjustments, substitutions and the half time team talk. If one team is massively better than the other, how much does that stuff really matter? If tactics could bridge that divide, don’t you think the little guys would win this competition from time to time? They don’t. They haven’t since Mourinho in 2004 and for all his self-flattery it was just as much luck as it was his brilliant management that got them there. When it comes to trying to beat Bayern, Barca and Real, we are the little guys and our chances of winning over a two-leg tie, let alone a single match, are terrible no matter who is on the sideline. The talent gradient is too high.

          The way to catch up to Bayern is to try to match their insane roster a bit better. That’s been the mission since Ozil was bought and continues to be now, but not enough has been done on that front. A silly exercise perhaps, but how many of our players do you think would start for them? In some positions they have two players better than any of ours, and it’s not close. They’re in a position where they still have salty vets like Alonso and Lahm who can contribute, but their young players are already good enough too. It won’t last forever but they are still at the peak of their championship cycle, while we are still building and have a long way to go.

          I’m not trying to say I think Wenger is a great coach in this day and age. You’re right when you describe his style. But I definitely don’t agree with your blithe dismissal that virtually anyone could do better. You basically want someone to come in and make us more functional (“organized” if you prefer) as if that’s going to lead to better results. If the talent stays the same all it’ll lead to is losing more ugly, as Glowworm put it.

          1. This is very elegantly argued, but I think your case is not super strong.

            A manager’s influence is not exhausted by what he can do during the game. He also can prepare the team to play a certain way before the game, and thus, in many cases, if not bridge, then at least shrink, the quality gap between two sides. But AW seems to be having the opposite effect on our side in these big games. Bayern and Chelsea are better than us, sure, but our respective records against the other sides we play suggests we’re roughly in their “league” and should be at least competitive when we play them. But these elite teams end up enjoying their games against us like it’s a walk in the park for them. No way a coach like e.g. Unai Emery, if he were our manager, sees his team get humiliated against Bayern like we were tonight. Look, I don’t even like the guy that much! But the point is most of the new breed of top managers can do little things to make their side competitive against superior opponents (and it’s not so simple as “play uglier”, though I have some sympathy for the complaint that most successful young coaches play an uglier brand of football than Arsene’s best sides and many other great teams of the past). But Arsene can never seem to perform this all important function of making his team greater than the sum of their parts.

          2. Regarding the little guys winning against the big team through tactic from the manager, one, some big teams also have a great tactician on their side plus usually the little guys don’t have the same calibre of tactician in their side.

            I’m going to emphasise on this again, but one of the lose on the group stage that condomn Bayern to second spot is through FC Rostov. They are a little team, much little than us. No way that they could win with talents alone. Their tactic help them get that result and with a much better talent, Arsenal could have done much better than FC Rostov. So did PSG against Barcelona, a front three of Messi, Suarez, Neymar would decimate PSG with a CB of young inexperienced defender, but they clearly have a better gameplan than Barcelona.

            On the other hand though, the thought of Eddie Howe as our manager is much worse than another year for Wenger. For an entirely different reason though, because with Wenger, I’m more sure that he will go faster, possibly fired, than if Eddie Howe is our manager. Eddie Howe could be getting a chance for 2 years at minimum or more, and that would put us down to Everton Liverpool level. The good thing is Arsenal should have the attraction of some top level manager, so the worst scenario of getting a mid table manager should be slim.

      2. Of course I disagree.

        I think what Wenger does well is assemble a team of good players and grants them the freedom to express themselves. This works well against small teams (most of the time) when his team’s talent can get them over the edge. This doesn’t work at all against a well organized team of top-class professional athletes who have a solid game plan. Thus, Arsenal struggle against top teams.

        What you saw today was an Arsenal team that literally had no idea what they were doing. They were picked apart by a manager and players who understand the more detailed tactics that modern managers deploy to unhinge low-block teams. They moved the ball back and forth like an accordion to draw Arsenal’s midfield out and then picked out passes to Alcantara and Lewandowski with ease. Throughout the match we saw time and again Arsenal players giving in-game instruction: Alexis on where to press, Ozil remonstrating players, Xhaka once made a run forward and encouraged his teammates to do the same, and Mustafi, barking orders at Bellerin as Alcantara walked right by him to score the 4th.

