Tag Archives: Champions League

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4 days in Munich a photoblog

(This is the second installment. In the first installment I go to London, eat pie, and watch Arsenal beat Everton 4-1. This time I eat sausage, witness an away fan march to the stadium, drink massive beers, and watch Arsenal get a 1-1 draw.)

Day 1

I left London at 7am and I landed in Munich a few short hours later. Just like London, the weather has decided to cooperate. It’s slightly colder in Bavaria but the sun is still shining. Normally, when the sun is first out, I find that everyone should be happy, but unlike last year, the Germans seem like they are in a sour mood.

Regardless, my hotel room is magnificent!

photo 1Having spent 3 nights in London I’m almost completely acclimated to the time difference. Still, I take a nap and then head out to the Hoffbrauhaus to see if there are any Arsenal supporters out and about.

hoffbrauYou can see them there! On the right. They were singing about yellow ribbons: “she wore, she wore, she wore a yellow ribbon!” The Arsenal fans’ chants rang in my ears from the moment I left the Emirates to the moment I made it home to Seattle. For the whole week I would be sitting somewhere quiet and I would hear ghosts of chants about Wembley. I’m still sitting here some times and I hear the dryer rumbling and I think “is that the Arsenal fans chanting somewhere just out of ear shot?”

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The fans in the square started getting a bit too rowdy for my liking so I slipped out and got myself something to eat. First meal in Munich: sausage and beer! Don’t judge me. Also, don’t be afraid of the sauerkraut, if you’re from America you’re probably used to a very sour, cold, crisp kraut. In Munich it’s warmed slightly and has an almost sweet profile. There are also a few spices in the kraut which give it a nice complexity.

herr schmidOn the way back to the hotel I got a taste of the local humor!

Once back to the room, I did a spot on the Clock End show with Adrian Clarke. Despite the nap I got earlier in the day I was dead tired during my segment. Hope I didn’t make a fool of myself!

Day 2 – Match Day v. Bayern Munich

I have stayed at my hotel before and the last time I stayed (last year) the hotel wifi was very strong in the lobby. This time, however, the wifi in the hotel lobby was atrocious. I couldn’t even check twitter. Wait… maybe that’s not a bad thing?

Anyway, I went to Starbucks for the free wifi. Oh and just in case you think I’m a huge Starbucks fan, I’m not. I never drink at Starbucks back home and only do it in Europe because they always have wifi. The coffee is overpriced and overroasted and the stores are always dirty and overcrowded but they have wifi. Their one selling point. I did also have this view…

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I’m not exaggerating, that was the first time I’d looked at WhoScored.com for almost a week!

The other thing I hate about going to Starbucks is that I have to lug all that crap back to my hotel room. An hour later, I had my stuff dropped off, then I had to go back to city center to look for Anna, the Mad Ruskie Gunner.

My route into the city followed all of King Max’s famous statues. They love statues in Munich!

max-konig

And another view:

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Just look at how beautiful the skies are! CRAZY European vacation for Tim!

Finally, settled in to the Hoffbrauhaus and got my first beer:

selfAnna got her first beer in:

ANNAWhen drinking liters (!) of beer it’s important to build a good base. Today’s base is brought to you by sausages.

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From there, everything starts to move fast. We met up with Terry Shaw. He’s so famous that he has chants about him!

terry-shawThat guy on the right is Darragh, He’s a cool dude, loves basketball.

anna-seanA rare Roaming Libero sighting.

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We started to sing and get a little rowdy but the security guys were having none of it. As soon as the first stanza of any song was dropped, they came over and told us to shut up. We could hear the throng of fans growing outside in the square and wanted to sing with them, so we paid up and went out into the dying rays of the sun for more beers and singing before the game.

ARRSCThe Russian Gooners were there and we all sang and drank until it was almost time for the match.

squareI don’t think the Polizei liked being touched…

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I cannot believe I did that.

