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Time for Arsenal players to look in the mirror and more Champions League talking points

Plus, why PSG were too powerful for a Barcelona side in physical decline.

A general view of the scoreboard at full-time reading 'Bayern Munich 5 - Arsenal 1'.
A general view of the scoreboard at full-time reading 'Bayern Munich 5 - Arsenal 1'.

1. Time for Arsenal players to look in the mirror

AT THE START of last season, not for the first or last time, Roy Keane raised eyebrows with some controversial comments.

When asked about Arsenal’s title chances, he suggested they would suffer as certain players are more interested in selfies and six-packs.

“We’ve the same thing (every year),” Keane said.

“Instead of focusing on winning Premier League titles, it’s all about how their bodies look, how their hair is, more so than winning football matches, which is the way things are going.

“They’ve got good players, really good players, it’s just one or two of their players are more interested in selfies and six-packs.”

The criticism was undoubtedly flawed. After all, the likes of Neymar and Messi have been known to pose extravagantly and post selfies on social media after games, but it hasn’t prevented them racking up titles.

But there was still something in what Keane said, and it was apparent again this evening.

Arsenal’s main problem tonight, as it has been in big games for much of this season, has been their defence.

Even in the first half, it looked to be a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ Bayern scored.

There was a lack of protection from the Gunners’ midfield, with the backline regularly being left one-on-one with Bayern’s attackers as a result.

The situation worsened after the departure of Laurent Koscielny in the second half, and by the end of the game, the visitors looked devoid of energy and enthusiasm, with Bayern’s forwards practically queuing up to score by the end.

Nevertheless, what’s perhaps even more worrying from Wenger’s perspective will be the body language of the players, which suggested there is obvious discontent within the dressing room.

When the situation started to go awry, both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil threw their hands up in the direction of teammates in an exaggerated fashion to make sure fans noticed, suggesting a disillusionment that has seemingly been lingering for a while amid frustration over stalling contract talks.

But what those player protests suggest is ‘it’s not my fault’. Ozil and Sanchez are trying to show the fans that they care and that they are not to blame for what is unfolding.

Yet there is no need for these grand gestures — instead the duo and the rest of the Arsenal team need to stop worrying about their image and the public perception of the side, and instead start leading with their actions.

2. PSG too powerful for Barcelona

France Soccer Champions League PSG players jump to celebrate their victory in the Champions League first leg knockout round match. Source: AP/Press Association Images

It is hard to remember another game in the last decade where Barcelona were so inferior to the opposition as was the case in last night’s comprehensive defeat by PSG.

The 4-0 outcome equalled the record defeat suffered by Barcelona in Europe — they have previously lost by the same result against FC Koln, Dynamo Kiev, AC Milan and most recently Bayern Munich in 2013.

Tuesday night’s game in Paris was just as crushing as any of those other aforementioned defeats, with Barca, who have dazzled on the European stage for years, for once looking distinctly mortal, as they were beaten by a far better team on the night.

On paper, Barcelona had the better footballers, but crucially, the hosts had the superior athletes. In midfield, the likes of Blaise Matuidi, Marco Veratti and Adrien Rabiot looked fitter, stronger and sharper than the ageing Andres Iniesta, Andre Gomes and Sergio Busquets.

Consequently, it was a rare quiet night in attack for Barca, with the Catalan side’s influential frontline isolated.

Down the other end, PSG fully capitalised, securing a 4-0 first-leg win that in no way flattered their performance.

3. Ronaldo’s goal drought continues

Despite Real Madrid beating Napoli 3-1 at the Bernabeu tonight, Ronaldo’s Champions League goal drought continued — an extraordinary situation for the competition’s all-time highest goalscorer.

The Portuguese superstar has now gone 523 minutes in total without scoring in Europe.

Yet for a player so often accused of selfishness and vanity, there have been recent signs that another element of his game has developed.

The 32-year-old registered his fifth Champions League assist — more than he has recorded in any other campaign — enabling Toni Kroos to give the hosts an early second-half lead this evening.

With the player’s notoriously egotistical behaviour in the past alienating him from some fans, perhaps he has finally realised the importance of complementing others as opposed to insisting on stealing the limelight.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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