        This isn’t a front office problem. Arsenal can’t pass the ball, dude. Any kind of pressure and we collapse. And in defense Wenger’s team doesn’t know where to go or how to press. They are all over the map, disorganized, and tactically bankrupt. Keeping Wenger on in any capacity is a non-starter.

        As for this idea that we need to bring in a great coach. No. I think Wenger has been getting by on talent alone for about 4-5 years now. Any modern manager, under 50, will add organization to this team and produce the same if not better results.

        1. Yes, what Tim says. I wish I agreed more with Doc, because it seems so “level-headed,” because I’m an optimist at heart, and because I love Arsene.

          But the sad truth is everything that Tim says about our performance tonight is spot on. And it’s absolutely damning evidence against AW.

          The only point I’m not so sure on is the “any manager under 50” comment. While young managers will add organization that will help, if we get the wrong one, they also might muck up a lot of the good things (and there are many!) that Wenger has done to build this squad. We need the right person, but stopping the conversation before it begins for fear of getting the wrong person is not a defensible position any more.

          If I’m Gazidis and Wenger wants to stay for 2 more years (tops!), I probably wouldn’t fire him. But I’d try my best to talk him into retirement and into helping me pick his successor. It’s time.

        2. That’s a really well put together comment Tim. Very clear and informative, and I can’t really disagree with any of it except for the any manager under 50 part.

      3. The last sentence is puzzling to me: assuming that Arsene still has much to potentially offer this club (which many will disagree with, but I’ll spot you it for the sake of argument), surely his transfer business is the least of our worries! A few years ago, it looked like lack of transfers, especially high quality transfers, were letting us down. The last two seasons, by contrast, it has been clear (to me at least), that it’s not really the players, but how they are coached. Sure Wenger’s made the odd mistake in the market. What club hasn’t? Sure we still have too much mediocrity in the squad if we want to challenge for the CL (less so for the PL, I think). But are our average squad players REALLY noticeably less talented than e.g. Athletico Madrid’s squad players these last few years?? I don’t think so. But Athletico are a team, with a clear identity, a clear (and effective) gameplan and style of play that the players have all bought into. Right now, we do not have this. We have in the past, indeed for long periods under Wenger’s reign. But something just isn’t working anymore. It looks like the modern game really has passed him by.
        If he wants to be our new director of football, I’m not sure that’s the wisest plan, but it makes a heck of a lot more sense than keeping him on for day-to-day training and gameday tactics!

        1. Far be it from me to kvetch about transfers. But when you look at a major gap in squad quality, how else do you address it? People keep mentioning Atletico, and they’ve been masters of both the market and their academy. It’s quite remarkable what they’ve been able to do. At the same time, while it’s a worthy blueprint, it’s far from easy to replicate. Do we have a Koke and a Gabi waiting in the wings? How about signing Falcao, then Costa, then Griezmann? Cholo’s great and all but it’s not all about him.

          The team we have is probably good enough to win the PL, has been for a couple of years now despite the influx of TACTICAL MASTERMINDS (insert comic book exploding fireworks behind that for full effect) who now coach other teams. Still, the best team in the league by far has the league’s most complete center forward, the best dribbler, and the best defensive midfielder and they bought all of these players on the transfer market. And all these great players have been very healthy. That’s the real recipe to winning the league, not the identity of your coach.

          1. Those same complete forward and best dribbler, albeit without best DM were at 14 in league table last season. Amazingly, the season before they were winning it though. Both their rise, demise and rise again is crucially because of the identity of the coach. A mini demise and rise also happen with that club this season, and if that coach hadn’t change their tactic after 3-0 lost from a competitor, they wouldn’t be where they are now.

          2. Yeah, Athletico have been shrewd in the market, especially with strikers, but those 3 strikers you mentioned didn’t play together (ok, Costa and Falcao were in the same squad, but before Costa was a star). My point is simply this: you take a look at Athletico’s squad, from top to bottom, any of the last 4-5 years, and I don’t think you see a more talented squad than Arsenal’s current squad. In fact, I think you probably see a worse squad, overall. Gabi is a great example: unless I’m missing something (I don’t watch la liga every week, I confess), I don’t think that guy has more talent than Wilshere or Ox or Ramsey. But his manager has gotten the best out of him. Arsene isn’t getting the best out of these players, and that can be seen both from the point of view of individual player development–how many of our promising youngsters of yesteryear are now stuck in mid-career plateaus?–and in performances like tonight, where, as Tim put it, as a team we looked like we literally didn’t know what we were doing.