Akhil must have realized we were on the verge of being nicked so he led us out to the stadium. We sang the whole way there. I’ve never done anything like that and I’ve walked with the Sounders fans. I know it sounds cliche but the away fans are the best fans in the world.

In Germany, however, the away fans are absurdly far away from the action.

allianzArsenal should take a page from this book. Putting the away fans that far away limits their ability to change the game with chants. It also makes them pay for the more expensive upper deck seats and frees up desirable seats in the lower tier.

Here’s the kick off lineup:

Arsenal

CazorlaIt’s like watching ants…

OzilThough, the zoom and image stabilizer o that camera did a fine job. Here’s Özil being marked out of the game. Pretty sure he already had the injury at this point.

UltrasHere’s their famous atmosphere: a couple hundred people stuck in one end of the stadium. It was very much like Liverpool away: they only have one song, they have some clacks on one end of the stadium making a bunch of noise and the rest of the crowd are prawn sandwich eaters. I met three guys later in the night who came from Israel and paid €400 each for the privilege of watching Bayern do their level best to not lose.

It was an exciting match, so much so that I didn’t even use my camera. I just got caught up in the moment and enjoyed Arsenal pressing the Germans to get the winner. Podolski looked pretty good and we’ll need him in the coming weeks but it was Oxlade-Chamberlain who stole the show, driving the team forward and giving the Germans fits. He was my man of the match again and I have to wonder if he can’t do it three in a row? As we walked out to the train, I snapped this picture of the stadium.

allianz2Off to bed!

Day 3

For the first time in years I slept in. I really slept in. When I finally got up I caved and bought the in-room wifi. It cost me €10 for one day (which is about half of my monthly bill back home) but I was too hung over to lug my stuff to the Starbucks and back for terrible coffee and free wifi.

Once I had written my blog I decided to get out and see Munich. So, I went to the Bavarian museum.

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The museum itself looked closed. When I walked up to the door to see why, the door opened on its own. It was very “Young Frankenstein”. So much so that I actually said “nice knockers”.

knockersInside the museum I was greeted with three bloody Jesuses. In fact, the whole museum was a blood bath.

passionHere’s a panel from a Passion triptych.

skull-jesusAnd just a skull in a paining about Jesus.

todAnd Death (Tod) riding a lion (löw).

panzerSome armor.

lowProbably my favorite thing in the whole museum. Reminded me of Maurice Sendak but it was hundreds of years old.

dungeonSome doors in the museum. I’m not walking through those doors. I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons, there are demons or something on the other side of those doors and I have a hangover -4.

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Baby Jesus with an apple. I love apples.

afrikaDown in the basement there was an exhibit featuring Nativity Scenes. It was an incredible journey through Bavarian cultural representations of the birth of Jesus. So many of the Nativity scenes were densely packed with intricately carved and posed pieces showing a huge variety of imagined scenes from the bible. African figures featured in almost all of the “Krippen” and these figures here are not meant to shock but rather a fair example of the detail that went into the construction of these scenes.

After exploring nearly all of the museum, they told me I had three minutes to clear out. By the way, I was the only person in the whole museum. It was quite disconcerting.

As I left the museum the sun was setting on Munich. I love the sunset on a clear winter day.

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The Maximilineum (the Bavarian parliament house).

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Bicycle and trout (or grayling?) listen for the owl!

Too bad we didn’t get our own golden statue…golden

 

Day 4

I flew home! All day. When I got home, the house was a little musty so I baked a loaf of bread and made myself a cheese and pickle sandwich with some Branston’s pickle relish that I smuggled back into the country. I love cheese and pickle!

pickle

I’ve now been too Munich for two consecutive years and Arsenal didn’t lose either match. Still, Munich was a bit different this year. The locals seemed tired of foreigners. Perhaps because the City fans had been there earlier and their team had taken points off Bayern. I also heard that the City fans were a bit abusive and I wonder if that might explain why the German’s were reluctant to speak English and less forgiving of my rather poor German.

