Arsenal 1 (Podolski 55) – Bayern Munich 3 (Kroos 7, Mueller 21, Mandzukic 77)
Man of the Match - Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich)
So, here we are. The post-apocalyptic no-man’s land, that is the aftermath of another Arsenal defeat. I woke up this morning with a bad head sore, and the first thought on my mind was contemplating the defeat to Bayern Munich.
I have to say that there was no lack of effort from the side. Absolutely not. I am not even going into that field of criticism. Infact, there won’t be any criticism today. Bayern were clearly a class above us, in all aspects. There’s just no escaping from that fact.
Like Manchester United in 2009, Bayern Munich outplayed us in our own backyard, and emerged with a 3-1 victory, that should already see them through to the next round, even before they host us at the Allianz, in about 3 weeks time.
Arsenal switched to a more conventional 4-4-2, with Arsene Wenger opting to start with an extra midfielder in Aaron Ramsey. With Nacho Monreal ineligible to play, and Kieran Gibbs injured, Thomas Vermaelen started at left-back, while Laurent Koscielny passed a late fitness test to start at centre-back. Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott spearheaded the attack.
Bayern, on the other hand, despite the injuries to defenders Jerome Boateng, and Holger Badstuber, were able to name a strong lineup, with Brazilian Dante, and Daniel van Buyten at the back. Bayern’s midfield oozed of class. Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger started in defensive midfield, with Frank Ribery, Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller in offensive positions. In form Croatia international Mario Mandzukic started up top.
The stadium was awash with colour as noisy German fans added to the loudly chanting Arsenal contingent. The opening minutes were end to end, and within minutes Bayern took the initiative in the tie, as his first time volley was immaculately placed to beat Szczesny.
Arsenal fans got behind their team, but there was little to suggest that Arsenal had the quality, the drive and the penetration to trouble their much accomplished German opponents. Bayern were strong, composed and efficient right from the start.
Within minutes, the tie was almost as good as over, as poor Arsenal marking on a corner, lead to Daniel van Buyten, a monster of a player, being afforded too much time and space. His header was palmed away by Szczesny, but Mueller was on hand to poke the ball into the net. 2-0 Bayern.
Arsenal’s frustration began to grow, as Bayern looked to take the tie to the cleaners. Quick yellows were branded out to Sagna, Arteta and Vermaelen, all for late challenges. Bayern almost scored a third before half time, that would have sealed the game once and for all, but his header of a Lahm cross went wide.
It seemed there was a half time team talk, as Arsenal controlled the game for large parts. Jack Wilshere was again the driving force, and you have to wonder for how long he will be able to carry the side on his young shoulders.
Arsenal looked more fluid, and more fluent, but Bayern were equally efficient in preventing the Gunners from having any clear cut chances. Arsenal got a chancy corner, when Cazorla’s effort went out after striking Podolski. And, Arsenal were handed a lifeline as Podolski headed in after Neuer failed to deal with a corner.
Bayern looked a bit stuttered, and Neuer, who had gone over 8 games without conceding from open play, looked a bit nervous, as he fluffed at a Walcott set piece, only to regain it after it had gone high up in the air. By now, Arjen Robben had replaced Frank Ribery.
Arsene Wenger rung in some much needed changes, as he bought on Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky in place of Lukas Podolski and Aaron Ramsey. And, Arsenal were almost level, as Giroud’s first touch almost resulted in a goal, when Walcott’s cross in from the right was volleyed first time by the Frenchman. It went straight to a stranded Neuer, who was lucky enough to be positioned well.
Wilshere and Rosicky made a couple of darting runs from midfield. At one point, Wilshere beat almost the entire Bayern midfield, but his final shot was heavy and played right into Neuer’s hands. Another opportunity went begging when some quick interplay between Rosicky and Wilshere again ended up in Neuer’s hands.
Even as Arsenal looked to be finding a way back into the match, Bayern struck the devastating blow, as Mario Mandzukic bundled home the third. Arjen Robben played in the bustling Philip Lahm from the right, whose cross was met by an onrushing Mandzukic at the far post.
Understandably there were no boos at full time, as Arsenal were clearly undone by an opponent of greater stature and quality. The hurt on Wenger’s face was pretty evident, as he made his way down the tunnel, without shaking Jupp Heyncke’s hands.
I guess there may not be a need for a dissection of the positives and negatives of a game, all Arsenal fans had probably predicted a similar outcome, despite trying to remain fairly optimistic and upbeat. It is time to concentrate on finishing in the top 4 now, and hope for a decent performance at the Allianz, in 3 weeks time.
These are hard times to be an Arsenal fan, but then there are very few easy times to be an Arsenal fans. Time to buck up!
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