          3. Btw, on Chelsea, I don’t totally disagree. A healthy first 11 who play together week in, week out, is huge.

          4. PFo

            I think when it comes to the youth, a healthier comparison would be with the top clubs in England rather than the likes of Barcelona and Bayern.

            Their position as the defacto top (or at worst joint top) of their leagues, and the less physical style of play there is a more conducive environment for players being brought through. Barcelona at least also get to play their reserves in competitive senior football in the lower leagues.

            In England, the higher competition for places makes it harder to bring through young players. Our record is at least comparable to any of the other top English clubs.

            That said, we can be doing better in this regard. Ironically, I think it might become easier to do it if you have a greater number of higher quality first team players. (Or you go full blown project youth again, which would be fun too but I doubt anyone wants to see that right now)

  12. No matter what the stats say, Bayern Munich are not that much better than Arsenal. A lack of application and clear cut vision are the bane of this club. Like Tochukwu said, it’s absolutely inexcusable for a top, top, team like Arsenal to serve up that dross. Wenger will always be revered by those of us who started supporting the club before Sky decided to disorganize football, but it’s time to shake hands and say goodbye.

    The thing that hurts the most is that it doesn’t hurt anymore. This farce has to end at some point, might as well be now.

  13. Our players are not 5-1 worse than Bayern’s. Of course these results can happen (Barca are obviously not 4-0 worse than PSG), but it’s happened way too often to us, against both EPL and CL elite, to chalk it up to a fluke or a “bad night at the office”.

    Wenger has to take the blame. The extent of our game plan seemed to be “defend deep in 2 banks of 4 and hit ’em on the counter.” Like, that’s not a summary of our game plan, that was the whole bloody thing. Apparently no coordination, no detailed instructions, no pinpointing weaknesses in Bayern’s defense and careful practicing how to exploit them, no contingency plans for when things start going wrong (like, “hey, if our 2 is getting constantly overrun by their 3 in midfield, Ox you tuck in to the centre alongside Coq & Xhaka and Ozil you switch to the right when we go into our defensive shape), etc. Obviously Wenger may have done all these things; I don’t know what goes on (if anything!) during Arsenal training sessions. But it certainly doesn’t look like he knows how to set up a team of talented individuals to play as an elite football team, capable of seriously competing against other elite teams, any longer.

    Ozil’s inevitably going to get stick for his body language and ambling around the pitch when not in possession. I’m not going to turn this into a defense of him, as I’ve done that more than enough of late and he was certainly poor (though so was every other player bar Ospina, so why is he always the scapegoat, etc, etc, yada yada yada). But here’s the thing: his dropping in and not even trying to press the Bayern defenders when they had the ball was SO BLATANT that it simply can’t be explained by him being a lazy princess, or whatever sneering name the haters want to call him. Rather, Wenger’s tactics were obviously just to sit deep and not to press. (Sanchez charged around a bit as usual, but not with the kinds of superhuman efforts that the media and fans want to attribute to him, and the fact is his only significant contribution in the game was a wonderful finish to make up for a botched penalty.) It’s all well and good to say that Alexis’ approach made Ozil’s look bad–I agree, but only to a point–but that’s just a distraction from the real issue we should be focusing on. The bigger issue is the coaching and preparation, or lack thereof:
    –if Wenger didn’t really care much about our front 2 defending in a concerted and organized fashion from the front, or didn’t give them any real instructions on how to do that, then this makes Wenger look bad, not Ozil
    –if Wenger did care about this, and gave clear instructions to do so, then where were the signs that this had been organized and practiced as a team?? Teams like Liverpool that press and defend from the front “hunt in packs”. This isn’t just about individual players running around like chickens with their heads cut off, this is about coordinated play that must be drilled into the players on the training ground. Nothing about Arsenal’s play gave even the merest appearance that Wenger wanted his front players to pressure the ball (more than just in a haphazard, occasional fashion), nor was there a clear tactic of letting them get up to a certain point on the pitch and then closing ranks and clogging the space in the middle of the pitch, the way many teams play against superior opposition (and many teams play against us). We obviously were trying to do the latter option: we sat deep, looking to play on the counter. But we let them pass through our lines seemingly at will for almost the entire 90 minutes. Our players aren’t as good as Bayern’s, but they’re not THAT bad!

