The weekly Rewind opinion column: What we learned from Arsenal at Sutton and Munich
PUBLISHED: 17:09 23 February 2017 | UPDATED: 13:40 24 February 2017
Read Layth Yousif’s latest Rewind column on all things Arsenal – from the Allianz Arena to Gander Green Lane
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Sutton manager Paul Doswell was gracious in defeat and rightly proud of his brave battlers but he also took the time to praise Arsenal for being ‘different class’ on and off the pitch, not least because the Premier League giants promised to donate £50,000 to help with the building of children’s
playgrounds at the club – a magnificent gesture which has been rightly praised – and so it should be.
Theo Walcott also deserves praise for achieving a milestone that was 11 years in the making. When he struck the second goal on Monday he became only the
18th Arsenal player to reach 100 goals. For someone who has attracted so much criticism – and will continue to do so until he finally converts his promise into achievement – he deserves a pint at the very least.
Get your coat son
Apart from Santi Cazorla’s injury now ruling him out for the rest of the season it surely has to be the first-half pitch invader at Sutton who had clearly spent the afternoon in a nearby hostelry. Not least because he had what I thought was a rubber chicken on his head along with a tiny pair of pants. However, Twitter kindly pointed out it was actually a rubber giraffe. I don’t know, you spend days travelling round Germany carefully crafting your match report and pre-and-post match coverage, only for Piers Morgan to retweet your tongue-in-cheek post about said chicken/giraffe man to five million people...
It was going to be Sutton’s larger-than-life reserve keeper Wayne Shaw encapsulating the quirkiness of non-league football by eating a pie on the
bench during the game. But given the subsequent fallout from that particular moment in the spotlight, we will focus elsewhere.
What warmed the heart instead was his team-mates on the pitch who gave it their all. None more so than former Gunners youngsters Craig Eastmond and Roarie Deacon. Credit goes to Eastmond, as he launched himself into a series of tackles and challenges he had no right to win as if to say ‘I’ll
show you’, and to the tricky Deacon for his hustle and bustle and crossbar-rattling effort.
Both men deserve to go far higher again, as was noted by pundits in the case of Deacon in particular. Once an Arsenal man always an Arsenal man and in both Eastmond and Deacon’s cases I don’t think we’ll find too many Gooners not wishing them well in their future careers....
And the final word on the Munich debacle...
The talk from the 3,000 loyal Arsenal fans who gathered in the bierkellers of Munich before last week’s Champions League game was that our team needed
to show character. But they didn’t. A 5-1 defeat was humiliating – the performance in the first leg of the knockout phase terrible – as the team blew the chance of progression in the competition before the second leg.
It was embarrassing. I even missed my plane home after the game filing copy on Wenger’s refusal to discuss why he described his team as ‘mentally jaded’ as they faced arguably their biggest game of the season – but I’m more gutted about the result than anything else.
Alexis Sanchez cancelled out an early opener to make it 1-1 at half-time, but Bayern provided a masterclass in powerful, winning football as four second half-goals blasted Arsenal away.
Again the Arsenal players failed to offer a European performance worthy of their talent. The Bavarians offered an example of their strength,
brushing Arsene Wenger’s men away with power and intensity. It was absorbing to watch, but a cruel indication of the gulf between sides.
For all the talk about Arsenal not having cash to splash the club’s net spend is still the third biggest in the country.
Season ticket prices are the highest in the world and there are a lot of fans who have simply had enough of the team’s under-performances in crucial
European and league matches under the long-serving Frenchman.
To blame it all on Laurent Koscielny for being injured is wrong. Big teams and big players don’t capitulate because their centre-back is subbed. We
were found wanting. I’ve had a season ticket since the mid-1980s and have watched Arsenal play across Europe since 1993. George Graham’s teams might have been limited technically, but my word they made up for in heart.
To see them concede four goals in the second half against Munich was an embarrassment, underlining mental weakness as much as being outplayed.
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