The only problem with a hearty celebration is the aftermath. Through the cobwebs and haze, I remember a wonderful victory that verged on utter ecstasy. As it is, we’re out of the UCL and have only Prem matches to occupy our thoughts from here on out. Perfect. I wouldn’t have it any other way. As affirming as advancing on aggregate might have been, replicating the task against the remaining gauntlet is enough to ruin any team. Instead of having to worry about that, we can now focus our energies, which we now have much more of, on securing that precious top-four finish.
With a visit to Swansea coming up, we might just want to stay with the crew that delivered us that 2-0 win. Koscielny, in addition to his goal, helped to solidify a back-line that looked stronger against Bayern’s vaunted attack than it has looked against far-weaker opponents. Yes, we permitted some 21 shots, but only eight on frame. Even as Bayern pressed forward to secure a single goal to protect its aggregate, we held them. Robben’s fast-break led to a shot inside the 18, but most (all?) of those other shots were launched from considerable distances. I might even be tempted to use catenacchio to describe the performance. This might be a bit of an exaggeration, but, yes, we were organized and disciplined and made none of the errors that have bedeviled us in the past.
However, I don’t want to detrack from Fabianski’s performance. He did have more protection than Szczęsny’s had, but he also faced much more intense pressure without making mistakes. A few shots came directly to him, sure, but this is as much down to his position as it might be to the shooter’s aim. I’m not going so far as to say we have a new number one, but we would be remiss to pull him from the Swansea match after his performance. Let Szczęsny rest up a bit and consider his role so that he can come back more focused and on-point.
Speaking of Swansea, it was gratifying to see the strength of Jenkinson’s play. He’s come a long way since being caught out by Michu earlier in the season; his performance against Bayern’s attackers was consistent and reliable. In fact, the young Brits all had solid games–Ramsey worked and linked well to Walcott, whose assist led to Giroud’s goal, and Ox came on late to add some vigor and pace. Only Wilshere–oh, wait. Walcott, of course, stands out. His assist was perfectly placed, nevermind the suggestion that he might have been shooting. You can see him size up who’s where, and he places a right-footed pass that curls away from goal and into Giroud’s path. Walcott’s right leg finishes its swing by back upfield, all clear indications that he wasn’t shooting. If it weren’t for a god-awful offsides call against the lad, he’d have been in for a golden opportunity to have a proper shot. No guarantee that he’d score, of course, but if he did, we’d be hailing him from here to kingdom-come. Too bad, too, because scoring a goal like that in a game like this can vault a player’s career.
As it is, we’re still draped in some wonderful memories to propel us forward. Ten more games, and thirty points on the table. Suddenly, it feels like all of our games are in play and winnable. Eminently winnable.