On a night that a result against five-time Champions League winners, Bayern Munich, was essential, Arsenal managed to get an impressive 2-0 win. Arsenal had to be patient, organised off the ball and prepared to counter at the turn of possession and played to almost perfection. While the result only kick-starts Arsenal’s Champions League campaign and there are still more games to play, here are five things learned from their victory.
Five Lessons Learned from Arsenal Beating Bayern Munich
Arsenal are Lethal on the Counter Attack
BT Sport’s Owen Hargreaves was somewhat critical of Arsenal’s set-up and demanded the North London side should press Bayern more, but Arsenal defended and attacked like a unit throughout the night. Organised, patient and disciplined, Arsenal absorbed Bayern’s attacks, fed the ball to the speed merchants, Alexis Sánchez and Theo Walcott, and forced Manuel Neuer to make some remarkable reaction saves.
Arsenal’s ‘Plan A’ involved slick passing, free roaming players and build up play into the opponent’s final third, but this performance (along with Manchester City away) proves Arsène Wenger is willing to abandon his possession philosophy in favour of gritty, but fast, counter-attacking football to win crucial games.
Arsenal Boast a Determined Defence
Arsenal faced a Bayern team with David Alaba, Thomas Müller, Douglas Costa, Xabi Alonso and spearheaded by Europe’s inform striker, Robert Lewandowski. Few were calm with the prospect of facing Europe’s most clinical outfit, but Arsenal’s defence proved unnerved by the occasion, containing all of Bayern’s stars; players filling in for each other, backing each other up, blocking shots and providing various opportunities to counter. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker were an unbreachable defensive pairing; Nacho Monreal kept Müller quiet and Héctor Bellerín recovered from a bad spell to have an awe-inspiring second half. It was resilient defending that spoke highly of Arsenal’s unity, togetherness and tactical understanding, showing this result was no fluke.
Mesut Özil is on Course to Produce His Finest Season for Arsenal
In his third season for Arsenal, some fans and pundits were growing impatient with the German’s perceived lack of influence in key fixtures or his general work rate. However, the 27-year-old produced a performance to quieten critics with moments of sheer brilliance; he controlled Arsenal’s possession and momentum, fed Walcott numerous through-balls and helped defend against a hungry Bayern side. A last minute goal was the cherry on top of the cake for Özil, and perhaps personal redemption after missing a penalty against the German champions 18 months ago. Off the back of some great performances against Watford and Manchester United, is this the season where we see Mesut Özil at the peak of his game? Definitely.
Theo Walcott is Slowly Becoming a Centre Forward – But Arsenal Do Have Striking Options for Once
It’s a potentially controversial point to make, but Walcott’s performance displayed signs he could grow to become Arsenal’s main striker. Until he was substituted off for eventual goal-scorer Oliver Giroud, he pressed Bayern’s defenders, led Arsenal’s various counter attacks and forced an unbelievable reflex save from Manuel Neuer. Arsenal were struggling to find an opening for a potential winner and on came Giroud to score after three minutes, flicking the ball past an onrushing Manuel Neuer.
Walcott pressed the Bayern defence with his lightning pace and made some troublesome runs, whereas Giroud held up the ball well against some tiring defenders and provided an aerial threat. While questions will be asked whether there was a touch of the Maradonas with his goal, the Frenchman’s performance will ease the pressure on his shoulders and suggest Arsène Wenger could make do with both strikers.
Petr Cech: Mr Reliable
He was easily Arsenal’s Man of the Match after some sound saves from Thiago, Arturo Vidal and Robert Lewandowski. In a game that demanded a world class performance from a world class goalkeeper, Petr Cech delivered; producing some fantastic reflex saves, pinpoint ball distribution and he never looked like he was going to be beaten. Of course, a lot has been made of his absence in the previous two group fixtures, but his calmness, experience, leadership and determination eased the nerves of Arsenal’s defenders and it poses queries as to why he never plays every game for the club. In his first Champions League appearance for Arsenal, the Czech Republic goalkeeper now continues his solid performance in the competition with only two goals conceded in his last five Champions League starts.