Arsenal and Manchester City‘s fortunes in the Champions League were determined by two foolish individual errors.
On Tuesday night we saw Martin Demichelis make a rash last ditch attempt to stop Lionel Messi from inevitably scoring. His suicidal lunge meant City not only gifted Messi a free shot from 12 yards, but also conceded a man. This led to dominance from Messi’s Barcelona, who clinched a second goal late on, to put the tie to bed.
The experience which Demichelis has acquired seemed to disappear in a heartbeat, leaving his side with a near impossible task. A similar situation occurred for Arsenal against Bayern Munich on Wednesday, as the English club lost 2-0 at the Emirates. Yet the red card for Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny was not the mistake I am picking up on. That was more of an accident, a collision which Szczensy had little control over, as he was forced into making an attempted save. It was rash, but had he stood aside and let Arjen Robben score, rather than attempt a save it would have been ludicrous.
Instead it was the missed Mesut Ozil penalty which was the costly error in Arsenal’s home loss. In the opening ten minutes, Arsenal threw themselves at Munich. Their pace and urgency shocked the Germans. Ozil’s fine skill earned them a penalty and the chance to start the tie is superb fashion. But it was what followed which changed the game.
Ozil’s pathetic penalty, that was saved easily by Manuel Neuer had an immediate effect on the crowd, the players and the tempo of the game. Arsenal’s vital momentum faded in second and Bayern simply grew from then on. Had Ozil decided to place a more powerful and determined effort at goal then Bayern would have likely have been in pieces.
They were already struggling, but rather than get shook more they were let off. The intimidation from the crowd had an opposite effect and the Ozil was clearly mentally affected. Many Arsenal fans after the match have stated it was a similar feeling to the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay vs. Manchester United where Dennis Bergkamp‘s missed penalty felt like conceding a goal, ultimately leading to defeat.
Earlier in the group stage against Marseille, Ozil missed a similar penalty. He stuttered his run up on that occasion too and gifted a weak effort for the keeper to save. It was a foolish error to try and outwit such a great goalkeeper with a tame effort and just like Demichelis’ mistake, it cost them. The blame is not all on Ozil, but it turned the game.