On the field I thought Arsenal played better this year over last. I know, you disagree. But we pressed better this year and kept them very quiet overall. People tend to forget that Arsenal were a bit lucky last year as Munich had a handful of shots that we would normally expect them to score go wide. And while you might point to Fabianski’s penalty save and say we were lucky again this year, I disagree. From my view in the stands that was a good save off an obvious dive by the Dutchman.*

The whole week in London and Munich left me recharged and ready to take on the rest of the season. I felt like I saw two very good performances and I know that the story du jour is Arsenal’s injury record but I can’t help feeling that Arsenal are hitting some kind of stride with this team. With Podolski scoring, Cazorla hitting a good run of games, and Ox putting in man of the match performances we might be able to weather this injury storm and come out of this season with a trophy.

Or even two trophies. Let’s not forget that we’re still in the title race, folks.

Qq

*I’ve seen the replays. Robben was fouled, I guess.

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Bayern 1-1 Arsenal: que sera sera

“Two-nil down and we’re having a party!” was the refrain from the Arsenal away fans amid a shower of beer at the start of the night and “Que Sera Sera” the refrain by the end. In between Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League with a 1-1 draw at Bayern Munich as the reigning European Champions did just enough dirty work to ensure that they went through to the next round.

Most of us started the night some time in the early afternoon, with liters of beer at the Hoffbrauhaus.  I met with Anna (@MadRuskieGunner) for sausages and beer at lunch. It didn’t take long before we’d had our third or maybe fourth liter of Bavarian water of life and as the beer flows to the lips so too do the songs.

selfSadly, the Hoffbrauhaus wasn’t enjoying our hospitality as much as we were enjoying theirs and a security guy who was Number 4, had to come over and tell us to shut up or we would be thrown out. The logic? If they let us sing, the Bayern fans will sing, and then it will be anarchy. Not ones to foment a putsch, instead, we sang in hushed voices and did our level best to be the perfect examples of good little tourists, snapping photos of each other, eating enormous pretzels and gawking at the Frauleins in dindels.

anna-seanAs the sun started to set and the beer started to fill us with liquid courage it became too difficult to keep our Swiss compatriot (@amackenz1e) quiet and we decided to go to the town square to join the gathering throng of Gooners whose voices we could hear coming over the wall.

As night set, we kept ourselves warm with more beer (thanks to @10akhil and his friends) and a little impromptu footy in the town square. Every Arsenal song was sung from there to the train station and from the train to the stadium. The locals were all filming us the whole way, we were a wonder to them, I suppose, since they don’t sing or seem to really be very fun at all this year. We truly showed them the wonders of a brave new world of football fandom.

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Inside the stadium the Arsenal supporters never stopped singing, even if we were essentially cheering on little yellow and blue ants from our vantage point high in the Bayern aerie. Stuck away as far as we were and with the “Ultras” (the 3,000 or so folks actually from Munich who support the team) pounding their drum non-stop and singing the same boring chant over and over amplified on the TV, you might not think we sang much but that’s not the case at all.

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Arsenal, I think, would do well to emulate Bayern in this regard and stick the away fans high and away from the pitch. It minimizes the away fans impact on the game and gives some great seats back to the home crowd.

In the first half, Bayern did well to keep Özil under wraps and limited him to creating just the once chance for his teammates off a corner. A header that Giroud powered straight at Neuer. As Bayern focused on keeping Özil quiet, Arsenal got yet another incredible game from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The former Southampton player took on every defender and didn’t get a single drive wrong. Some of his dribbles were in the Arsenal defensive area but Arsenal needed him to do that in order to break pressure from the Bavarians. It was yet another commanding performance from the young man and this run of good form couldn’t come at a better time.

Ozil

Özil came off at half time and there’s speculation he’ll be out for 6 weeks with a hamstring injury. If so, it’s a huge blow to his and Arsenal’s season. Özil has been instrumental to getting and keeping Arsenal at the top of the table and into the semi-finals of the FA Cup and while he can and will be replaced by Cazorla and the returning Aaron Ramsey, his presence on the pitch alone gives midfielders fits because he’s one of those players who can turn a game in an instant.

