Arsenal 1 Bayern Munich 5 (aggregate: 2-10)
If we were to be kind on Arsenal, they did at least have 45 minutes where Arsène Wenger could argue with some justification that his team had the better of one of Europe’s real superpowers. That, however, would be exceedingly kind – a sympathy vote, you could call it – bearing in mind the full story of their latest ordeal. Once again, Arsenal came up short and this time the question has to be asked about whether it will be Wenger’s last involvement in the Champions League.
If so, Arsenal’s manager should be accustomed to the feeling by now, this being the seventh successive season his team have gone out at the first knockout stage. Bayern have accounted for three of those exits and Arsenal, to put it bluntly, must be sick of the sight of them. Ten-two over two legs is not just a defeat, it is an embarrassment. It was their heaviest defeat at the Emirates since it opened for business in 2006 – and perhaps the most demoralising part for Arsenal’s supporters is that it does not even feel entirely a surprise.
By the end, Theo Walcott's first-half goal was starting to feel like a distant memory during a second-half blitz in which Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, the substitute Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal, twice, put the ball into their own net. Lewandowski's goal came from a penalty and Arsenal disintegrated after Laurent Koscielny was shown a red card in the process.
For Wenger, the ramifications came in the form of a pre-match protest when the repertoire of songs included one number accusing Arsenal’s manager – a man, lest it be forgotten, who has won 3.6 per cent of all league titles and FA Cups in the history of English football – of “killing the club”. Around 200 fans were involved, marching to the stadium with their banners declaring “au revoir”, and the danger for Wenger is that the numbers could feasibly grow.
No side has ever come back from a four-goal first-leg deficit in the Champions League but Arsenal did at least make a passable impersonation early on of a team that believed it was possible. Bayern, in turn, had dropped a level or two from the last time these sides encountered one another and the Bundesliga champions seemed surprised, nonplussed even, that their opponents – “mentally collapsed”, Wenger described them in Germany – were still trying to prolong the argument.
Why, you might think, could Arsenal not show this level of determination in the first leg? Wenger's men left the pitch at half-time frustrated to be only one goal ahead and unfortunate, perhaps, that Xabi Alonso was given the benefit of the doubt after he had clipped Walcott's leg inside the penalty area. That was the 33rd minute and a penalty for Arsenal, with the prospect of a second goal, might have dramatically changed the complexion of the night.
It was certainly unusual to see a left-back of David Alaba’s gifts look as troubled as he did trying to keep up with Walcott and there cannot have been many occasions in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s career when he has played with such distinction against high-calibre opponents.
Walcott started the match as though he single-handedly wanted to expunge the memories of Munich and had been menacing Bayern's defence even before he eluded three opponents on the run that culminated in his 20th-minute goal. Yes, Walcott had a touch of good fortune bearing in mind his intended pass for Olivier Giroud came back off the Frenchman's heels and, at the end of it, Manuel Neuer's attempt to keep out the shot felt unbefitting of a goalkeeper of his status. All the same, it was a wonderful piece of opportunism from Walcott and a reminder that he really should operate at this level more often. Walcott went past Vidal first, then found a gap between Alonso and Mats Hummels, and the ball was still rising as his shot flicked off Neuer's fists to fly into the roof of the net.
Giroud had been fast-tracked into the team when Danny Welbeck fell ill shortly before kick-off and, for Arsenal to stand any chance, he really needed to finish the headed chance that came his way early in the second half. In a game with these conditions, Arsenal could not afford to be so generous and within five minutes all that false hope was gone, replaced by a sudden, damp silence.
Arsenal were entitled to be aggrieved about Koscielny's red card but only because the Greek referee, Tasos Sidiropoulos, had initially decided the foul that gave away the penalty merited only a yellow. The decision was altered on the guidance of the official operating on the byline and it was unusual, to say the least, to see a referee deciding to upgrade cards on someone else's say-so. Ultimately, though, it was the correct decision. Lewandowski had broken clear inside the penalty area when Koscielny leaned into the striker with enough force to bring him down. Lewandowski put the penalty to the left of David Ospina and that, for Arsenal, was really that.
Well, not quite. Arsenal still had 40 minutes or so to play with 10 men. Robben’s goal came from a mistake by Alexis Sánchez, Vidal ran clear for his two and, in between, Costa curled in a beauty for the fourth. Bayern could have added more and Arsenal were reminded, again, about the gulf between themselves and the elite.