Don’t get me wrong, I’m over the moon with our 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League…
However, between the sporadic giggles, which kept bubbling up from my throat after we went 1-0 ahead from a scrappy Giroud goal (or was that vomit? Probably vomit), I kept thinking: Now why did we not play like this against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos?
Against Zagreb we were incredibly naive. We did exactly what we’ve been telling ourselves not to do. We played as if we’d already won and the Croatian team weren’t even going to turn up. It was embarrassing and we ended up losing 2-1 in what was our most winnable away match of the group.
Olympiacos was even worse. Against the Greek team, we turned into a parody of ourselves, scoring bizarre own goals and completely forgetting how to defend. Although the Zagreb loss was difficult to take, Arsenal had the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, not underestimate our next European opponents and get a win on home soil.
This was the logical outcome.
However, we all know that Arsenal are, at times, anything but logical and we lost 3-2.
Finally the clash against the German giants came around. Arsenal needed a win to have any hope of progressing to the knock-out stages of the Champions League while Bayern hadn’t lost all season.
Despite this, I was anything but nervous and knew we’d probably win.
How is it that I was far more confident about facing a team led by Pep Guardiola than I was Olympiacos? Because I know this team.
That’s the worst part. We all knew that Arsenal were capable of beating Bayern and would put in a huge performance to get those three points. So why could we not do that before? Why, when we had genuinely winnable games laid out before us, could we not produce?
You could argue that team selection played a part. A mediocre Ospina being selected ahead of the world class Petr Cech sends a message to the team that maybe this result doesn’t mean much. That we have no hope of winning the Champions League so we might as well put out a league cup side and save the best for the Premiership. It was dangerous and strange and I’m still not sure what Wenger’s exact reasoning behind the choice was.
Against Bayern we went pedal to the metal. Wenger fielded our strongest team and it prevailed. Cech pulled off some amazing saves that Ospina almost certainly wouldn’t have, and although we didn’t necessarily look light years ahead of the Bundesliga team in terms of quality, we were strong and focussed. We deserved the three points.
I therefore find the victory bitter-sweet. Of course I’m temporarily happy. The result will have huge repercussions in terms of confidence and showing what we’re capable of. However, we could have so much more. The potential was and is there.
Saying this, all we can do is look forward. Dwelling on the past, no matter how recent or frustrating isn’t useful unless we learn from it, which hopefully we now have.
Let’s build on this now so we don’t have to look back.