Arsenal: Keeping Özil On The Pitch Was A Grave Mistake vs. Bayern
All rise for the right honourable Arsene Wenger presiding on the case of Arsenal vs Nicola Rizzola. The charges are as follows…
There’s a strong temptation after games like this to gravitate towards the referee when it was ultimately decided by a series of key decisions and I want to blame him, I really do. I tried to blame him. I did lots of shouting and toyed with calling conspiracy but it wasn’t working. Jerome Boateng denied Mesut Ozil a clear goalscoring opportunity in fouling him for a penalty so bad it was almost sarcastic but then Ozil was a hair offside on his way through anyway.
Wojciech Szczesny definitely caught Arjen Robben and it was probably enough for it to be a foul, even before Robben executed a remarkable pirouette. In Sochi a set of figure skating judges huddled around a telly held up two 9s and a 10. Whether he was going to reach the ball having flicked it past Szczesny is another matter entirely and I think of all the decisions the red card is probably the most debatable, both in terms of the rule itself and its application.
Bah. After the red card Bayern were always going to slowly assert their dominance and it’s to Arsenal’s credit that they managed to hang on for so long. Even Toni Kroos releasing his thunderb*****d into the wild wouldn’t have prevented it being a top performance until Thomas Muller Thomas Mullered into the box and Thomas Mullered it in, ahead of Flamini who’s a bit cack but mainly into the gap vacated by Laurent Koscielny who in a mad rush of blood to the head had decided he wanted to bang up the other end and score.
Yaya Sanogo’s baffling inclusion actually paid off for 30 minutes, suddenly making the prospect of a Giroudful season look far less miserable, and his performance was a real positive thing to take from the game. At the other end of the spectrum however is an increasingly miserable looking Mesut Ozil. He was pants in the second half and he’s never a player you want chasing shadows with 10 men but that excuse mustn’t ignore that after the penalty miss he was also moping around the field with all 11 men on the pitch. The reasons for his slump have been well documented (first season; Olivier Giroud; tiredness; Olivier Giroud; Walcott injured; Olivier Giroud) but it’s becoming difficult to rationalise his crappy performances. Wenger also left him on for far too long, perhaps hoping for one moment of magic, but in the end he was just lucky not to be at fault for a goal after putting as much effort into tracking runners as I do into getting out of bed in the morning.
If there is one glimmer of hope it’s that the psychological effect of the win against Bayern last season will still be strong for both teams, and Bayern will be acutely aware of how easily they were shredded in the opening minutes before Ozil missed his penalty and it all went t**s up. Nobody’s holding out much hope but there’s a slim chance Arsenal can still sneak past as something other than heroic losers this time around.