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Sam Polak analyses the goals that helped Arsenal beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Arsenal have had a very indifferent start to their Champions League campaign, losing their opening two games. Doing that means that you need to pick up points against the third team, a simple enough task if the third team isn’t Bayern Munich. Having said that, Arsenal too came into this game in great form, with Sanchez and Ozil in great form. of course, Lewandowski and co. were looking intimidating as always, and that just set the stage for an epic clash.

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Goal 1 – Olivier Giroud (77’)

With a handful of great saves from both keepers, it took until the 77th minute for the game’s first goal, which came from substitute Olivier Giroud.

After a very clever shot on goal from Muller that ended up sliding widing wide of the net, Cech hit a long goal kick up to the newly entered Giroud. Giroud, only having been in the game for 3 minutes was able to win possession when he judged where the ball was going to fall against newly subbed in Bayern player, Kimmich, who in turn had only been in for about 5 minutes.

This particular battle had not happened yet in the match as they were both substitutes, and wisely, Giroud, 9 years older, almost a full head taller and 33 kilograms heavier, put himself in a great spot. He was going to be able to either hold his ground and receive the ball with Kimmich on his back or accept a foul by the smaller player attempting to jockey for the same spot on the pitch.

To be fair, in a game where Arsenal did in fact have some opportunities, it did seem that Bayern were getting the better of their opponents— especially in the run of play. So it was definitely a great decision to try and win a free kick opportunity in an advanced position up the field by Giroud.

Did a couple of things have to unfold for Arsenal to eventually net the game winner? Absolutely. However, credit to Arsenal for putting themselves in a position to score should a somewhat flukey opportunity present itself as it did.

Here is how it unfolded: The first detail to notice is Giroud strayed into an offside position as Bayern’s defense was set to hold a defensive line. Below, you can see Muller carefully organizing the higher line of Bayern Munich’s free kick defense.

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As the run up for the free kick begins, all Bayern players expected to drop directly back toward their own goal (which in turn ultimately kept Giroud onside). However, at this moment, in order for the ball to get to Giroud, it would need to be an absolutely impeccable pass that would not only have to be beautifully weighted to bypass Muller, who was well positioned to defend such a ball, but the pass would also have to fall behind Boateng, another Bayern player in a great position and standing right next to Muller.

Cleverly though, Arsenal made two great runs that disrupted Bayern’s defensive organization. First, Sanchez, perhaps looking to peel back in for an opportunity to get involved in the action, ended up around the edge of the box, but fortunately took Lahm, arguably one of the best players in German history, with him ensuring that Lahm would not be able to help defend the ensuing 50-50 aerial battle.

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Moments later, Koscielny made a great diagonal run that dragged Muller out with him. Muller, wanting to head directly back toward his own goal had to take an awkward route to track Koscielny’s diagonal run, which seemingly also caught him a little off guard.

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In a couple of seconds, Bayern’s careful organization and shape were deliberately disrupted by great off the ball movement from Arsenal. Perhaps expecting different movement from Muller or perhaps momentarily worried about Mertesacker on his back, Boateng’s initial step was straight back as well, which allowed Giroud just a split moment to get in front of Boateng and the chance to be first to the ball should it end up in such an opportunistic spot.

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All of this movement with just enough strength from Giroud (in order to hold off Boateng’s recovery run) was enough to provide just a sliver of space should Neuer, who had been absolutely brilliant outside of this one moment, make a mistake. And as seen below, that slight bit of daylight along with the ball sliding past Koscielny, Mueller and then Neuer, was just enough to allow Giroud to be the first to ball and then have it ricochet off of him and end up in the back of the goal.

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Goal 2 – Mesut Ozil (90 + 4’)

In the 94th minute, Arsenal was able to find the goal one more time, putting any doubt of victory to rest. Ozil, showing great fitness and desire, made a late forward run in behind Bayern Munich’s defense.

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Bayern, winning the ball back, then looked to go forward with haste. Bayern were trailing, and with time running out. Alaba carried the ball centrally and looked to keep the play moving by sending the ball out wide. Bellerin observantly intercepted the pass and with a great amount of pace, especially considering how late in the game it was, burst down Bayern’s vacant left side.

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Ozil, who had stayed higher up the field after his run, was in great position to join in Bellerin’s attack as he was already in behind the Bayern defense.

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With a ball across the middle, Ozil then got just enough of the ball to have it barely go over the goal line after an incredible effort by Neuer, who almost managed to rescue Bayern’s defense with an additional unbelievable stop.


Written by Sam Polak

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Sam Polak

Sam Polak

After a tough a knee injury, Sam became much more interested in coaching, understanding the underlying tactics that run consistent through all levels of football, and learning how to use intellect to impact the game from the sidelines and training ground. When not watching football, he is very likely tuning in to an NBA game.
Sam Polak

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