It’s an interesting morning in Arsenal land. Arsenal were comprehensively beaten in a listless display and no one seems to care. The only thing people seem to care about is the debate over whether Arsenal should or shouldn’t want to play in the Europa League and whether playing there will harm their chances in the Premier League.
I think what happened is that most fans resigned themselves to a defeat like this being inevitable. I think most Arsenal fans know that this club isn’t at the level of a club like Bayern.
“Ah but we beat them in the first leg!” I already hear you say. Yes. The first leg was a full-blooded performance by the Arsenal, getting in their faces, tackling, staying organized, working hard, and hitting them on the counter. Pep also made some tactical, uhhh, I hate to call them errors, but there were obvious problems with the Bayern set up in that first match¹. Problems which Arsenal were able to exploit.
The result was a win for Arsenal which decimated the entire right side of Arsenal’s attack and defense. Ramsey, Walcott, Ox, and Bellerin all played, they gave everything they had in that match, and they are now all injured. The very definition of a Pyrrhic victory if ever there was one.
The problem is that Arsenal can’t play at that breakneck level for an entire season of European football. And the other problem, the problem which underlies that first problem, is that Arsenal aren’t good enough to not have to play at that level.
In other words, as I wrote in my By the Numbers piece — Arsenal are to Bayern Munich this season as West Ham were to Arsenal in 2013. Bayern are just absolutely yards ahead of Arsenal.
Another way to read my numbers post is that any time a team put in a listless performance, or as Wenger put it “we were not at the races”, against a top team they are going to get hammered. That’s the other thing that happened last night, players simply stopped playing. There were a few brief moments after Bayern scored the fourth that Arsenal looked good in the counter attack but those moments were there because Bayern let them happen. It was fairly obvious that they had applied the handbrake.
But Arsenal fans weren’t even bothered by the lack of fight in the match. What happened to all this nonsense I always hear about “fighting for the shirt”, “respecting the badge” or “I don’t mind if we lose so long as we give them a good match”? Even Tim Payton, the guy who wanted an independent investigation into Arsenal’s transfer dealings, tweeted something about “meh, Bayern are the better team”.
Perhaps this is just how we wanted them to approach the game, I did hear a lot of folks saying they didn’t care about the result as long as there were no further injuries. Congrats, you got your wish!
The second worst part about this defeat is that it means we will now have to endure this tiresome debate about whether we want the club to be in the Europa League. It’s funny, though, that the prediction was spot on: we won the first match and got the hope, lost the second match (and Olympiacos won their match) and we got the dope. It was Hope-a-Dope.
But the debate is pointless, unless your goal is to fashion a club with which to beat Arsene Wenger — “why didn’t Wenger do this differently? He’s so naive! We could have won the league!” All arguments designed to come back at the end of the season and beat Wenger with. Never mind that winning the League is 27 games away and as far removed a certainty as Sandra Bullock falling in love with me.
Speaking of which, does anyone know anyone who knows Sandra Bullock? She seems like the exact woman that I’m looking for. I mean, I don’t really know her and she was married to that American Chopper guy², but I’m pretty sure, based solely on the fact that she’s attractive and a decent actress, that we would get along great.
Sorry about that. Uhhh, football, right. This weekend Arsenal have to play Spurs and I wonder if the other reason fans aren’t upset is that a poor performance, which showed little fight, would be quickly forgotten if Arsenal saved up their energy to beat Spurs.
In a sense it makes this weekend’s match a must win for the emotional health of Arsenal fans. I guarantee if anything goes wrong in that match, we will be reminded of this 5-1 loss.
¹Pep moved Costa to the right in last night’s match and brought on Kingsley Coman in his place on the left. When he did that, we saw more of the type of attack that Pep wanted from Costa in the first leg: rather than getting to the end line and playing in lofted crosses, he wanted lofted crosses to the far post from a higher angle. It was almost constant service from left to right last night. Coman getting past his man, freeing space for an unmarked Alcantara to lob in deadly balls to the back post. Which is exactly how they scored the first goal.
²He’s one of those “curly ball cap” guys we have here in America. Gah.