10-man Arsenal humiliated and eliminated in heavy Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich
Arsenal 1 Bayern Munich 5 (agg: 2-10): Arsene Wenger’s side failed to qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals for the seventh successive season
Nightmares can strike twice. Arsenal repeated their fist leg disaster, not salvaging any pride but somehow humiliating themselves even worse than they did at the Allianz Arena back in February. They lost 5-1 to Bayern Munich here, making a 10-2 aggregate score which sounds like a freak but is in fact a perfectly fair reflection of the difference between the two teams.
While Arsenal started this evening playing for pride, even taking the lead in the first half, the second half was far too like the first leg in Munich. Again Laurent Koscielny went off, this time for a red card, rather than an injury. Again Arsenal collapsed. Bayern ran in five second half goals with embarrassing ease. If they had wanted another five they could have had them.
The way that Arsenal allowed Bayern to run through them and score with every attack, just as they did in Munich, was embarrassing for a team with any pretence at competitive seriousness. The first time it happened was bad enough but to collapse in the same twice is remarkable. It says everything about a club whose discipline, unity and structure has evaporated at the highest level.
It leaves Arsenal out of the last eight of the Champions League, although that is not much of a surprise given the draw and the gulf between the two teams. More importantly than that it raises even more serious questions about whether Arsene Wenger is the right man for this job. Hundreds of Arsenal fans protested against him before the game and what happened in the second half strengthened, rather than weakened their claim.
The one thing Arsenal had to do, after everything that has happened, was to work hard together, and that is exactly what they did. With Alexis Sanchez back in, having served his punishment, and Mesut Ozil on the bench, Arsenal fielded their hardest-working eleven possible. Even with Olivier Giroud having to replace the ill Danny Welbeck just before kick-off.
Arsenal started on the front foot and in their new 4-3-3 system, without a number 10, they were more stable and more dangerous. Theo Walcott, high on the right, was dangerous, racing onto a Granit Xhaka pass in behind, stretching the flimsy Bayern defence.
Clearly Bayern were not up for this, or at least not as up for it as Arsenal were. Trying not to lose 4- 0 is a difficult mindset, and they struggled to find the right balance. So when Walcott jinked between Mats Hummels and Xabi Alonso, no-one stopped him. He raced away from David Alaba and thumped a near-post shot over Manuel Neuer’s head, smashing into the ceiling of the net.
The atmosphere had been positive all evening and it rallied behind the players. Walcott, supported by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield, continued to take the fight to a Bayern team with no plan to stop them. Oxlade-Chamberlain played in Walcott, who was tripped by Alonso, and it was absurd that no penalty was awarded. A goal then would have left Arsenal needing just two more. Then Mustafi found Walcott in the position he scored from, although when he tried the same finish it flew into the side netting.
Arsenal were clapped off at the break, but the frustration was that for all of their dominance, they had not done half of the job.
Arsenal needed that second goal, to get them half way to four, and they did have one last chance, just before the game got away from them. Aaron Ramsey, making his first start after five weeks out, darted into the box, making the type of clever run that Arsenal have missed. He checked back and floated a clever cross over to the far post. Giroud jumped up but he jumped too early, sending what should have been a simple header well over the bar.
If that had gone in, Arsenal would have been two goals away from the quarter-finals. But it did not and soon after their European season was over. Robert Lewandowski burst into the box, collided with Laurent Koscielny and went down. Referee Tasos Sidiropoulos gave a penalty and booked Koscielny, before discussing with an assistant and sending Koscielny off instead. Lewandowski sent David Ospina the wrong way.
Arsenal needed four goals with a one-man deficit. It did not matter that they had 35 minutes, they could have played for weeks and not over turned it.
As it happened, Bayern started to play with the intensity they had so lacked in the first half. Sensing that the second-leg win was on for them too, they set about Arsenal and it did not take long for them score again. Ospina sliced a poor kick straight to Robben, who headed the ball forwards. Lewandowski flicked it back inside and Robben skipped past Sanchez, into space, beating Ospina easily enough.
Arsenal are not very good at keeping a lid on bad results to avoid embarrassment. They threw men forward, making three changes, all in the search of a consolation goal. They opened themselves up and Robert Lewandowski had two good chances to score before Bayern scored their third. Douglas Costa, on for Arjen Robben, raced down the right and powered his shot beyond Ospina into the far corner of the net.
Again, Arsenal should have tried to minimise the humiliation but they did not know how to. Shkodran Mustafi, again lost without Laurent Koscielny, passed straight to Alonso who found Arturo Vidal, breaking forward. He dinked the ball over Ospina and hat should have been that.
When Arsenal are this bad, they are unsavable and they conceded a fifth to make the perfect symmetry with the first leg. Another Bayern break took them right down the middle of the pitch, through a non-existent defence. Douglas Costa squared to Vidal who scored Bayern’s fifth.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Ramsey (Coquelin 72), Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Giroud (Özil 72), Sanchez (Perez 73).
Subs not used: Cech, Gibbs, Gabriel.
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Rafinha, Martinez, Hummels, Alaba; Xabi Alonso, Vidal; Robben (Costa 71), Thiago (Kimmich 79), Ribery (Sanches 79); Lewandowski.