Arsenal: Bayern Blame Is Far From All Özil's But We Lack Legs In Midfield
The stage was set for Arsenal on Wednesday to produce one of the results of the year in the Champions League, had in not been for a stuttering run up and missed penalty from a £42 million German.
But the blame for the 2-0 defeat at the hands of the best team in Europe is far from all Mesut Özil’s.
For the playmaker, resigned to defensive duties from the 39th minute onwards, covered the third highest amount of ground than any other player on the pitch, so claims he is “lazy”, are somewhat unfair.
But having played 90 minutes in each of Arsenal’s last three games, only Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny achieving the same feat, this weekend’s encounter with Gus Poyet’s battling Sunderland is the perfect chance to give the summer recruit a rest.
After all, Arsenal have plenty of fresh legs waiting in the wings ready to step in, Serge Gnabry, Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski to name a few.
You can certainly expect change from Arsène Wenger for the three o’clock kick off on Saturday given Wednesday’s draining ordeal against Pep Guardiola’s men.
Opponents Sunderland on the other hand will be fresh and raring to go, having only played twice in the last two weeks, compared to Arsenal’s four fixtures.
And manager Gus Poyet has said his side will go there to win, in the hope that the game will give them an insight on how to approach their Capital One Cup Final just eight days later:
“We are going to play to win. We are going to play the same way we have been doing, but it’s a great opportunity to see what we can do in the big stadium against one of the best teams. I don’t think you can prepare better for a final than going to Arsenal. It will give us a great opportunity to see whether we can play in a certain way against Manchester City.”
It of course remains to be seen whether, playing to win is parking the bus and playing on the counter, or indeed trying to play Arsenal at their own game, and winning at the Emirates, something Sunderland have never done, nor had any side won at the Emirates in 12, before Bayern’s victory midweek.
Poyet also hopes that the Gunners confidence will be on the floor following their defeat. When asked whether it will affect Arsenal he said:
“For sure. You can say professional footballers can recover, but you recover quicker when you win. For the next couple of days, they will be trying to erase everything that happened. But if the game is a high tempo and we can try to control it, it could give us an advantage at the end.”
However, Poyet will also be wary to the risk of Arsenal retaliating after a frustrating night in North London, or worse, playing like they did for the opening 20 minutes against the Bavarians, where Arsène Wenger’s men were simply awesome and battered Munich, with many saying it was a better performance than that at home to Napoli back in October.
Per Mertesacker, a star performer this campaign, is staying positive despite the loss and is sure his side will bounce back at the weekend:
“We will concentrate on Saturday now, because we are going through a period with a lot of games.
“We will switch off from the Champions League now, and then switch on again on Saturday.
“We need that because we have played a lot of games. Our team has great spirit and will come back from this.”
Every game at this stage of the season has the potential to be a banana skin in the race for titles, no matter how certain it seems that teams will win, so this by no means a home banker for the betting population.
As seen a lot of the time at the Emirates this season, despite Poyet’s words, Sunderland will pack the midfield and get men behind the ball in numbers when they don’t have the ball, and try to hit Arsenal on the counter attack.
And Poyet, who has only faced Arsenal once as a manager, will no doubt look to exploit the left side of defence, where an in-form Adam Johnson will be up against Nacho Monreal, a man in desperate need of some form.
But with next week’s cup final at Wembley on the Sunderland’s minds, Arsenal will be looking to get back to winning ways in convincing fashion, where pace and midfield runners will be the key, as they always are with Arsène Wenger, and as were so evidently missing in the 0-0 draw at home to Manchester United 10 days ago.