    1. God help us if we lose Sanchez (and Ozil) next summer and come to rely heavily on our core of “promising English youngsters.” They all seem to me to have regressed with age under Arsene’s tutelage. If no changes are made soon, I’m afraid we might reach the point where we have to burn down the house and rebuild from scratch rather than see a thoughtful and positive transition under a new coach. Someone is on it, surely, right?

      1. With the current state of affairs, it’s quite likely we’ll lose either or even both of Sanchez and Ozil at the end of the season. You could see their frustration yesterday at the lack of an enabling team structure to showcase their offensive potential. What we really need to do is reconstruct the midfield with a view to defensive solidity like Spurs have done. If we succeed in doing that in the summer, I believe we’ll still have enough offensive firepower, even if Ozil and Sanchez leave, to retain our place in the Top 4 and over a couple of seasons be in a position to mount a credible challenge for the EPL and UCL. I doubt whether Wenger has the appetite,energy or know how to do this again. Which is sad: the man who gave us the powerful combinations of Vieira-Petit, Vieira-Gilberto, and who went out and bought an uber-talented destroyer cum distributor like Lassana Diarra, now readily indulges Coquelin, Elneny and the admittedly talented but undisciplined Xhaka.

    1. He’s Wenger’s advocate on this site,and Wenger’s been keeping him busy lately.After the Bayern result he’s on overtime. But he’s getting a bit of help from Shard,who’s come up lines like : ‘Yeah. There was a time when teams used to win and lose matches. Nowadays it’s the managers.”

      1. When PSG took on Barcelona, the commentators brought up Unai Emery’s record vs Barcelona. Only 1 win. What exactly does this tell us about Unai Emery, his tactics, or even about Barcelona? That he now has 2 wins against Barcelona with a oil funded side built up and domestically dominant over the past 5-6 years doesn’t tell us anything about him either.

        And yet, the media keeps talking about managers’ records as if they are the biggest factor in determining the results.

  14. If a brilliant modern coach is asked to name his minimum price to turn Arsenal into a real world beater he would ask that he be allowed to sell half of the current players and that he be given money to replace them. Incidentally, quite a few of our big money signings would be amongst those to be offloaded.
    Asked to name two things things he would want to improve in the team, he would say the mentality and the physicality of the team.
    Many refer to Arsenal as a talented team. As ball jugglers, yes. But in footballing terms, a modern talented team must have good mentality and great physicality. Arsenal hasn’t.
    Starting point is that we have assembled poorly for the current size of our purse. Coaching is creating…… conceive, collect and build. Whichever angle you approach it from, the buck stops with Wenger. What remains debatable is whether our performance level lags our purse but I doubt if Bayern’s squad is that much more expensively assembled than ours. Usain Bolt will not be at the next Olympics, but that wouldn’t stop his greatness from enduring. Wenger’s greatness will endure in footballing history. The times have changed.

  15. Today’s match was crying out for Arsene Wenger to rally his troops. But sadly that did not happen. I think he got his tactics wrong right from the get-go. We have gotten to the point where we need a change in tactics and game management. Wenger is great with man management, but that does not appear to be sufficient any more. Especially against the top teams in the PL and in Europe.

