By Editor Wayne Veysey
Olivier Giroud puts his head where other players fear tread, Petr Cech should start all the marquee fixtures and other things we learned from Arsenal 2 Bayern Munich 0.
Petr Cech should not be dropped again
This was a match in which the Gunners No1 radiated authority and demonstrated why he was such a shrewd signing. It was not just the important saves that stood out, most notably when he kept out Robert Lewandowski late in the second half. Cech caught and communicated welll, and had total command of his area. It was a faultless display in a crucial match and showed again how foolhardy it was of Arsene Wenger to rest his his best goalkeeper for the opening two Champions League matches. David Ospina was injured and did not even make the bench tonight, with rookie Matt Macey deputising for Cech, but the Colombian can expect to remain in the dugout when he returns to fitness.
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Giroud is one of the bravest forwards around
Within five minutes of replacing Theo Walcott, the big Frenchman put his head where some players would not put their feet and got his reward with the goal that gets Arsenal’s Champions League campaign back on track. After Santi Cazorla loaded a hopeful ball into the box, Manuel Neuer inexplicably flapped at it and Giroud cheeked it into the net from close range. Giroud is not every Arsenal fan’s cup of tea but he is one of the bravest players around. Moreover, tales of his capacity to shrug off knocks and the various aches and pains that come with the profession are legion at the Arsenal training ground.
Bellerin is not as comfortable facing his own goal
The 20-year-old right-back has made almost uninterrupted progress since breaking into the first team at the end of 2014. But even Hector Bellerin’s most ardent supporters would recognise he is more comfortable gambolling forward down the flank to support attacks rather than defending doggedly against flying wingers. Douglas Costa gave the Spaniard a tough time with his pace and trickery, and, for a while, it appeared that Bellerin would sink rather than swim. But he just about held firm in what should prove a useful learning curve. Then, he showed the adventurous side of his game by breaking forward to brilliant effect to set up Mesut Ozil for the second goal.
The mighty Neuer is human
For all Bayern’s possession hoarding and attacking brilliance, they would not be such a fearsome opponent if they did not have uber-solid foundations. In Manuel Neuer they have a magnificent goalkeeper and the Germany No1 demonstrated with two first-half saves, a breathtaking one to deny Walcott, and one of routine brilliance to keep out Mesut Ozil, why he has no peer in the world game. Little wonder that he was named on the 23-man Ballon d’Or shortlist today, curiously the only goalkeeper to feature. Yet even the greatest make mistakes, and Neuer showed he is human when he flapped at Santi Cazorla’s hopeful cross and allowed Giroud to steal in for the game’s only goal.
Mertesacker is not ready for the knacker’s yard
Most Gooners would have feared the worst when the giant German was scorched by Robert Lewandowki in the opening seconds of the match and Bayern nearly took an early lead. But Mertesacker used all his experience and nous, in alliance with impressive centre-back partner Laurent Koscielny, to help negate the threat of free-scoring duo Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, who had scored 28 goals in 12 games between them going into this fixture. Yes, Mertesacker has the turning circle of a cruise liner and young pretender Gabriel is pushing strongly to nab his first-team place but the 31-year-old is not ready for the knacker’s yard yet.
By Editor Wayne Veysey