Bayern were far from brilliant but Arsenal did not summon enough quality to overturn their first-leg defeat. Fabianski’s superb penalty save in stoppage time served merely to reinforce how costly elementary errors were by Ozil and Szczesny in the first leg. There were some good individual performances by Wenger’s team but all that matters now is whether they cane do better against Spurs this weekend, and then Chelsea and Manchester City. Wenger’s one enduring achievement has been his ability to ensure constant Champions League participation by Arsenal and he has plenty of work to do to secure that again for next season. Thanks for your emails and readership. Let’s do this again sometime.
Müller, seemingly satisfied that his body-shape had sent Fabianksi the wrong way, fires a low spotkick straight down the middle ... but the keeper stretches out a foot to stop it on t he line! And then divers to palm it away as Müller tried to convert on the rebound!
The mind-spiel has worn off, as Robben is given a penalty after a foul by Koscielny.
90 min: Thanks to all your answers to Charlie Fineman’s question [73 min]. Since so many of you seem to know the answer already, I can’t be bothered posting it. The suspense goes on for Charlie.
89 min: A long diagonal pass finds Gnabry, who scampers towards the box but then skies his shot.
87 min: A lovely one-touch move by Arsenal sends Podolski through ... but the linesman pulls him back for offside. That looks like the wrong decision from where I’m sitting, which, admittedly, is in a bunker several hundred miles away. I’ll let you know what the replay says when they show one.
85 min: Cazorla flights an inventive pass towards Gnabry, but that pesky Alaba intervenes again and soon Bayern are rumbling forward anew.
Bayern substitution: Ribéry off, Müller on.
Arsenal substitution: Flamini on for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who looks knackered.
82 min: Vermaelen cops a deserved booking for crunching into Ribéry‘s shin. The Frenchman is so hurt that he holds his chest in agony.
81 min: A tantalising break by Arsenal, as Rosicky feeds Podolski, who scoops out a decent cross to the near post. Neuer beats Giroud to it.
80 min: Lahm finds plenty of spaced to cross from the right, so obliges. Mandzukic’s header crashes into Koscielny, who whacks it away.
79 min: Martinez booked for decking Podolski after the German spun past him half-way. In other news, ITV’s sideline rover says Ozil was taken off due to injury. So it wasn’t tactical ingenuity, it was fluke.
Arsenal substitution: Gnabry on, Arteta off. Wenger going for it.
76 min: Robben skedaddles towards the Arsenal area and sends in a low rasper that Fabianski collects.
75 min: Neuer has to toddle out of his box against to reach a short back pass. He clears.
73 min: What Arsenal need now is another German: SErge Gnabry is warming up. “Is there anyone reading this MBM who could clarify as to what exactly is said in the back and forth between the announcer and the crowd once a German team scores a goal - seemed to me like they were having a conversation of sorts,” toots Charlie Fineman. ”I imagine it was something along the lines of: ‘Who Scored? Schweinsteiger! Who? Schweinsteiger!! Was it a header? A sidefoot! What’s the score now? 1-0!! On aggregate? Surely!‘”
71 min: Robben collapses at the sight of Vermaelen. Freekick, reckons the ref. Kroos curls it in from the right, Mertesacker heads it clear again.
69 min: It’s not very often that Arsenal are grateful for teams being overly-intricate in the box but they were just now: Bayern should have helped themselves to another goal but instead two players declined shooting opportunities and pass instead. Ultimately they worked the ball to Mandzukic, who miscontrolled when right in front of goal and Arsenal were reprieved!
68 min: Neuru goofs, hitting a pass straight to Giroud, who tries to pick out Rosicky. Bayern recover to concede a corner ... and Neuer makes up for his sloppiness by catching it easily.
67 min: Koscielny blocks a Robben cross out for a corner ... and the officials award a freekick. That Wenger is some kind of supernaturalist!
65 min: Schweinsteiger runs through the middle and tries to double his tally, but his 20-yard shot slams into the crowd like a drunken bodysurfer.
64 min: Neuer hurtles out of his box to head clear as Giroud sought to meet a Rosicky through-ball. The Czech has made a big difference. “Sent from my Iphone,” writes Ben Drake, who apparently didn’t want to contribute anything beyond that boast.
