11 March 2014

Arsène: "Robben did well; he dived well again tonight."

Speaking after the match, Arsène was as glib and as flippant as ever when he spoke of how Bayern escaped with a 3-1 aggregate victory to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals. It wasn't down to tactics or quality or match-ups or anything else. No, according to Arsène, "we have shown as well that we have the quality, I think to knock them out. and I thought that with two games, that aspect of playing with ten men was massive." He refused to blame the official; after all, the red-card against Szczesny was, according to the rules, the only call the referee could really make. Instead, Arsène directed his thoughts to Arjen Robben, whose diving histrionics in that first leg "made a lot of" the contact between him and Szczesny, and he made a lot more of a lot less at Allianz Arena.

Unprompted, Arsène pointed out that "Robben did well; he dived well, and he dived well again tonight and that's what I spoke about yesterday and it happened today. Nothing new." It's undeniably true. Time and again, under the slightest of nudges, the lightest of contact, even the ghost of a whisper of a caress, Robben collapsed in a heap or splayed out like he was being thrown from a saloon-window in a crappy spaghetti-western. He wasn't alone, of course, as Lahm, Martinez, and others fell to the ground like Muppets or Shakespearean actors paid on a per-dive basis. All that was missing at times was for one or another Bayernian to exclaim something along the lines of "Mount, mount my soul! thy seat is up on high;/ Whilst my gross flesh sinks downard, here to die." Indeed, some of them fell so slowly, so dramatically, that they might have had time for a longer soliloquy.

It comes as a bit of poetic justice then that Podolski dropped the Hammer of Mjolnir on them on what might have been a penalty. As he cut left to chase down a through-ball into the area, he outran Lahm to the ball, nudged him aside (or did Lahm merely trip?) and cut along the endline. Perhaps sensing that hsi teammate had flubbed his lines, Mandzukic jogged along behind Poldi with his arms as if he couldn't believe the injustice of it all. However, Poldi danced into the box before slamming the ball through the roof of the net. Done. Dusted.

Now, of course, it wasn't enough to right wrongs, and we're still out of the Champions League. Then again, Robben wasn't done, earning a spot-kick at the other end when he lost his footing, fell to his knees, and Kos bumped into him from behind. How the referee fell for it is beyond me, but karma is a bitch, ain't it? Fabianski denied the spot-kick.

Still, it makes me wonder. If Bayern are so great, so magnificent, so goddamned invincible, why the hell do they have to resort to such shameless simulation? 49 consecutive wins in the Bundesliga. Aside from the pointless 2-3 loss in the group-stage to Man City, they haven't lost in the Champions League since facing us last year. In fact, all of that flopping around like electrocuted fish suffering from grand mal seizures while overdosing on heroin make me wonder just how terrified Bayern were of us in this match—and in the first leg, come to think of it, when there was just as much of it going on. It's a little bit grubby if you ask me, hardly befitting a squad that fancies itself champions of anything.