As an aside I was interviewed for the Clock End show on Monday night, a quick call in from Munich to report on the atmosphere, and Adrian Clarke surprised me with a question about who I’d like to see come on in the second half. My answer was Özil. Now, hear me out: I was very tired and really not thinking straight because Özil was always going to have to start that match — it’s one of the biggest matches of the season and he’s our best player. Still, my fear was that Özil would get hurt and miss out on what is a hugely important run in for Arsenal. I wanted to save Özil for Spurs the FA Cup.

But that was never going to happen. Judging by the reaction today, I guarantee that if Wenger hadn’t started Özil he would be slammed by the twitterati, people who weren’t at the match, for fielding a weakened team. There really was no choice to make: Wenger started the best team that he could and went for the win. That’s the Arsenal way, isn’t it?

Tomas Rosicky replaced Özil but it was, actually, Mesut’s mannschaft teammate Podolski who picked the team up by the scruff of the neck and restored Arsenal’s honor. Schweini had scored a good goal from right in front of the net, well worked with Frankenribery providing the final ball. And we all groaned knowing that the tie was essentially over at that point. But you know what? We didn’t give up and neither did Podolski. So that when he shucked Lahm and dribbled straight at Neuer we erupted into celebrations. Surely he heard us when he fired the ball into the top of the net?

From that point on we all sang ourselves hoarse while the flag waving, kettle-drum beating, Bayern fans either sang their one song, or like most of them did, simply sat quietly while Arsenal tried to win the game.

UltrasIt proved to be too big a task to score two more goals against the reigning champs and despite the constant Arsenal pressure, Bayern’s slick passing game won the day. Well, It would have been their slick passing game and their slick diving game that would have won the day but for the toes of Fabianski. The second Pole has been hugely important in these last two games and showed once again that perhaps he should be starting somewhere, though I wish he would stay!

Arsenal and the Arsenal away fans can hold their heads high as the club have now gone to Munich twice and not been beaten. Not only that but the team looks very assured right now, the way they pressed Bayern for the win was exactly the kind of team chemistry you would hope for ahead of a crunch week of games and with several key players injured.

Fortunately, Arsenal have a deep squad and have a capable backup to Özil in the form of last year’s player of the year, Santi Cazorla. Cazorla has taken the backup role to Özil so far this season and as a result the Spaniard’s numbers aren’t nearly as impressive as last term. So, with all the injuries and with injuries an Arsenal tradition, the anxiety among the fans is understandable: battered and bruised, Arsenal have to face both Tottenham and Chelsea with a top four finish on the line. But with Cazorla the quality is still there and he and Podolski now have to help shoulder the burden left behind by Özil and Wilshere. We also can’t get Ramsey back soon enough, though I’m sure the boss will know when best to bring a player back in to the team.

For me, the biggest fear isn’t losing to Tottenham or Chelsea but rather humiliation against Wigan in the semi-final or Sheffield United in the final: this is, after all, Arsenal’s biggest chance for both humiliation and glory. But worrying about that right now is like paying interest on a debt you don’t owe. So, Arsenal fans could do well to take a page from the away fans’ book and remain hopeful instead of picking over the corpse of an Arsenal team that is not yet dead.

As they sang last night walking out of the stadium: que sera sera, whatever will be, will be, we’re going to Wembley, que sera sera.

Qq

Allianz

From Munich to Munich full circle

I started following Arsenal in 2001. When Wiltord played in Fredie Ljungberg and the Swede, with his plume of red hair, fired a shot which Batrthez parried back into the path of Wiltord and the Frenchman, gold lamé SEGA shirt rippling, slotted past the helpless Barthez I was hooked. They had beaten the team I most hated and won the title on their home turf. I knew that this was my team.

