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Arsenal vs Bayern Munich: So close, yet so far

Arsenal went out to face Bayern Munich with two key targets; score an early goal and keep a clean sheet. They did both. They also scored a second goal late on, but frustratingly, couldn’t get the all important third.

Olivier Giroud (2ndR) of Arsenal looks dejected with team mates during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Bayern Muenchen and Arsenal at Allianz Arena on March 13, 2013 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Olivier Giroud (2ndR) of Arsenal looks dejected with teammates during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match against Bayern Muenchen at Allianz Arena on March 13, 2013 in Munich, Germany.

It was an incredible effort, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Arsenal are the first side to keep a clean sheet at the Allianz Arena all season (not bad for a defence which has taken such a bombardment of criticism, justified, it must be added). They also ended Bayern’s 24 game unbeaten run. Of course, it all means nothing as Arsenal are out of the competition. It’s unfortunate; one more goal would have completed perhaps the most incredible Champions League comeback ever (I’m sure Liverpool fans will contest that).

Alas, it was not to be.

When Koscielny’s header sneaked in, I thought perhaps it was destiny. Clearly, the referees did not agree. A measly three minutes of added time were awarded, absolutely scandalous in a game with so many fouls. Manuel Neuer wasted about a minute all by himself when he dived on the ball after the second goal. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Of course, Arsenal were always fighting an uphill battle after their utterly appalling performance in the first leg. It’s annoying, the Gunners found themselves in the same situation last season.

Having lost 4-0 away to Milan, Arsenal proceeded to thrash the Italians back at the Emirates 3-0; if it were not for Van Persie missing an absolute sitter in the second half, they probably would have completed the comeback. But, just like now, despite the fact their second leg performance was exemplary, they had already shot themselves in the foot. You can’t complete a marathon if you start by shooting yourself in the foot. You’d need a miracle.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, that miracle didn’t come tonight.

There were plenty of positives to take from the evening. Primarily, the performance of Carl Jenkinson. Since the start of the season, when his impressive form earned him an England call-up, he has been marginalised by the return of Bacary Sagna.

Despite the Frenchman not performing terribly well, Jenkinson has hardly got a look in. Surely his showing tonight will give Wenger some food for thought. He dealt with Arjen Robben easily, he was threatening going forward, and he displayed a passion for the side which only Jack Wilshere can better.

Jenkinson has been an Arsenal fan all his life, and it shows. He was impressive in the North London derby last weekend too, and in my opinion, the sooner he is given a first team berth permanently, the better.

Also, a word for Lukasz Fabianski, it is fair to say his inclusion in the squad at the expense of Wojciech Szczesny was perplexing. The Pole has never really convinced in an Arsenal shirt and I certainly wasn’t pleased by his inclusion. However, he turned in an impressive performance, looking comfortable and making a couple of key saves. It will be interesting to see whether he will keep his place for the weekend against Swansea. He certainly deserves to.

Arsenal can be proud of their effort tonight. They should glean confidence from their performance, and it will hopefully push them on in the chase for fourth.

But still, they were so close, so agonisingly close…

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