  16. While I admire Dr Gooner’s always logically forensic approach to all matters Arsenal, I think there’s a point where it becomes liable to be considered almost as unwavering apologetics. For me, statistical odds are the very reason bookmakers exist and are fleeced from time to time in major CUP COMPETITIONS. Cups, not the weekly grind of league championships. A canny punter will get lucky once in a while. Are Arsenal shrewd and canny? If we’re consistently in the top 8 of the financial league, why do we consistently fall at the last sixteen stage of a competition that does not always have the full complement of the richest clubs in the world- Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool, and the two Milan giants were missing this year? Seven years in a row suggests that we’ve reached a plateau, regardless of the revolving (and now improving) roster of players. I refuse to accept that, in a knockout format, a team of Arsenal’s profile should consistently be out of contention by the end of the first leg. No odds metrics can defend that. Look at Napoli: conceded the 3rd goal to Madrid early in the 2nd half yesterday and proceeded to keep it at that and ensure there was still something to fight for, with an away goal in tow, in the home leg. After the soft Lewandowski goal yesterday, I expected a reaction from the Arsenal bench, possibly in the form of bringing on Elneny for the ineffective pair of Ozil/Iwobi, or bringing on Welbeck for either of the two in order to improve our defensive structure and yet retain offensive threat. But Wenger left things as they were and hoped the players would readjust to the combination of Koscielny’s exit and Bayern’s upped intensity. Less than ten minutes later, the round of sixteen tie was effectively over. Again. How do odds metrics predict THAT?

    1. We fall at the last 16 because we always take on either Bayern or Barca. Monaco was a highly disappointing exception.

      There was no response to Lew’s goal because 2-1 is still not a terrible result. They scored again in two minutes, and at that point it was still salvageable. Do you react to that by trying to keep the score down or do you try and get one back? Wenger opted for the latter. It’s easy to question it in hindsight but settling for a 3-1 might not have sat well either.

      I don’t know what you’re asking re: metrics.

  17. Pfff.. Tactics tactics ticky tacks.

    Not defending the performance, and not defending Wenger either, but tactics? Bayern are the superior team, and we had them at 1-1 and getting more and more into the game. We could even have ended the half leading. And if you think Bayern weren’t worried when we countered, or had problems dealing when we did press, you’re kidding yourself.

    One of the most pleasing things yesterday to me was that even though Robben scored early from a great finish off a defensive error, we didn’t let our frustration get the better of us.

    But all that was undone in the second half, which we actually started on the front foot, when we stupidly let in the second goal. Kos’ injury was definitely a turning point and when he went off, I realised how little trust I had in Gabriel.

    And look. The manager is ultimately responsible for the players. But tactics and instructions have nothing to do with basic defending and basic game knowledge. Their heads went, and that has happened once too often.

    So what do we do about it?

    First we must say what ‘it’ is.

    I am assuming we want to bridge the gap to Bayern Munich and Barcelona. A change of manager is one thing that can be done, and is definitely worth considering. But is that enough? Nope. We need to heavily upgrade our squad, and that means spending a lot of money. Now here’s the rub, as the board. IF you are going to spend that sort of money, do you give it to your veteran coach and say go for it, or do you give it to a new guy who might turn out to be way worse than Wenger.

    Just to be clear. I am not saying fear of the unknown is a good enough reason to keep Wenger. In fact, this sort of collapse has happened too often and a change of manager can at least go towards addressing that. This doesn’t even have to be about the manager’s ability. The players can just get too comfortable and used to their environment. (And Wenger is hardly a reactive and vindictive personality) But I am never going to actively call for him to leave. If he wants to keep on coaching, I am not going to say he can’t because I don’t see him as the single biggest factor in ‘holding us back’.

    Point to the last 3 years’ spending all you want, and sure some amount of blame can be laid at Wenger’s door for not overhauling the squad more (rather than for acquisitions), but my prediction if Wenger were to leave would be that despite all change, nothing really will change. Actually, I think it more probable that we’ll be like Liverpool rather than Bayern.

    But we’ll learn how serious Arsenal are about matching the elite, before next season, and it goes beyond Wenger’s future.

