By Editor Wayne Veysey
The Gunners are chronically weakened by the absence of a string of injured first-teamers, Pep Guardiola’s team are on a different level to the Gunners and other things we learned from Bayern Munich 5 Arsenal 1.
Arsenal casualty list gives Wenger few options
It is only the first week of November and yet the personnel on Arsenal’s substitute’s bench was a damning indictment of the club’s ability to keep first-teamers fit. Rookies Alex Iwobi, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Matt Macey were joined by defenders Laurent Koscielny, Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs and midfield anchorman Mathieu Flamini. With Joel Campbell showing the effects of his second match in four days and Olivier Giroud struggling to make an impression, there was nowhere for Arsene Wenger to turn after his team went 3-0 before half-time. How the manager would have loved to have had latest injury victims Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Hector Bellerin available, not to mention the likes of long-term absentees Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky. The manager is doing his job with one hand tied behind his back and is being strangled.
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Bayern Munich are in a different league to Arsenal
Wenger has assembled a fine team who are genuine Premier League title challengers. But in the Champions League pantheon, Arsenal lag way behind Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid et al. The manner in which Pep Guardiola systematically tore the visitors apart in the Allianz Arena highlighted how far Wenger’s side are behind Europe’s uber-elite. Yes, they secured a landmark, against-the-odds victory two weeks ago. But 180 minutes of action has demonstrated the superiority of Bayern over their English rivals. The Germans have better players and a system that maximises their ability. They are in a different league to the Londoners, metaphorically and literally.
Lewandowski is a grade above Arsenal’s forwards
Olivier Giroud took his goal brilliantly tonight – his seventh in seven matches for club and country – and equipped himself well as an impact substitute in the first of the two clashes between these sides. As did Theo Walcott when he started at Emirates Stadium a fortnight ago. Valuable as they are, Arsenal’s two strikers are B-listers compared to A-list Robert Lewandowski. The Pole broke the deadlock with a superb back-header and ran the Gunners’ back line ragged with his pace, movement and ability to bring others into play. Wenger was interested is signing Lewandowski when he was at Borussia Dortmund. That particular ship has sailed. Lewandowski is at a team that will no doubt cakewalk the Bundesliga once again and are one of the favourites to win the Champions League. He scored his 18th goal of the season tonight. The 27-year-old will probably feel he made the correct decision.
Debuchy is a pale imitation of Bellerin
With regular right-back Hector Bellerin ruled out with a groin injury that could sideline him for some time, Wenger had no choice but to turn to Mathieu Debuchy. The difference between the emerging star and the 2014 signing from Newcastle was stark. Bellerin has been hugely impressive since being fast-tracked into the first team 11 months ago, while Debuchy’s career has stalled following the shoulder and ankle injuries he suffered last season. Not surprisingly, the Frenchman looked rusty and off the pace tonight. On present form, Bellerin is a far superior player and will be badly missed while he is absent injured.
The Premier League is Wenger’s No1 priority
Olympiakos’ win over Dynamo Zagreb tonight means Arsenal are going to have to do it the hard way to maintain their excellent record of qualifying for the knockout stages. They not only have to win their final two group stage matches against the Croatian and Greek teams but they are also relying on Bayern to overcome Olympiakos in the next round of Champions League matches. Wenger has an enviable record of reaching the last-16 of Europe’s top competition, but it is clear that this is not quite the priority it once was for the Frenchman. The manager rested a few regulars for the team’s clashes against Dynamo and Olympiako – both of which they lost – and tonight made the surprising decision to relegate his best defender, Laurent Koscielny, to the substitute’s bench. The Frenchman complained of a minor hip injury this afternoon after originally being pencilled in to start ahead of Gabriel. But the young Brazilian was given the nod as Wenger calculated that he would rather have Koscielny in prime condition for the north London derby on Sunday. The Premier League is the manager’s priority.