Arsenal 1 – 3 Bayern Munich
0 – 1 Kroos (7)
0 – 2 Muller (21)
1 – 2 Podolski (55)
1 – 3 Mandzukic (77)
Booked: Just about everyone
The scoreline might reflect the fine margins upon which professional football is built but nobody can have any complaints about the outcome; Arsenal were undone by an efficient performance from Bayern Munich. To progress to the next round will require a performance which will rank as amongst the best in the club’s history in any competition. As the velvet tones of Peter Jones might have opined, Arsenal were given a lesson in European football last night. Bayern sat, watched and hit on the counter, exploiting space and taking their chances. Riding their luck as well, all the ingredients of the ideal away performance in knockout competition.
Post-match, Arsène reflected on the situation,
Let’s not hide the truth: it will be extremely difficult against a team of that quality. They didn’t play two finals in the last three years without that quality that we have seen tonight. We have to give our best there and hope that everything will go for us and hope that by the second leg we have built our confidence up a bit more to go into the game with the belief that will be needed.
It is as close to an admission of defeat as you will probably get; Arsenal have to hope that Bayern are overcome by arrogance in their situation. The evening started brightly enough with positive movement by Arsenal although no real threat on goal. Any hopes that Arsenal were going to take their highly-rated opponents were dashed on seven minutes as Muller exploited the narrowness of Vermaelen’s position, pulled the ball back agonisingly out of Ramsey’s reach for Kroos to coolly finished from the edge of the area.
Everything about it was a scrappy goal to concede, beyond Kroos’ shot. Possession was conceded cheaply, Bayern afforded too much space and the Arsenal defence were too deep, albeit forced quickly back by Muller’s run. In the lead up to this match, it would have been drilled into the squad about keeping a clean sheet, not being put into a position where they had to chase the game.
Arsenal retreated into their shells, rocked by events. Matters turned worse fifteen minutes later when Szczesny blocked van Buyten’s header and Muller prodded home from close range. Arsenal were reeling; the only course of action was to regroup and they did so, offering little in attack but denying any Bavarian probes in the interim.
As the half entered its final ten minutes, the home side showed they had regained their composure, Mertesacker’s effort from Wilshere’s free kick, was blocked; Arsenal had to score next. They nearly conceded as well, Mandzukic should have converted Lahm’s cross as half-time approached.
The team responded to the interval well, more purposeful in the opening phase of the second period. As Bayern enjoyed luck in the first half, Arsenal reciprocated with Podolski taking full advantage of slovenly marking in the visitors defence to nod home. It had the air of temporary respite as Kroos forced a good save from Szczesny with Javi Martinez going close from the ensuing corner.
Another chink in the armoury appeared when Theo Walcott’s cross was met on the full by Giroud. Inches either side of Neuer and the power had the visitors’ goalkeeper beaten; it was not though and the ball struck him, flying to safety. It proved to be a costly miss; Lahm scampered down the right and crossed, Mandzukic snaffling the ball into the net. Arsenal’s chances of a comeback were gone in the blink of an eye and the scuff of a boot.
But the gap between the two sides was more than a scuff of the boot. Bayern outthought Arsenal for large parts of the game, Arsène’s tactics anticipated and nullified but it was not just off the pitch where it happened. The Bayern players seemed to learn from mistakes whereas repetitively, Arsenal did not. Vermaelen as an example, was narrow on the centre backs all evening something exploited in the first and third goals. At the same time, Arsenal’s midfield were curbed in attacking exuberance as the wide German players dropped back to stifle routes which were being forged toward goal. The above quote from the manager alluded to Bayern’s quality; we saw that and my overall view is that they played within themselves, that had Arsenal intensified their performance, the Bundesliga leaders could have matched it.
Moreso than losing to Milan, this defeat has given Arsène plenty to think about, to work on before the coming Premier League clashes with Spurs and Everton, not forgetting the small matter of Aston Villa. Whilst it is cliched, the current three week spell is crucial to the rest of the season. And it has not begun at all well.