60 min: Bayern change: Götze off, Kroos on. The Premier League wannabe is coming into a game in which the pace and spite has suddenly shot up. The first half was interesting, the second half is exciting!
59 min: Suddenly Bayern are rocking and not in a Rammstein way, more like latter-day Scorpions. They have to scramble frantically to prevent Giroud connecting with a Cazorla cross.
Well here’s a turn-up! Podolski dispossesses Lahm in the box, with the aid of a subtle shove. The ref, blinded by Wenger’s pre-match mind-spiel, fails to see it and Podolski produces a superb finish, rocketing the ball into the roof of the net from an acute angle.
Ribéry centres and Schweinsteiger dabs into the net from close range after gliding into the box unnoticed.
52 min: After many minutes of Bayern pressure, Arsenal get a chance to break and Oxlade-Chamberlain hares forward and appeals for a pass ... but Rosicky instead knocks it sideways to Cazorla, who knocks it up on to his own hand and concede a penalty. Well that was an anti-climax.
50 min: Has Wenger’s pre-game plea to the referee paid off? The Norwegian official waves play on after Robben goes down heavily in the Arsenal box. Replays confirm the ref was right: Cazorla’s mere presence was not enough to send the Dutchman to the floor.
48 min: Arsenal seeking the ball higher up the pitch now, a definite tweaking. “I’ve got the German commentary (ahem) whilst watching tonight,” intones Dan Dane. ”Although I don’t speak German I was delighted to hear the commentator say, “Per Mertesacker …something something something…BFG…Big Fucking German!” Is Greg Holst doing the commentary?
47 min: There’s already a bit more vim and vigour about Arsenal. A subtle switch of emphasis as they begin to strive more actively for the opening goal ...
Obviously having spent the break perusing t his here mbm, Wenger has taken off Ozil and introduced Rosicky in his place. Note to Ivan Gazidis: I am available for a fraction of the salary you’re paying Mr Wenger. Quite an embarrassingly small fraction, truth be told.
Half-time: Arsenal have shown commendable solidity but they’re going to need more than that in the second half if this match is to serve any useful purpose. Oxlade-Chamberlain has been their most enterprising player going forward, Ozil a disappointment, again: playing him out wide seems like a fudge by Wenger. At this rate he should be replaced by Rosicky, or bring on Flamini and stick the Ox on the right.
45 min: Alaba’s whips a cross in from the left. Vermaelen’s attempted clearance is scruffy, and Götze pounces on it and fires off an instant shot from 15 yards. Fabianski gets down quick to block it.
43 min: Koscielny is in the right place at the right time yet again and cuts out a dangerous Lahm cross. They’ve defended well.
40 min: Ten Arsenal players in their own box as they mount a mass defence against Bayern’s probing, which is increasing in intensity. So far Arsenal have resisted but you sense Bayern will break through soon if this pressure continues. “That early goal does not seem to have materialized, perhaps we should throw on a striker from the bench,” parps Adam Woollerson. “Oh wait, we don’t have one”
39 min: Mandzukic heads over from 10 yards.
38 min: Götze cuts the ball back from the byline and Robben lets fly from 15 yards but it’s blocked by a group of Arsenal players! “A few years ago), Chris Ashton complained in a post-match interview that the ball wasn’t reaching him on the wing, and so he couldn’t do anything. And almost everyone shouted, ‘Then go and look for the ball and get involved, you swan-diving berk!’” recalls Matt Dony. “Now, I don’t want to jump on the Özil-bashing bandwagon, but it’s so frustrating to see him not even trying to impose himself on matches. He’s one of the most gifted players on the pitch, but seems to allow games like this to pass him by. And I don’t even like Arsenal!”
36 min: Thiago slides the ball into Alaba, who is is well capable of smashing the ball into the net from 25 yards but not, perhaps, with his right foot. He drags a tame effort low and wide.
34 min: Robben ghosts into the Arsenal box unnoticed by everyone except Götze, who dinks the ball through to him. The Dutchman fires a low ball across the face of goal but Koscielny sticks out a leg - his own, fortunately - and pokes the ball behind for a corner. Arsenal defend the set-piece well.