My first act of fandom was to buy a replica strip. I ordered it on eBay. It arrived in a yellow DHL van. It was from Malaysia and probably not authentic merchandise. But I still have that gold away shirt, with the old crest and filled with the memories of Freddie and Wiltord and Old Trafford.

I liked Arsenal because they weren’t Man U. I’d seen many Man U’s in my time watching sports. The Terry Bradshaw Pittsburgh Steelers were a Man U. The Jordan era Chicago Bulls were a Man U. Swaggering bullies who win everything because they are good, because they have more money than everyone else, and because they seem to have an aura about them.

If Man U was the jock running around giving everyone wedgies, Arsenal was his opposite — the iconoclast. You need only watch one minute of almost any press conference to  figure out that Wenger is not going to do or say things the way you want. It’s a whip that’s used to beat him, in fact. But, as I would later come to find out, that’s the Arsenal way: there’s a right way, a wrong way, and an Arsenal way.

The Wenger way is that he is simply going to do things his own way. He’s parsimonious with money in a footballing culture which treasures spendthrifts like Harry Redknapp. He refuses to take players off at half time in a culture which feels like early substitutions are a sign of strength instead of a sign of weakness: you have to admit it takes cojones to give a player a chance to redeem themselves when they are struggling. On and on, Wenger simply doesn’t toe the line and I love him for it, even if I might disagree.

And for the first 8 years at Arsenal, no one cared about Wenger’s eccentricities, because it worked. A mixture of steel and grace. Arsenal would pick teams apart and leave them wondering what hit them. Watching that Arsenal team you could see Vieira getting ready to set off on someone, like the opening bass line from Minor Threat’s “I don’t want to hear it”. That rumble that let you know something hard is going to hit at any moment. You also knew that any time Pires had the ball the opposition was soiling themselves – who was he going to pick out for a perfect pass, Henry, Bergkamp, Freddie?

By 2006 I considered myself enough of a fan to make the trip to London. I felt it would have been a huge waste to have loved this team, to have fallen in love really with the art deco stadium itself, and to not see Arsenal play at Highbury one time before they turned it into condos for the wealthy.

I’m an iconoclast too: I didn’t know how to get tickets, I didn’t know anyone in London, and I didn’t know anything about the city. Yet I cast myself headlong into the unknown. I stayed at this horrible hotel in Picadilly Circus where I was probably lucky not to get bed bugs. I drank beer every night. I went to the National Portrait Gallery and marveled at the Seurat. I smoked cigarettes everywhere. And I got my match tickets from the concierge.

Arsenal beat Charlton 3-0 that day with Hleb, Pires, and Adebayor all getting on the scoresheet. Cesc ran the show in the middle and everyone around me marveled at the young Spaniard and his uncanny ability to create time for himself and space for others.

It is true that watching the game on television and watching the game in real life are two totally different experiences.The grass in the stadium truly is greener, the songs are more heartfelt, the smell of history more pungent, and the stadium much more majestic. I was a fan before that match, but after, I was changed.

I was changed so much that I started writing about Arsenal every day and I’ve been over to London every year since. I’ve seen dour 0-0 draws against Sunderland, 5-0 wins over Porto, 2-1 wins over Liverpool at Anfield, and I was there on that ecstatic night that Arsenal beat Bayern Munich 2-0. I count myself among the luckiest people in the world that I get to see Arsenal live, home and away.

And on Friday, I will be in London again, this time to see my very first FA Cup match. Probably the most important match of the season for Arsenal. Our best hope at silverware.

I’m so excited I can barely think straight. FA cup matches seem different than regular matches on television, there seems to be more power and fight in those games. The crowd seems livelier and the action more intense. And here is Arsenal, the season really in the balance and in many ways Wenger’s tenure on the line. I expect the spectacular and nothing less.

After that, I will return to Munich to complete the circle. One season, from Munich to Munich. From negative spiral to “Newcastle equalized”. From challenging for fourth place to challenging for the title.

Qq