Five star Bayern embarrass Arsenal in first leg annihilation

Teams level at half time but possession and dominance eventually tell

Bayern Munich 5 Arsenal 1

For Arsenal, it is the same demoralising sense of deja vu and the same cloying sense that this modern-day team is too vulnerable, too fragile and simply incapable of mounting a serious challenge to the elite.

Once again, they came up painfully short and have flatlined in the first knockout stage of a competition that is out of their reach. It will be the seventh successive season they have gone out at this point and, for Arsène Wenger, the scrutiny will inevitably harden.

It was certainly some collapse during a traumatic second half in which Bayern Munich puffed out their chests, scored three times in one 10-minute blitz, created at least half a dozen more opportunities and, finally, completed the rout with a fifth goal that means Arsenal will require one of the greatest nights of Wenger’s reign to go through in the return leg.


Unfortunately for Wenger, the idea of a 4-0 home win is almost implausible and nobody should genuinely believe Alexis Sánchez’s first-half goal might yet instigate what, in football terms, would represent a miracle.

Thiago Alcântara scored twice during the part of the game when Wenger's men, from a positive of relative strength, disintegrated. Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and the substitute Thomas Müller also found gaping holes in the visiting defence and Arsenal were booed off at the end by their own fans.

This was always going to be a challenging night bearing in mind Bayern had won their previous 15 Champions League assignments at home, greedily accumulating 53 goals in the process, and the Arsenal supporters in the most vertiginous part of the stadium were probably entitled to fear another chastening experience bearing in mind the way the tie started.

No team can defend this generously and hope to get away it. For Arsenal, it has become a recurring theme at this stage of the competition and the most harrowing part, perhaps, is that the game had swung in their favour after Lewandowski's carelessness left Laurent Koscielny on the floor for the penalty decision that, briefly, threatened to change the complexion of the night.

Even then, Arsenal reminded us of their knack for making life unnecessarily hard for themselves. Manuel Neuer had anticipated Sánchez would go to the goalkeeper's right and saved the penalty.

What he could not do was turn the ball to safety. Sánchez took a wild swing at the first rebound without a clean connection but still had the composure to read the trajectory of the ball as it dropped to him again. In one movement he had controlled the ball on his chest, swivelled and angled his shot into the same corner where he had wanted the penalty to end up.

After half an hour of near-unremitting Bayern pressure, the goal invigorated Arsenal so much that by half-time they could also reflect on two fine chances for Granit Xhaka and Mesut Özil to put them ahead.

Sánchez had quickly worked out he had the beating of Mats Hummels, a centre-half who can be vulnerable on the turn, and in those moments there was a level of disorganisation in the Bayern defence that should encourage Wenger’s team ahead of the second leg.

At the same time, there was always the sense that Bayern had enough penetration in attack to get behind the visiting defence. Robben’s goal was a beauty and there were plenty of other occasions when this elusive winger demonstrated that, at 33, he is still capable of elite performances.

From an Arsenal perspective, however, the opening goal was a measure of how frustrating this team can be sometimes. Robben's habit of cutting inside from the right wing, looking for the angle to take aim with that gifted left foot, is hardly a secret. He has been doing it all his career and it was baffling, to say the least, that the two nearest opponents, Alex Iwobi and particularly Francis Coquelin, did not sense the danger. Robben's intentions were clear and he scored, brilliantly, with a soaring, diagonal shot into the top corner of David Ospina's net.

Bayern's second goal also originated on the right. This time, Robben and the overlapping Philipp Lahm had doubled up on Kieran Gibbs. Lewandowski was in the penalty area, pointing where he wanted the cross, and comfortably outjumped Shkodran Mustafi to score with an expertly placed header.

The body language of Arsenal’s players as they made their way back to the centre circle was one clue about what was to follow. Lewandowski created the first goal for Alcântara with one of the game’s outstanding moments, a beautifully disguised drag-back to dissect the entire Arsenal defence, and for a good while it suddenly felt as though the entire game was being played in the visitors’ penalty area.

The pressure was relentless and, with so many bodies in such a confined space, it was not entirely a surprise when Alcântara’s next shot took a deflection to wrong-foot Ospina for Bayern’s fourth goal.

After that, it was almost a surprise Bayern waited until the 88th minute before scoring again, Müller firing in a left-footed shot after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had given away the ball. From Arsenal, it was a total collapse.

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