Though Champions League Football circa 2013-14 is done for Arsenal, it's not so crushing as aggregate losses go. For the second year in a row, Arsenal was bounced from the Champions League by the Bundesliga powerhouse in Munich, by virtue of the deficit incurred in the first leg at home. While Arsenal only drew today, there are some definite positives to take from the game, as well as some big-picture perspective that's worth reflecting on as Arsenal finds themselves in contention for both major domestic prizes.
1. The Ox is growing ever more important to Arsenal. Like Theo Walcott did in the home stretch of last season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is become the catalyst that Arsenal needs to mount offensive challenges and change the energy of the game. While his brilliant first-half runs only resulted in chances and corner-kicks that Best Goalkeeper in the World Manuel Neuer were able to snuff out, Ox kept Arsenal from completely imploding during Bayern's first-half boa constrictor strategy (71% possession, 76% at one point in the half), and then helped kickstart the offense in the second half. With Mesut Özil's short-term health uncertain (as exiting at halftime isn't a good thing), and with Aaron Ramsey set to return this weekend into the double-pivot role where Ox has semi-flourished, I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping that Ox will be employed as an attacking midfielder in the coming weeks and encouraged to attack.
2. Lukas Podolski embodied the team's never-say-die spirit today, getting a goal back after Arsenal's one big defensive lapse allowed Bastian Schweinsteiger to score, and striving for more chances throughout the game, including leading a two-on-one breakaway with three minutes in regulation that was wrongly, shamefully flagged offside. Did Podolski blatantly push Philipp Lahm out of the way en route to goal? Mayyyyybe. Probably, even. But he also kept composure, kept his focus, and absolutely posterized Neuer with a powerful strike from a difficult angle. Arsenal's scored prettier goals this season, but Poldi's might have been among the season's most emphatic.
3. Soccer writers and neutrals, as well as tons of Arsenal faithful, roundly ridiculed Arjen Robben for today's multiple dives -- which were yellow-cardable, deserving of ridicule, and embarrassing to a Bayern Munich side that deserves much better. Robben's been accused for a while now of only having two moves -- curling inside the 18 from the wing to set up a left-footed shot, or running to the box and falling to the ground -- but today's high-profile display of shame-making divery culminated with stealing a PK chance in extra time for teammate Tomas Muller, only for the increasingly-solid Lukasz Fabianski to send the ball deliciously, tantalizingly spinning on the goal line for eons before he was then able to bat it away. As wise man Rasheed Wallace once said, "Ball don't lie."
4. This is not a bad time for Arsenal to focus on the league and the FA Cup. Look at it this way: Champions League fixture congestion's over. And it's likely that both Manchesters will join us in Round of 16 exits (and don't count out Galatasaray over Chelsea in "Drogba: The Revenge of Drogba"), so the "Arsenal flopped" narrative could quickly turn into "the Premier League flopped." And we've got April 12 and May 17 to circle on our calendars as trophy-makin' days. It would have been lovely to get farther in the Champions League tourney, yes -- but in a year where half the team's been at Club Diaby and it got drawn into the Euro Group of Death with Dortmund and Napoli before getting Snake Eyes in the Crap Game that is the Round of 16 Draw, it's not the most surprising outcome given all that's happened since the outset of the UEFA tourney (including that Szczesny red card and two Özil penalty misses).
So, who's got FA Cup Fever?