31 min: Cazorla’s soft freekick is deflected behind for a corner. Koscielny rises superbly and aims a decent header at goal, but Neuer is well positioned and saves comfortably.
30 min: That’s the spirit from Arsenal! Oxlade-Chamberlain embarks on another bold run, barging between two before he’s bundled to the ground. Freekick to Arsenal 25 yards out and central. Promising ...
28 min: Arteta sees yellow. The ref gave him a bouquet of daffodils. OK, that‘s a lie. It was a yellow card for a foul on Alcantara.
26 min: The freekick is curled into the area and Martinez prods it into the net from seven yards! The crowd rejoice ... and then swear loudly when the see the linesman’s has his flag up for offside. Quite right too, the decision that is, though swearing has its place too, of course.
25 min: Lahm hit with a late tackle by Vermaelen, giving Bayern a freekick about 28 yards out, quite wide on the right. Podolski gets booked for wellying the ball into the crowd.
23 min: Alaba and Ribéry are a constant menace down the threat and poor old Sagna isn’t getting much help.
22 min: A lovely ball by Ribéry to bisect the Arsenal defence. Alaba lashes in behind Sagna and could go for a goal but decides to try to square it for Madzukic, but his cross is cut out.
20 min: Bayern’s best chance of the game! Alaba and Ribéry collude slickly down the left and the Frenchman sends a cross towards Robben at the far post. Robben, however, hits his 12-yard shot into the ground and it bounces over the bar.
18 min: Promising work by Podolski down the left, as he races past Martinez, who hurled himself to the ground and suggests he needs to be evacuated straight to hospital because Podolaski’s hand slightly grazed his cheek. Oh look, Martinez is back on his feet a few seconds later, in time to defend the corner kick. He’s not needed, however, as Cazorla’s delivery is easily claimed by Neuer.
16 min: Bayern are still stroking the ball about but are struggling to find openings. Not that they seems too bothered: they know that Arsenal will have to loosen up at some point. But not just yet, as Arteta shows by charging down a Schweinsteiger shot at the edge of the area.
14 min: Arsenal can be grateful for Alaba’s honesty: he could easily have gone down just now as Sagna made an ungainly challenge on him in the box but instead the Austrian stayed on his feet and hammered a low cross into the six-yard area, where Arsenal scooped it clear.
12 min: Another timely intervention by Mertesacker to head an Alaba cross clear. But the relentlessness of Bayern’s attacking must be a concern for Wenger.
10 min: A loose pass by Ozil puts Mertesacker under pressure - another telling-off from the lankier of the pair may soon be forthcoming, but at least Mertesacker was able to adjust and hook the ball clear before Götze pounced.
8 min: Arsenal’s hopes of a making a flying start are being rather complicated by Bayern’s ability to hog the ball. The hosts are clearly determined to play the game deep in Arsenal territory: the question, then, will be can Arsenal keep them at bay and strike on the counter?
6 min: Koscielny defends a Bayern corner well. Bayern hoists it back in and Koscielny defends it less well but then eventually scrambles it clear. Cazorla then releases Oxlade-Chamberlain, who makes to gallop straight at Bayern. Dante chops him down and gets a deserved booking. “What happened to Keane as a child that made him believe the only way to achieve anything was to be filled with seething hate for your competition?” fumes James Hupp. “I guess it worked for him as a player, fair enough, but it makes him an obnoxious commentator bordering on obscene.” Would you go so far as to say you have seething hate for his attitude? And do you think Arsenal would benefit from an injection of Keania?
4 min: The first shot of the game is 25-yard blaster from Schweinsteiger, straight down Fabianski’s throat, as they say, which, of course, means straight into his hands. Go figure.
2 min: Guardiola’s pre-match verdict: “If we have the ball, we will go to the quarter-finals. If they have it, they will go to the quarter-finals.” Bayern have had most of the ball early doors and won a freekick in a dangerous position. Thiago clips it towards the penalty spot and Mertesacker and Sagna combine to boot it to safety, whereupon Bayern regain it and resume probing.
1 min: It’s on! Bayern are in ketchup-red and Arsenal in the yellow and blue made famous at Anfield in 1989. A similar result would take us to penalties here. Ozil’s redemption ahoy!
