Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Arsenal stun Bayern to reignite European campaign

Readers of my blog may have realised that I haven't had too many opportunities to write my thoughts on games this season, commitments elsewhere have swung that. However the game against Bayern Munich presented me with a chance to write about one of the Gunners best wins in recent seasons, as Giroud and Ozil were on hand to grab a vital win.

My last musings on here was after the win over Liverpool, since then Arsenal have endured a good run in the League, but not such a good period in Europe. Three consecutive League victories over Leicester, Watford and most notably Manchester United have seemingly rejuvenated this Arsenal side after defeats to both Olympiacos and Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League. However an incredible 2-0 win over Bayern on Tuesday night for Wenger's men has installed new belief into their exploits in Europe this season.
Ozil showed his class as Arsenal beat Bayern.
There was an aura of optimism from the Arsenal fans before the game. Some sensed that their current Premier League form and the need to win on Tuesday night would spark a performance worthy of a great night of European football. Indeed Arsene Wenger's side provided exactly that. The possession stat of Bayern's 70% to Arsenal's 30% tells you all you need to know about how the Gunners have changed their mentality and style in big games in 2015.

It's a credit to Arsene Wenger who for all the criticism he has received for the management of his side in games such as the United and Bayern ones, that Arsenal are now pulling off big results, and on a regular basis. Yes there's been that inconsistency but with Alexis Sanchez now fit and firing (although not scoring against Bayern) the Gunners are playing their best football again.

A part of that has been the rejuvenation of Mesut Ozil. Everyone knows what he's capable of but so far in 2015/16 we're seeing the very best of a play-maker that's finally beginning to show why he was worth every penny Arsenal paid. His influence on games is growing as time goes by and that's summed up by the 6 assists and 2 goals he has in 11 games this campaign. Among those two goals was the one scored against Bayern. Hector Bellerin produced an unbelievable burst of pace to leave Alaba behind before squaring the ball to Ozil. The German just about found the goal as the fifth official ruled it had crossed the line despite Neuer's best efforts to claw it away.

Ozil's performance against Manchester United was definitely the best he's had in an Arsenal shirt, and perhaps with that penalty miss against Bayern two seasons ago in mind, he certainly made up for it on Tuesday night. Every time he got on the ball you expected something to happen. It's an aspect and noticeable difference in comparison to his early Arsenal days where he was being criticised, sometimes fairly, and sometimes unfairly. However he's now oozing in class and his confidence shows. Form it temporary, and class is very much permanent.

Mesut Ozil's play has also benefited from Theo Walcott playing in a striking role. The fact that he makes runs in behind and plays on the shoulder of the defence and pushes them back, means the German has more space in which to operate. It's space that isn't perhaps there when Giroud comes short for the ball and holds the play up.

Needless to say it was Olivier Giroud who opened the scoring. Theo Walcott had done himself no wrong with his display. Had it not been for an unbelievable stop from Manuel Neuer then Theo would've put the Gunners 1-0 ahead. He stretched the play and made the Bayern Munich defence drop off which aided the likes of Alexis and Ozil as they gained more time and space on the ball. However as said, it was Giroud who grabbed the opening goal, just a minute after coming on.

Santi Cazorla floated in a free-kick which was followed by a rare mistake from Neuer. He came flying out of goal, failed to claim the ball, and Giroud was left with a chance he couldn't miss. Arsenal's goals are really being shared around this season and Wenger can raise one hand to the many (including myself) who wanted the addition of a quality striker. Wenger's utilisation of both Walcott and Giroud this season has been very good, with the latter making a habit of scoring goals from the bench. It was timely reminder to Arsenal fans of the qualities Olivier Giroud brings, especially with his threat from dead-ball situations.

One of the key things from the game was the influence of Petr Cech. But for an error on the opening day against West Ham he's had a very good start to life in North London. He kept Arsenal in it against Bayern for large parts of the game, making some vital stops. One of which was a great save to deny the inform Robert Lewandowski from scoring just a minute before Arsenal broke the deadlock themselves.

It was a display that only proved further why he should've been in goal against Olympiacos when David Ospina spilled the ball into his own net. The qualities of Petr Cech have been evident since his arrival and the presence he has in goal has definitely benefited the Gunners back line, keeping three clean-sheets in Arsenal's last three games.

Another thing to pick up on was that of Arsene Wenger's tactics as got things spot on. Bayern were making life tough for Arsenal in the opening half hour of the game, with Douglas Costa targeting Bellerin and Monreal being dragged inside on the other side of defence. That meant that Sanchez and Ramsey had to do a lot of tracking back and therefore our attacking play was hindered. However a deliberate move from Wenger to move Ozil deeper worked wonders for Arsenal's counter attacking play. Sanchez and Walcott now had more freedom in the attacking areas of the pitch as their pace really started to hurt the Bayern defence late into that first half.

It was a display that not many expected. We've seen on occasions that Arsenal can do it, and scoring two unanswered goals against Bayern Munich sends out a huge message, not just to the Premier League but to the rest of Europe. If the Gunners can get over their inconsistency and keep players fit then Arsenal fans have every reason to believe that this may just be their year, especially with Chelsea faltering in the League. However, how many times have we continued to say that down the years?

The team's line-ups: 

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey(57), Ozil, Sanchez(82), Walcott(74).
Subs: Macey, Chambers, Debuchy, Gibbs(82), Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain(57), Giroud(74).

Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Alaba, Boateng, Bernat, Vidal(70), Alonso(70), Muller, Thiago, Costa, Lewandowski.
Subs: Ulreich, Martinez, Rafinha(70), Kirchhoff, Gaudino, Coman, Kimmich(70).

My man of the match: Mesut Ozil.

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (TUR).
Attendance: 59,824.

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