12 March 2014

Bayern 1-1 Arsenal: Player Ratings

We've bowed out once again but remain one of two teams to have made it to this stage of the Champions League, keeping alive a streak of 16 consecutive appearances, a massive achievement in and of itself that loses little luster when set against our failure to overcome flim-flammery on the scale practiced by Pep Guardiola's men. Still, having gone up against one of the best rosters money can buy, and despite going in without a few key men of our own, we lost the battle but won the war. Bayern has to be counting their blessings (and Academy Awards) after escaping with the red-card enabled 3-1 aggregate. Tuesday's 1-1 draw may not provide the same degree of inspiration that last year's 0-2 win did, but it does remind us that, when we're geared up, we can play football with the best of the best. Now, to carry that into the final run-in... For now, here's a quick rundown of how our players fared (stats and ratings courtesy of whoscored.com)

Starters
  • Lukasz Fabianski—8.5: The headlines will to go to his last-minute save of Muller's spot-kick, as well they should, for Fab not only saved the initial strike, leaving it spinning just inches from the line, he also dove back to punch it away while Muller slid in and get his cleats to Fab's chest. However, up to that point, Fabianski was, well, fab, making save after save, enough for a few Gooners to call for him to be resigned. I agree.
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain—8.02: If the referee had been just a bit more even in his carding, Ox might have had a hand in getting two or three Bayern players sent off. Ten successful dribbles matched Bayern's entire team. When he got past a defender or two, the next one brought him down rather cynically. His influence on the game was massive, and it's a shame there's so little to show in the final product, but it's not for lack of effort.
  • Lukas Podolski—7.31: Clearly a bit wound up upon his return to Bayern, Poldi started slow (as did the entire squad, with little to show for his first half other than a stupid yellow for booting the ball after a call against Vermaelen. However, he more than made up for it by tracking back on defense (no small feat on a night when Robben was prowling the flank) and delivering an epic "f--- you" goal just minutes after Bayern went ahead. He was even cheeky enough to foul Lahm before scoring, as if to say, "you bastards want to fall down? I'll make you fall down."
  • Per Mertesacker—7.28: Another vintage Mertesackerian performance with three interceptions and 11 successful clearances (both 1st in the team). His only potential flaw was overcommitting to Ribery and leaving the middle open for Schweinsteiger, but there was little else to do as Ribery had just dribbled Sagna rather embarrassingly.
  • Bacary Sagna—7.23: As alluded to above, Ribery left him looking old and slow in the box, and it's not the first time that I've worried about Sagna's ability to keep up with or stay in front of an opponent. He overcommitted to Ribery's cut towards the endline and couldn't recover when Ribery cut back to the middle. However, Sagna did turn in a solid shift otherwise with five aerial duels won (1st), two tackles, two interceptions, and six successful clearances.
  • Mikel Arteta—6.81: Did quite well for himself despite being outclassed; did draw a yellow but otherwise made a nuisance of himself with five tackles (1st). As an indicator of how much Bayern dominated possession, Arteta, who usually gets 80 to 100 touches per match, only managed 43. Hard to have an impact when you don't get the ball as much as you're used to.
  • Thomas Vermaelen—6.8: Turned in a solid performance, one more than good enough to help us forget that he's not a left-back and that he's apparently been too shite to play anywhere else with regularity. On a night when Bayern targeted our left flank (51% down that side), he effectively shut Robben down and answered any other calls that Bayern made. Bayern's best chances came from the other side of the pitch, as much a knock against Sagna as it is a credit to Vermaelen.
  • Laurent Koscielny—6.74: The record will show that he's guilty of fouling Robben in the box. The record will also show that Robben is a diving cunt of a player. Centuries from now, when talking apes rule the planet, their Sacred Scrolls will tell unto us that "Robben Shall Never Keep his Feet." Kos's critics will chalk up the foul as just another gaffe in the box, akin to his handball against Stoke, but really? What the hell was he supposed to do? Stand still and let Robben dribble?
  • Santiago Cazorla—6.36: buzzy and busy all evening but a lot more motion than action. Somehow, despite being the smallest man on the pitch, he managed to send both Robben tumbling and Martinez flying. I didn't know Santi had it in him. On behalf of short people everywhere, thank you, Santi, for showing us that David vs. Goliath ain't just an interestin' tale but an everyday reality. At least in Munich.
  • Olivier Giroud—6.31: Little carry-over from his performance against Everton. He struggled to make any impact, but this was partly due to our own inability to get the ball, much less get the ball to him. It's a bit of a criticism that he can't find other ways to get involved or make himself available, but he's the best we've got at the moment. He did have a bright chance late the game but had his shot blocked. 
  • Mesut Özil—6.00: Terrible news that the hamstring injury will keep him out for a few weeks, and there's little point in criticizing a guy who got hurt about 20 minutes in, but when has that stopped anyone from spewing vitriol?
Subsitutions:
  • Tomáš Rosický (on at halftime for Özil)6.6: Added some drive and verve to the attack and delivered one of the most-sumptuous tackles I've ever seen, coming in from behind Lahm (I think), hooking the ball backwards with his heel, and getting up to launch a counter-attack in one, fluid, sexy motion. Have I ever told you how much I love this man?
  • Mathieu Flamini (84' for Oxlade-Chamberlain)—6.06: Ox apparently was cramping up. Happens when you've been running and getting hacked that often. Sadly, Flamini didn't register anything of note, just one tackle, no yellow cards, no blindings. He had a chance or two to maim Robben, not that I'd ever encourage such behavior, but I am a big fan or irony, and it would be ironic to see Robben actually go down because there was, in fact, an actual foul.
  • Serge Gnabry (77' for Arteta)—5.92: He didn't have much influence on the match, but the cameo provides valuable experience going forward. It might have been exciting to see him come on earlier to use his pace to challenge Alaba on the left. 
Ah, well. We went up against a juggernaut of epic proportions, the kind that we may never see again (if FFP means much). On to White Hart Lane.