... and apparently Bayern’s PA-meister has decided to play the theme from Mission: Impossible. If that is an attempt at mind games, he’d do well to remember that in the movie, the mission was accomplished. Laurent Koscileny as the new Tom Cruise, anyone?
Wenger on ITV: “We have seen in the first part of the tie that we can create dangerous situations and that’s what we have to do.” Asked why he included the Ox ahead of Flamini, he explains: “We need to score goals. Both teams have chosen a very offensive formula so I think it will be a cracking game or nothing at all, so let’s hope it a cracking game. Let’s hope we can do something special. The only way you can do it is to have total belief and really go for it.”
Meanwhile, as the players make their way down the tunnel, the cameras catch a few Arsenal players smiling and shaking hands with their opponents. “That’s not a good sign,” tut-tuts Roy Keane.
“Rather necrophiliacally (if that is a word) I learned today that the late Philip Seymour Hoffman will appear in the next Hunger Games in a digitally recreated version,” tolls Russell Richardson. “That is spooky, but... couldn’t Wenger digitally recreate Bergkamp, Henry and Viera and draft them into the squad? Or, failing that, digitally repair Walcott’s knee, Wilshire’s foot and Bendtner’s ego?”
“Arsenal can’t look at Bayern’s team sheet and see positives, they have to look at it and see weaknesses,” demands Lee Dixon on ITV. Anyone care to suggest how such a cognitive feat might be achieved, other than advising Wenger to feed his team mind-altering drugs?
“So looking at the team sheets I see Schweini is back,” observers Eirik Ness. “That’s a good sign, as he is a player who always takes some time to get fit after a break. And that Boateng guy wasn’t exactly pulling up trees at City, was he now?” Erm, when you said “looking at the team sheets”, you meant “looking at the team-sheets in half-arsed fashion”, didn’t you? Boateng isn’t starting. He’s also, by the way, a much better player than he was many years ago at City.
As omens go, this is right up there with having a son called Damien who’s always on the scene of gruesome accidents: Arsenal are one substitute light this evening because they flew out Ryo Miyachi only to realise that he is ineligible to play in the Champions League, having not been named in the squad nor been at his current club for at least three uninterrupted years. Arsene Wenger, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the highest paid managers in the world.
“Three Germans in the Arsenal starting lineup in Munich?!” blurts Peter Oh. “I see Arsene’s ploy. Get as many Germans in the visiting English XI to further confound the referee, who’s already been Jedi mind-tricked into not sending off an Arsenal player even if he digs his studs into the back of a Bayern player.”
Here’s one we prepared earlier:
Stuart Pearce in Euro ‘96. Lando Calrissian in Return of the Jedi. Tonight, Arsenal will be seeking to achieve what that pair famously attained: redemption. While venturing into Bayern Munich’s den in an attempt to overturn a two-goal deficit may seem a longer shot than a carousel horse in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Arsenal may just be embiggened by the fact that tonight’s tie is about more than merely progressing in Big Cup. It is about atoning for the first leg. At least, that’s what it’s about for Mesut Özil – but for the club as a whole, and Arsène Wenger in particular, it is about atoning for the last eight years.
The truth that, like Eamonn Holmes in a narrow corridor, is impossible to avoid is that when push comes to shove, Arsenal fall down. That is how it has been since 2005. Sometimes there have been perfectly acceptable justifications for that, sometimes it has been a result of a strangely flawed policy, and sometimes Wenger’s team has just bottled it. Tonight is a chance for Arsenal to prove they have grown up and, in the process, rub all that talk about specialising in failure right in the smug face of the Special One – and if that’s not a powerful motivator, then Nicklas Bendtner is the best player in the world.
But of course, it’s not as simple as being really up for it, is it? For if this Bayern team hit top form they could give Arsenal a drubbing from which they might never recover, at least not in time for the upcoming Premier League games against Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City. You have to fear for Thomas Vermaelen at left-back, in particular, and that bench isn’t looking very strong. And the decision to start without Mathieu Flamini and with both Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud could prove either ingenious or reckless.
In short, tonight we will witness history, or just the same old, same old for Arsenal.