Written by Carl Walker
In December when the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League was made, you just knew the opponents for Arsenal, almost as if it was fate. Bayern Munich predictably came out and it was Deja Vu all over again. Arsenal have faced Bayern, at some point in the competition in 4 of the last 5 Champions League campaigns.
Last night, it was ground hog day. Arsenal were pummelled 5-1 by Bayern and it’s already looking like the tie is over. This will be the third time in five seasons that Bayern have eliminated Arsenal at this stage of the competition.
There was this time, though, an air of optimism from the Arsenal fans. Bayern have not exactly been firing on all cylinders in the Bundesliga this season and if Dortmund had found more cohesion earlier in the season the top of the table could look very different in Germany. Bayern has also lost two home games in the Champions League already this season. Surely this is their best chance in years to finally make it past the last 16. The last time Arsenal managed to reach the quarter finals was in 2010.
It’s also the style of play that the fans have been unhappy about with post Pep Bayern. Carlo Ancelotti has come in for some criticism from the german media for the football being played, the football, according to them, has not been to the usual high standards that they have come to expect from Bayern, that was soon remedied last night, though.
Arsene Wenger announced the lineup and it was to be expected. Ospina in as the Champions League keeper and two holding midfielders in Xhaka and Coquelin to disrupt the possession and passing of Xabi Alonso and to win back the ball from the likes of Thiago and Vidal when they burst forward.
The game got under way at the magnificent Allianz Arena, and it was exactly as you expected, Arsenal sitting in and keeping it compact and Bayern pressing at a furious pace, it wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken with a trademark Arjen Robben goal. On the right wing, he cut inside onto his left foot and curled one past the flying Ospina who had no chance and it kissed the under side of the bar and went in. The Allianz erupted!
Arsenal went onto rally though and were awarded a penalty in the 30th minute, which Alexis Sanchez converted at the third time of asking and Arsenal created a few more chances before the break, Xhaka hit a volley straight at Neuer and Ozil was played through and had his shot saved by Neuer’s feet. At half time Arsenal were still well in the tie and had an away goal to boot. “First ten minutes of the second half are crucial” this is common knowledge in football.
The second half was a car crash for the Gunners and it started to spiral out of control in those first crucial ten minutes after the break. Koscielny limped off just after the restart and when Arsenal needed to keep it compact and frustrate the Bavarians, they did the exact oppsoite and capitulated. A towering header from Lewandowski, after a delicious cross from Lahm restored Bayern’s lead moments later. Arsenal’s players downed tools.
Bayern turned on the style. Alonso fed Lewandowski who flicked it through to Thiago who slotted home past a helpless Ospina, 3-1. Shortly after Thiago grabbed his second as his effort deflected in off Xhaka to make it 4-1. Ospina was kept busy as his defence deserted him with some smart saves from Vidal and Douglas Costa.
Bayern carried on with the relentless probing and eventually found a fifth through substitute Thomas Muller. Oxlade-Chamberlain lost possesion on the edge of his own box, the ball found its way to Muller who shifted it onto his left foot and fired past Ospina. 5-1 game and tie over surely.
It was woeful from Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. The Arsenal players must share responsibilty with the manager for the result. The midfield was seriously over run. Xhaka only attempted 30 passes all game and Coquelin only attempted 9. Xabi Alonso completed 100 of 111 passes attempted. He controlled the tempo of the game, Arsenal failed to close him down and stop him playing.
Xabi Alonso completed more passes than Xhaka, Sanchez, Ozil, Iwobi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin and Walcott combined (95). Surely a mananger of Arsene Wengers experience would have seen that Alonso needed to be stifled and not allowed to control the game. That being said, Xabi Alonso was simply magnificent, an artist at work, the pitch his canvass. Alonso is still truly world class. Picking passes and shifting Arsenal’s midfield all over the place.
Xhaka and Coquelin allowed Thiago to stroll through and find the net for the third goal and Mustafi was completely outclassed by the world class Lewandowski for the second goal. Mesut Ozil has come in for critisism in recent weeks and rightly so. His pressing for the Robben goal was embarrassing and he once again went missing in the big game. What more motivation does he need than Bayern away in the Champions League? I have mentioned this before Ozil is replaceable, Sanchez is not.
The most worrying point for the fans though is surely how easy they gave up after the second goal. The players completely abandoned any sort of game plan they initally had and it now means that the second leg is irrelivent as Arsenal fans rushed to re sell thier tickets for the return leg.
So was it bad management or did his players simply not listen? We will never know for sure, but last night was a clear indication that the players don’t have the correct mentality to win these big games anymore.
The post mortem began straight after the game and Wenger looked completely broken. Tactically he got it wrong before the game, Arsenal were outclassed during it on the pitch. Arsene has become obsolete, his tacticts are out dated and predictable and his stubborness has hindered the clubs ambition to move forward successfully.
With the title seemingly out of reach as Chelsea continue to steam roll thier way forward Arsenal’s only hope of silverware comes in the FA cup, but it should not be enough to save him this time. He has had twelve chances sinces his last title win to convince the fans and has failed each time.
Time’s up Arsene. It’s time for the club and the Professor to part ways.
Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below!