In 1974 Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Throughout the bout Ali hung on the ropes, covering up, defending and soaking up the punishment being dealt out by the favourite. When Foreman inevitably tired, Ali took advantage and won the title. Ali called it his Rope-a-Dope method.
Last night Arsenal emulated the great Ali.
Bayern came to play Tika Taka, a style of football developed at Barcelona under Bayern’s manager Pep Guardiola. They dominated possession, they dominated passing, they dominated territory. Arsenal defended, as the first half went on Arsenal defended deeper and deeper, Cech pulled off some terrific saves. It was not all one way however, Arsenal attacked on the counter and it was Neuer who pulled off a great save to scoop Theo Walcott’s close range header off the line. Still Bayern created the intricate passing patterns but the didn’t score.
The second half was a repeat of the first, Bayern keeping the ball for long periods, racking up the pass count but being unable to break down Arsenal’s resolute team defending. Eventually the Bayern players began to tire and the inevitable happened. Santi Cazorla swung in a free kick from the right, Koscielny went for the ball Neuer flapped at it and missed, Oliver Giroud stumbled into the gap left by Koscielny and somehow got enough contact on the ball to force it over the line.
On nil to the Arsenal.
The tiring Bayern players swarmed forward in a desperate search for an equaliser, leaving ever widening gaps at the back. Hector Bellerin won the ball near the half way line, sprinted forward and beyond his full-back to square the ball to the onrushing Mesut Ozil whose shot crossed the line fractionally before Neuer knocked it out but it was just too late, the fifth official stood with his arm upraised signalling the goal and a remarkable Arsenal win.
A two nil victory that seemed as unlikely as Ali’s over Foreman all those years ago in the Rumble in the Jungle.
Written by Norfolk Gooner.
We have been blessed with 2 match reports today – only fitting after such an epic performance :)
…. and now the inimitable Steve Palmer’s unique view of the game …..
And what a beautiful morning it is, One sentence sums up the game just right. Hook, Line and Sinker. They came with a long run of wins, and feeling we would just roll over. They had taken the hook. We gave them line lots of it, and we let them take as much as they wanted, but we defended Magnificently, in the final minute we sunk them good and proper, the first sinker came after Giroud replaced Walcott. In the first minute of him coming on, a flighted ball into the box Had their goalkeeper scampering to the penalty spot, but Koshielney’s jump made him lose sight of the ball, a diving Giroud had the ball hit him, straight in the face which ricochet onto his hand, and then in the goal. Our final sinker was steered in by Ozil, after a fantastic interception from Belerin who robbed the defender by sheer pace , he was being wrestled, but shrugged that off, to slide a perfect pass to our German Midfielder, Hook Line and Sinker in one.
I watched this game live on TV Lineker gave us little chance, after all Bayern had won Nine Bundesliga games on the trot, plus their last two Champions League games, Ferdinand sporting a beard that did little to hide his wonky mouth, he felt like all defenders, that our defence needed to be aware and Per Merts would have trouble with Lewandowski, after all the man is a goal scoring machine.
Asked if Arsenal could win this game , Ian Wright said of course, to sniggers from the panel, Michael Ballack Rio Ferdinand all looked at Wrighty, and he said, Well they have to. The talk was all about Lewandowski, Hardly a word about Arsenal but what else would you expect. Even the news reported the game, but no mention of the fantastic win, only about the Bayern Munich fans arriving late to their seats, in way of protesting the price of tickets.
The fact that Arsenal had beaten probably the best team in the world at the moment, by two goals to nil. was secondary to the price of tickets. Last nights result showed Arsenal to be the best team in the world on the night. When a team claiming to be, the New Invincibles, at the Home of the original Invincible’s, are asking to get beat, and beaten they were.
Chances for both teams through out the game, the better chances for us in my opinion, but we squandered them, I felt we could have been leading comfortably at half time, but instead we were level. Bayern had the majority of the possession, and were playing majestically, but they were playing against a very robust Arsenal defence. They tried and tried to force a way through, but Arsenal were resolute, Arsenals breakaways were fast and swift, often penetrating Bayern’s defences, but poor finishing let them off, time and time again.
We did have a tendency to rush passes, and we gave the ball away on many occasions, but the way we recovered and massed in force kept Bayern at bay. Every Arsenal player worked their socks off, they worked from the first minute till the last, every one a hero, Sadly Aaron Ramsey suffered a hamstring, and will miss three or four weeks, but every body else walked off Jubilant, and no others looked to have any visible signs of distress, tired of course, but all should be ready for our next game. Petr Cech made some very good saves, and was adjudged MOTM I felt his half a dozen great saves was secondary to our magnificent team, i would have awarded it to the whole team.
There were things that could have been better, but that’s for another day, today is to sit back and reflect, Arsenal’s talents are surprising me more and more.
………. and just to celebrate the victory from every aspect, here are the thoughts of one of AA’s most insightful analysts Gooner In Exile
It was interesting to hear Ferdinand’s thoughts on Ollie coming on and the difference it made, basically he said that if you are not switched on as a defender it is tough to switch from the way you have attempted to contain the small pacy forward and suddenly you have to switch to a physical game against someone who wants the ball in to his body.
And I guess that the defenders have been worried about the ball in behind so much they are giving themselves one or two yards head start on the foot race, suddenly the ball is going into Ollies body and he is bringing midfielders into the game with a platform. Also the fact that at the set piece with they had to put Muller on Kozzer so the centre backs could deal with BFG and Ollie, and that adds further confusion to their game plan.
Whilst possession might not have been level according to stats zone we had an equal number of shots in the box however we got far more of ours on target, and Munich were adjudged to have 2 clear cut chances whilst we had 4.
And that at the end of the day was the biggest difference.
Here’s a stat for you, we completed 207 of 278 passes against the possibly the best team in Europe, Chavs managed only 278 out of 378 in Kiev with an equal number of passes on the other side.
Biggest difference between us and those Chavs playing Munich in the CL final is the way we break with the ball, it’s not a hit and hope to someone to chase and then attempt to polish a turd, it’s worked through the midfield with pace and precision, we did the same vs City last season.
But best of all is probably the way we have changed our game in the last three matches.
United….high tempo….high pressing….
Munich…..defensive shape…..quick counters…
But obviously we never change our game plan for the opponents :)
The thing is it’s always been the same 11 and the same formation, and that is why players should be able to drop in and out without issues. The subtlety in tactics is what we do with and without the ball.
The thing is we often play sides like Watford so that style gets seen as our norm, we rarely face three contrasting opponents in quick succession so the tactical changes are never as evident.
United have a front three that can hurt you, but if they can’t get the ball to them they can’t hurt you, so you press their poor passing through midfield and from the back, Watford like so many others will sit back and kill you on counter, that tactic will work against us once in awhile but generally we find a way through to a win, and Munich like us to teams like Watford can kill you with fullbacks, midfielders and forwards, so you keep them in front of you and use the ball when you have it well.
There was a very interesting discussion about Klopp and his style on one of the podcasts, basically the theory being that he won’t yet have realised that the game is played at 100mph every week in the PL and that teams do not accept their fate even 1 or 2 nil down. His ability to cope with that will make or break him and his “heavy metal” football at Liverpool.
Gooner in Exile