Arsenal’s Champions League hopes are hanging by a thread after they were blown away by Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.
The Gunners came to Germany full of confidence and with history on their side having never lost at the Allianz Arena, but they were second-best throughout as Bayern showed that defeat at the Emirates Stadium a fortnight ago was the merest blip in their superb start to the season.
Robert Lewandowski put the hosts ahead early on as he sprung the rustiest of offside traps before a Thomas Muller brace as well as goals from David Alaba and substitute Arjen Robben did further damage, with Olivier Giroud scoring a scant consolation as Bayern ran out 5-1 winners.
This galling defeat is the third in four Group F games, and Arsene Wenger’s side are now six points off second spot with two games remaining.
Just 10 minutes in and Arsenal afforded Thiago the freedom of Munich as the Spain international delivered a sumptuous cross to Lewandowski, who headed home his 18th goal of the season as Gabriel played him onside. The Brazilian, playing as Laurent Koscielny sat on the bench as a precaution due to a hip problem, had dropped deeper than his fellow defenders to play Lewandowski onside and then committed the cardinal sin of stepping up too late, allowing the Poland international to open the scoring.
Mesut Ozil thought he had leveled for the visitors, but was instead cautioned for handball as he turned home a Nacho Monreal cross almost straight after Bayern has gone in front. Ozil ran away celebrating an equalizer but the German was booked as referee Gianluca Rocchi correctly ruled he used his elbow to turn home Monreal’s cross.
Bayern then had two good chances to double their advantage but Cech was on hand to keep out Lewandowski on two occasions as the hosts built up a head of steam.
The second goal followed soon after as Philipp Lahm’s cross was missed by Mathieu Debuchy, allowing Kingsley Coman to fire goalwards. Muller was on hand to control the Juventus loanee’s shot and turn past Cech with the help of a deflection off Mertesacker’s shin.
Cech then made a superb stop as he tipped Muller’s header over the crossbar but, having done his best to keep his side in the game, he could only get his fingertips to Alaba’s shot as the fullback skipped past Santi Cazorla before lashing home the third just before half-time.
Pep Guardiola had resisted the temptation to play Robben despite the Holland international playing a full 90 minutes at the weekend, but he needed just one touch to add the fourth having come on for the impressive Coman nine minutes after the break.
Cazorla should have pulled one back having been played through by Giroud but shot straight at Manuel Neuer. The Frenchman did much better with his own chance, controlling Sanchez’s chipped cross and acrobatically volleying a consolation for Arsenal.
Robben should have added a fifth after rounding Cech but dawdled and was well challenged by a backtracking Gabriel but Muller made no mistake in slotting home his second of the evening in the dying minutes to make this Arsenal’s worst-ever Champions League defeat.
Petr Cech: 6
Mathieu Debuchy: 4
Per Mertesacker: 5
Nacho Monreal: 5
Francis Coquelin: 5
Santi Cazorla: 5
Joel Campbell: 5
Mesut Ozil: 5
Alexis Sanchez: 5
Olivier Giroud: 7
Kieran Gibbs: 5
Alex Iwobi: 5
Calum Chambers: 5
Thiago: Plenty of candidates from the Bayern side but Thiago edges it as the midfielder was peerless for much of the contest. His lovely ball set up Lewandowski to send the hosts on their way and his seemingly effortless ability to control the game shone though once again.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Mesut Ozil: Rocchi and his fellow Italian officials did a superb job to spot Ozil’s use of an elbow in what would have been a quickfire equalizer for Arsenal. The German could have stooped down and headed goalwards but he shifted his body towards the ball and appeared to turn it home with his arm. Had that gone unnoticed it could have been a very different evening.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Arsene Wenger was dealt defensive blows in the build-up here as both Hector Bellerin and Laurent Koscielny were forced to miss out through injury. Add to that the lack of attacking options with Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey all injured and it was always going to be a tough ask. Debuchy was culpable for at least one goal, having been asked to deputize for Bellerin, while Koscielny’s replacement Gabriel played Lewandowski onside for the opener.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
The difference between top-level sides from the continent in comparison to the Premier League was again brought into the spotlight here. Arsenal may have injury problems but Bayern were without Franck Ribery and Mario Goetze – while Robben and Arturo Vidal only came on with the match already won.
WHO’S UP NEXT
Bayern Munich vs. Stuttgart (Bundesliga, Saturday, Nov. 7)
Arsenal vs. Tottenham (Premier League, Sunday Nov. 8)
The Gunners face a tough task to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages but defender Per Mertesacker is not about to throw in the towel.
“I think we have to win both games (against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos) and get at least two goals against Olympiacos,” the German told BT Sport.
“We went through an even more difficult period (in the past) so it’s not over and that’s how we approach the situation now.
“That was difficult tonight but we’ll learn from it as always and bounce back quickly on Sunday.
“We need to put away the negative energy and fight back.”
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