    1. Excellent comment.
      A change of manager is not going to make a huge difference in itself.
      Liverpool are a great comparison. Klopp has exactly the same record as Brendan Rodgers after 54 games in charge. Nothing has changed because their roster is of similar quality. Many here 2 years ago would have taken Klopp (or any of the young superstar tactician Managers) on as Arsenal manager in a heartbeat. Many likely would still now but he wouldn’t make a difference given a similar squad here either. Guardiola would likely be exactly where he is with City with us or likely worse despite his highly proclaimed tactical preponderance. Conte would indeed have little chance replicating what he has done at Chelsea here. He has taken a title winning side that were disaffected by the previous manager and buoyed by no European exertions and with a remarkably fit key player filled squad he has just reorganized and remotivated them to win it again. If he came here he would have a more than a few big players and a lot of money to spend before he could hope to win the League.
      If heavy investment doesn’t occur nothing will change except the face of the manager and a few years of total rebuild results in the league and finishing somewhere between 7th and 11th. If Wenger wants to go 2 years and handover after that and he has a clear plan for building a side then I would give him the money instead of anyone else because I can’t see any new manager taking this group of players any further than Wenger has/will and he knows the limitations of this squad better than anyone and can come up with a genuine plan for the future and handover seemlessly.
      If Wenger truly thinks he’s already built a squad that’s good enough then I absolutely advocate that we bring in a new manager and appoint a director of football the very day Wengers current contract expires. A different journey toward a genuine plan for the future.

  18. Remember arsenal defended their way to the final in 2006 with senderous and flamini in the back line. Wenger was cynical and organised. And the big run to forth a few years back that got the very best out of ramsey. It’s not that wenger doesn’t know how to do it, he just seemingly refuses.

  19. I’m not good with tactics and formations but what I’m finding it hard to ignore is that we so rarely get good results against better teams. I know the kind of better teams we have to deal with are a cut above the rest, but even wins against teams like Spurs or Liverpool seem way too rare. I can’t ignore that.

    I appreciate Dr Gooners comments in moments like this. Coming into a comments section that’s all doom and gloom and anger is never fun.
    You make a good point about how we stand in relation to bayern the way a team like partisan Belgrade would relate to us. I guess what’s worrying me is that despite being fairly chilled out about Arsenal matters, I usually feel there’s more chance of a team even a division or two below us getting a good result against us than us getting a good result against teams like Spurs or Liverpool, not to even mention teams like Bayern or Barcelona.

    Maybe it’s a consequence of our place in the pecking order but good results against any kind of big team seam very rare.

  20. Multiple choice time.

    Arsenal have had similar failings in the premier league and champions league for the past 6, 7 years. Like clockwork. If Arsenal was a stock portfolio, no investor would lose money. Who to turn things around?

    1. Per Mertesacker?
    2. Arsene Wenger?
    3. Another forward-looking coach?

    This isn’t hard, folks. We’re getting our panties in a bunch over tactics/schmatics. The current coach isn’t taking the club forward, and may indeed, with last night’s result, have taken it backwards.

    p.s. I’m loving the part of Dr Gooner’s argument where replacing Wenger = improper planning.

    1. “I’m loving the part of Dr Gooner’s argument where replacing Wenger = improper planning.”

      Fascinating takeaway. Let me know where in the above comments I said anything like that.

    2. I wish all real world situations were put forth in a multiple choice format. Would make life much simpler, even if not better.

    3. This isn’t complicated, Shard. It really isn’t. Sports management accountability is pretty straightforward 🙂

  21. let me begin with semantics. strategy and tactics are not synonymous terms but are often used interchangeably. are they mutually exclusive? yes and no. yes, because they are clearly different things but no, because if you’re not good at one, no one cares how good you are at the other. in the simplest terms from the top of my head, strategy is your plan to win and comes from the manager. tactics is the execution of that plan and is done by the players; two clearly different things.

    when players look poor tactically, it’s either because they don’t know what they’re doing because they haven’t been properly trained by management, they haven’t been given a good strategy from management, or they aren’t held accountable by management. no one can deny that arsenal have plenty of talent. in the end, it all comes down to how that talent is managed. when arsenal continually go out and get embarrassed, that’s because management have continually failed them.

    pardon me but this misusage of the word tactics grates me; it’s a lot like tim doesn’t like the way the brits use the term, pace.

