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No Reward for The Patient

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Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images.
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images.

Arsenal have been bounced from the Champions League by Bayern Munich. The Gunners were outclassed and overmatched in an approach that seemed too patient. Arsene Wenger had publicly stated that based on the result verse Everton in the FA Cup the team should be ‘patient’ in finding a way back into the tie.

A lack of urgency hurt Arsenal. Understandably, conceding a third goal to Bayern would be fatal, but there was nothing to lose down two away goals. Arsenal should have gone after it from the opening and Lukas Podolski’s selection as they key to unlock the Bayern defense proved a costly misstep. He was a ghost, a passenger, a spectator in the first half. 

Poldi was an actor starring in his own comedy of errors as he slapped Javi Martinez, got carded for kicking the ball away like a frustrated child, and cheated his way--yes fellow Gooners it was a foul--to a goal by pushing Philipp Lahm in the back. The old adage that a player will reap havoc on his former team failed to come to fruition.

Wenger chose to start Podolski, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the midfield. A makeshift back four of Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, and Bacary Sagna were deployed in front of Lukasz Fabianski.

Some Gunners fired while others never found a way to go off…

Firing:

I'd like to believe that Wenger finally saw the light - and played Ox as the No. 8 in the center of the park. The 20-year-old Englishman was sensational (as predicted).

His confidence in his own ability – a well-founded confidence – makes him a key player for both Arsenal and England.  He has loads of ability and it was all on display during the first half as he torched Dante, outfoxed Philip Lahm, and carved up Thiago Alcantara.

Ox was the most dangerous player on the pitch -- in glimpses and spurts -- and above all else he should have finally convinced (or the media may well do) Wenger that he deserves to play centrally.

Fabianski was again a worthy stand-in for the suspended Wojeich Szczesny.  He produced several good saves and well looked the part – particularly with his great penalty save.  Emiliano Viviano must be thinking he’ll finally see some playing time in the near future as clubs around Europe are surely taking notice.

Koscielny has shown pundits and fans alike that he has become one of the best central defenders on planet earth.  Fleet of foot, full of hunger and drive, coupled with a relentless athleticism, the Frenchman would be a welcome addition to any side around the globe.

Misfiring:

Poor Mesut Ozil. 

My disappointment in his play has turned to sympathy. 

I cannot testify to his injury claims posted on Facebook.  It is hard to imagine that a player of his caliber and status would feign injury – but frankly I saw nothing in his movements or decision making that was different from what I’ve seen the last two months.  I saw nothing that indicated the German was in fact injured. 

The charlatans who claimed that Ozil was regenerated after Everton must have only seen the scoreline, as apart from the goal and assist, his play was pedestrian and hardly noteworthy.

Ozil is out for the foreseeable future and who would have thought this would be a positive for Arsenal in such a crucial phase of the season.

Thomas Vermaelen.  Wenger was forced into selecting him as a left-back and although the big Belgium didn’t have a horrible match he clearly doesn’t look like a player that the manager will be itching to keep at the club this summer.  I haven’t followed Ignasi Miquel enough this season to know how he will figure in the next campaign but I have to believe that he’s part of Wenger’s plans.  It doesn’t sit well that the club captain can’t get a game – it’s just an odd dynamic that can’t be good for the team.  Time to cash in on the player – Arsenal should be able to make at least £7-10 million on the Ajax Academy graduate.

Lukas Podolski.  Prinz Poldi disappointed big time in Germany.  I've thought he should have been given more time on more than a few occasions this season, especially after his significant FA Cup contributions, but Podolski’s performance validated all the reasons why Wenger has been leaving him out. He never looked present in the moment and never looked committed or engaged.  If rumours of a Podolski for Julian Draxler swap have any merit I’m all for it…

London Calling:

The Gunners have two focuses left at this stage in the season. The first is winning the FA Cup. They are perfectly positioned after dispatching a host of quality opponents in their run to the semifinal.

The second is ensuring they finish in the top four and can continue to recruit top quality players to balance the squad so that Ozil can shine.

Sunday’s encounter with Tottenham is a true six pointer.  If Arsenal can beat Tim Sherwood’s floundering side they will put enough distance between their hated rivals and further pound the nail into the Spurs coffin until Louis Van Gaal gets a chance to make it right this summer.

An Arsenal win, coupled with some help from Manchester United would go a long way in deciding how this season’s top four will pan out. A loss at Spurs and Arsenal could find themselves in a very dodgy position to finish in the Champions League spots as their March fixture list is a true nightmare.

All to play for.

Come on Arsenal!