Mar 8th, 2017 by 'holic
UEFA, I have a plea. Your flagship competition is sponsored by the world’s leading brewers, and those of us who have no option but to watch a team that has devised ever more ways to tumble out of the competition in the round of sixteen need something stronger than the Bovril I revisited from my youth last night. How about it? Even if you cannot organise competent officials please give us the means to be able to cope with them.
The Bovril, however, meant I watched the match with a very clear head and enabled me to enjoy, along with most others in the stadium, almost an hour of the best performance we have seen from an Arsenal team since the Chelsea home game in September. It wasn’t just the Bovril that took me back fifty years. The practice of lobbing unravelling toilet rolls brought the memories flooding back. Pity the Bayern fans who needed them at half-time.
The match most of you will have seen, and so too much detail isn’t necessary. With Mesut Ozil dropped to the bench for having been ‘ill’ we fielded a trio of Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield. They had an energy and understanding that has been absent from our performances for too long. Ahead of them Theo Walcott and Alexis buzzed menacingly. Only Giroud looked hampered, looking as though he may be playing with an injury.
We deserved the advantage that Walcott’s impressive strike gave us, and it was a shame he found the side netting rather than repeating the effort minutes later. Bayern weren’t rocking in any way shape or form, but they were far from comfortable and Ancelotti was frowning and pacing to and fro in his technical area. When we were denied a penalty for Alonso’s challenge on Walcott I think we feared the worst.
After the break Giroud was just unable to get over a superb ball into the box and looped his header just over the bar. Little did we know that would be the end of the joyride. As the crowd berated the assistant for half-raising then dropping his flag by his side Lewandowski got the wrong side of Laurent Koscielny and tumbled to earth in familiar fashion. Yes, he bought it, but Kos should have known better than to allow contact on the wrong side.
What followed was bizarre to the same degree as Robin van Persie’s dismissal at Barca in 2011. Koscielny was shown a yellow card straight away, a couple of Bayern players spoke to the referee and the wand pointer behind the goal, and the referee changed his mind and produced a red card. I haven’t seen any replays, but in the ground it looked and felt very wrong indeed.
Thereafter the match took on a very familiar hue. Without the skipper any degree of defensive organisation collapsed, aided and abetted by yet more controversial non-calls by the assistant on the south west touchline who beat a hasty retreat down the tunnel as the referee blew for time on a second consecutive 1-5 drubbing.
I would love to love Bayern. They went for the jugular when the opportunity presented itself. They killed time when necessary, tumbled to earth when they needed to tumble. In truth I think many would like to see the Gunners get a little bit more street wise. I hope they go on and win the competition so we have that piteously small consolation left, to claim it took the winners to beat us.
Afterwards there was sadness on the trudge back to the station (having waited until the final whistle I avoided the crush!). There is an end of era feel to it all, but the vast majority remain behind the team on match days whilst hoping common sense will prevail. Towards the end there were a few protesting souls at the Clock End Lower who tried to get their “You’re killing our club” nonsense going. It died rapidly to be replaced by an equally unsupported chorus of “One Arsene Wenger” from the Clock End Upper.
And so to the 10.45 from Paddington, sponsored presumably by UEFA. “We are sorry to announce there is no buffet service on this train tonight”.
Summed it all up, really.