Another big occasion, and another match in which Mesut Ozil pulls off his famous disappearing act, while Olivier Giroud, worn out from being the only viable striker on this Arsenal team Arsene Wenger built, didn’t do much better in another rather bland 90 minutes from the French striker.
Ozil didn’t last the whole match, leaving after 45 minutes with a hamstring injury that might keep him out for a few weeks, maybe almost until the end of the season. It might be a bit too soon to say, but the way he’s been playing recently, it’s not that much of a shot to Arsenal’s chances in the league, although other injuries on this team, including Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, make Ozil’s absence, no matter how badly he’s been playing for quite some time, very meaningful.
One of the things Ozil’s weakness shows is how little flexibility Wenger has in his match tactics. Always the same formation, with the only difference being made is the players and what they bring to the position. Ozil continues to be lost as the man behind the striker, sometimes switching positions with Santi Cazorla on the right. It worked on one or two counter attacks, but there wasn’t anything Bayern didn’t really anticipate and intercept. Ozil looked easy to beat to any ball, and easy to dispossess of the ball as well, just like he has in almost every big match Arsenal have had this season.
And Giroud? Some strikers can do without a steady supply from their midfield, but not Giroud. Cross him the ball or to his feet, he can handle one on one situations; he plays well with his back to the ball. But on too many of his bad matches, he was left all alone to handle an entire defense while too few, if any at all, joined him from behind. Giroud is a good striker, but not great, and not being able to pair up with someone up front, leaving the focus entirely on him for almost every match, 90 minutes, has really worn him down over the season.
Wenger should be happy with Oxlade-Chamberlain. He’s not a winger, no matter how much Wenger insists. Just like how Jack Wilshere is better playing in a wider position than in the middle. Football has changed, and there’s more to being a winger than just speed. Creativity, guile and intelligence might be more important. However, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s physical abilites make him an excellent partner to someone like Mikel Arteta in the middle of the pitch, and his best performances have come in a more central role.
Arsenal don’t look like an elite European team – never have, or at least not since Theirry Henry left. Mesut Ozil isn’t a flop, but his first season isn’t the huge success it seemed to be when he first arrived. Olivier Giroud? He’s only as good as his midfielders allow him to be, and since Aaron Ramsey went down with an injury, it hasn’t been very impressive.