3 positives & negatives as Arsenal lose to Bayern Munich and exit Champions League

  • Gabriel Martinell's off-night and William Saliba handling Harry Kane are among the positives and negatives for Arsenal after losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich and exiting the UEFA Champions League
FC Bayern München v Arsenal FC: Quarter-final Second Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
FC Bayern München v Arsenal FC: Quarter-final Second Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages
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Positive #2: William Saliba pocketed Harry Kane

Harry Kane, William Saliba
Saliba was one of Arsenal's bright sparks / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

Waxing lyrical about William Saliba should be Arsenal's go-to move whenever things go wrong. Yes, they're out of Europe's premier tournament, but the Gunners still have a premier-level centre-back.

Saliba has become a constant of excellence, something he proved by pocketing Harry Kane. Everybody's least-favourite striker when England aren't playing got no joy out of Saliba. None, nada, zilch, zero.

Kane couldn't win a physical battle, couldn't do his man for pace, nor bully him in the air. The latter is often a go-to tactic for Kane, but Saliba stood tall and rarely looked flustered against a frontman with 39 goals to his credit this season.

Handling Kane with so little fuss has to make Saliba and the rest of the Arsenal back line confident about standing up to any and all threats that remain in the Premier League.

Negative #2: Gabriel Jesus is still fluffing his lines

Harry Kane, Gabriel Jesus, Danny Makkelie, Kai Havertz
Gabriel Jesus failed to make a difference off the bench this time around / Alexander Hassenstein/GettyImages

Unlike the first leg, defending wasn't Arsenal's problem in Munich. This time the fault belonged firmly with the attacking players, even those only used off the bench, like 68th-minute substitute Gabriel Jesus.

As cameos go, 32 minutes was a fair one for Jesus to show Arteta and Arsenal what they'd been missing. Instead, the No. 9 in name but nothing else hardly made a dent.

Ballooning a shot over the bar and living in an almost permanent state of offside, were Jesus' only notable contributions. This was the Jesus of the Premier League, the one with "the worst shot conversion rate (7.7%)" in the division, according to WhoScored.com.

Arteta will get to correct his mistake. The mistake of signing Jesus to be a team's primary goalscorer, despite being on the staff when the player failed to do the same for City.

No matter because Arteta operates in a protective bubble most managers can only dream about. A bubble where he gets to spend a small fortune on one striker, only to drop another small fortune to try and get it right again just two years later.

Continued on the next slide...

Positive #3: Champions League learning curve has started again

Mikel Arteta
We'll be back. / Kevin Voigt/GettyImages

What else is there to say? Arsenal are out, but Arteta's team will be back on the big stage again next season. It makes this what-should've-been moment against Bayern a learning experience.

Arteta and his players need to learn the control and fluidity required to navigate knockout ties at the highest level. When to be patient and lean on a lead, the way they couldn't after going 1-0 ahead against Bayern at home.

The Gunners also need to master when to go for the jugular, the way they never really did in Munich. There was too much caution, too much pedestrian passing.

Arsenal lack the right balance for Europe. It won't come easy, but this season's setback is at least a start toward earning a passing grade.

Negative #3: Poor game management

There's a negative connotation to the phrase "game management," but it doesn't always have to mean wasting time, delaying set pieces and tactical fouling. Good game management can also mean being smart and calm enough to make the most of late opportunities.

Sadly, Arsenal were neither calm nor smart during stoppage time in Germany. Like when Havertz drew a foul in the 92nd-minute, affording Arsenal the chance to load the Bayern box for a long free-kick.

For reasons beyond understanding, the ball instead when short to Leandro Trossard, who promptly gave away a free-kick to Bayern. Incredible. Incredibilis. As in the Latin for WTF?

Arsenal soon stretched credibility beyond breaking point with a quick free-kick routine three minutes later. This was the moment to pause, set everything just right and focus on the perfect delivery. It only takes a second to score a goal.

Learning these lessons is how Arsenal get better at this level. Something that will have to keep until next season.