    1. the only way that arsenal win is if they’re playing a team that’s not talented enough to compete, they’re playing a team that is not settled, or if there is a moment of controversy or brilliance. if not for those factors, arsenal struggle to win. they seldom win against settled teams and NEVER win against good teams. this reality is exacerbated by the fact that there is often no senior guy on the pitch willing and able to take charge when the team is in apparent disarray. wenger won all of his championships when he had adams or vieira on the pitch and has won nothing since.

      this is so plain to see for anyone who’s supported arsenal for any decent length of time. when vieira became captain, he talked about a shared leadership they had. this was the team creating their strategy. those players coming together at arsenal was down to arsene wenger, however, their success was down to them strategizing and executing that strategy. i don’t think it was ever arsene wenger. when arsenal sold vieira, i said that wenger had better prove that he knows what he’s doing because i couldn’t see how arsenal were going to win anything. the past twelve years have told the truth.

      i’ve been a fan of arsenal since before wenger arrived at the club and i’m saying, emphatically, that it’s time for him to go. mind you, i have never said those words before. anyone that provides clear direction, purpose, and motivation to the team will do a better job with these talented players than arsene wenger has because wenger hasn’t given them that.

  22. I want to make this very clear lest what I said above be further misconstrued:

    It is time for change. I don’t believe for one second that it’s a lack of instruction or lack of effort on Wenger’s part; he lives and breathes Arsenal football club. But clearly his methods are not achieving the desired results, for whatever reason. I do maintain that the CL is realistically too far out of reach with what we have (barring an unlikely string of upsets), but the PL should be very much in play. Granted, Chelsea’s point total to this point is bordering on historic; still I agree that Wenger hasn’t moulded this group to be greater than the sum of their parts, and that needs to change. He’s run(ning) out of chances to do that, at least in his current capacity as omnipotent football overseer. If he gets replaced, the Arsenal world will keep spinning and it may lead to a better response from the players to whoever it is that gets brought in. I fully recognize that possibility, and I’m open to such a change. I have been saying that for a while. I’m only emphasizing that it IS a possibility, not a definite fix-all for the problems that plague this team. I don’t think that’s a very radical stance. And before you tell me “nobody is saying that,” well they’re not talking about much else are they? All the focus seems to be on replacing the manager when in fact his identity is a smaller part of match day performances than commonly recognized. I’ll say no more on the topic for the purposes of this thread.

    1. I can’t speak for everyone but I very much appreciate your arguments even if I don’t agree with them. I agree there is no lack of effort from Wenger – if anything, I suspect he is stretched too thin. I also agree the focus shouldn’t be solely on replacing Wenger, although I would argue that it should be the principal focus. We also need to seriously consider a director of operations and take another look at whether we are getting enough from our scouts.

    2. Hey Dr Gooner.
      I think people are taking their anger out on you a bit. It’s not your fault the teams not doing as well as maybe it could and I don’t think your points are particularly stubborn or contrarian in any way.
      I always appreciate the thought you put into your comments here.

  23. Maybe my view is too simplistic but I don’t think of football as a very complex game. You get the basics right and on your day you can beat almost any team. Other teams do this to us fairly regularly, even if we end up finding way to win. You play for each other, you keep your shape, you put in the effort and that gives you platform to get a respectable result against any team, even if it’s not a win (I think a 2-1 or even a 3-1 loss yesterday would have been acceptable by a lot of fans if we had at least shown some mettle on the pitch). What’s puzzling to me is why we don’t even do these basic things correctly. In other words, we don’t play as a team and haven’t done so on a consistent basis for a while. I can accept losses but the manner at which we lose these big games (and some of the “small” games as well) is pitiful and unacceptable. Stats are useful in explaining what’s going on but to answer the whys and hows, we need to use our eyes – and honestly, I have seen enough.

    I feel we need wholesale changes in the club starting with this “we play beautiful, attacking, free-flowing football” nonsense. If we are to compete with the big clubs, we need a more practical, results-first approach. I am not saying we abandon attacking football altogether and hire a Mourinho type manager but surely we can find a balance. Wenger is simply too bound to this philosophy to be able to take us to the next level. Even when he tries to depart from this philosophy, it hardly works for him. He should go and it has to be a clean cut. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have him involved in any part of footballing operations when we get a new manager. He casts too long of a shadow and that’s the last thing we need on our new manager. At best, he can be given some kind of board or ambassadorship role that doesn’t effect footballing operations. Kind of like Ferguson. They can hang out together, drink wine and reminisce about the 90s.

    I am completely prepared to go through the mid table era that has a high probability of occurrence given how unprepared the board seems to let him go. It may not be the change we all hope and want but it’s a start.

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