Rating the Bayern Munich Players Against Arsenal
Bayern Munich put a foot into the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday as they recorded a 3-1 win over Arsenal at the Emirates.
Die Roten entered Tuesday's clash having lost six of their last eight Round of 16 away legs. But the Bavarian giants showed a completely different face at the Emirates and won their first-ever game in London.
Toni Kroos gave the visitors an early lead on seven minutes as he volleyed home from the edge of the penalty area, and Thomas Mueller made it 2-0 on 21 minutes with a tap-in. Lukas Podolski gave the hosts some hope as he nodded in early in the second half, but as the game entered its final stages, Mario Mandzukic struck to make it 3-1 to Bayern.
The result means Arsenal will need to score at least three goals in Munich and will have to win by two or more to stand a chance of advancing. Suffice to say, although the tie is not yet officially decided, Bayern have taken a huge step towards qualification for the next round.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for ratings and assessments of all the Bayern players.
Manuel Neuer is regarded by many as the best goalkeeper in the world but looked far from it on Tuesday as he looked extremely suspect from crosses.
The Germany international had very little danger come his way but left plenty to be desired in the rare instance that he was tested. Neuer flapped at an early cross and was caught frozen as Lukas Podolski's rather tame header pulled a goal back for the hosts.
To his credit, Neuer was well positioned to save what should have been a goal for Olivier Giroud. Still, Arsenal would not have had such momentum in their favor if not for the goalkeeper's mistakes.
Perhaps Neuer has lost his edge following a run of Bundesliga games in which he has rarely had a shot to save. Whatever the reason, his poor performance is cause for serious concern.
A candidate for man of the match, Philipp Lahm gave a captain's performance on Tuesday as he showed his quality at both ends of the pitch.
The 29-year-old never hesitated to join in the attack and was a very useful outlet bombing up the right flank. He deserved an assist for his cross to Mario Mandzukic moments before halftime and later did indeed record an assist as he played another ball that the Croatian striker struck into the net.
At the back, Lahm defended very well. He was beaten by Thomas Vermaelen in the 89th minute, but to his credit did not hesitate to commit a professional foul rather than potentially conceding a goal.
Daniel Van Buyten
Arsene Wenger seemed to identify Daniel Van Buyten as a weakness in the Bayern defense heading into Tuesday's match, as he started the speedy Theo Walcott as his main striker to exploit the aging Belgian's lack of pace. As events unfolded, however, the Belgian would prove an asset for the visitors.
Following a corner kick, Van Buyten's powerful header forced Wojciech Szczesny to parry the ball in front of his goal, and Thomas Mueller pounced to double Bayern's advantage.
In defense, the 35-year-old Van Buyten defended as well as a player of his age could. Although deficient in pace, he positioned himself well and anticipated passes from the Arsenal midfield.
Dante was not often troubled thanks to the excellent performance of the Bayern midfield, but he calmly dealt with any danger that came his way.
Theo Walcott never had a sniff at goal and was entirely ineffective through the center. Olivier Giroud later had a good chance for the hosts, but on the whole, the Bayern center-backs did very well to limit Arsenal's chances on goal.
Not the best performance from the young left-back, who was a lynchpin for the Bayern defense in last season's Champions League but struggled on occasion against Arsenal.
Alaba may have been unlucky to slip and lose possession at the edge of his own box, but he also was guilty of some uncharacteristically loose passes and occasionally suspect positioning. He improved in the second half, however. It speaks well for Alaba that during Arsenal's best spells of play, they more often attacked Lahm's flank than his.
The best holding midfielder on the pitch in Tuesday's match was Javi Martinez who provided all the defensive quality Luiz Gustavo has for Bayern in the past while adding more quality in possession.
The former Bilbao man won more challenges than any other player and closed down space in the center, forcing Arsenal to look to wide areas as they attacked.
The debate of whether Martinez is worth the €40 million Bayern spent on him may rage eternally among Bayern fans, but it's dead certain that the Bavarians' midfield has certainly improved since his arrival.
Perhaps incensed by last season's missed penalty in the Champions League final, Bastian Schweinsteiger gave a fiery performance in midfield against Arsenal.
The 28-year-old was not as decisive with the ball at his feet as were Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller, but his energy and industry were critical to Bayern's result. Schweinsteiger eagerly raced around the pitch, following the ball wherever it went as he covered 12.8 km on the night.
Schweinsteiger's enthusiasm got the better of him, however, as his booking in the first half marked his third yellow card of the Champions League this season. He will be suspended for the second leg, but perhaps will not be so sorely missed thanks to the resounding margin of victory Bayern earned.
Thomas Mueller's performance on Tuesday was a very typical one. His cross to tee up Toni Kroos for the opener wasn't exactly stunning, but he did indeed assist the game's most critical goal. And his goal to make it 2-0 was only a tap-in after a fumbled save, but it counted nonetheless.
Mueller rarely dazzles with dribbling through tight spaces or scoring wonder goals, but he nonetheless is one of the world's most most decisive players. A very unselfish player, Mueller was often found defending deeper than Lahm and covered 12.3 km. Only Schweinsteiger outran the incredibly industrious Mueller.
Bayern have at times struggled to find the opening goal, but that was not at all the case on Tuesday as Toni Kroos put the visitors ahead after just seven minutes. The 23-year-old showed phenomenal shooting technique as he blasted home the all-important opener.
Kroos' goal, which came against the run of play, took the wind out of Arsenal's sails and settled the visitors. The 23-year-old then took on a deeper role and was involved not only in playmaking, but defending.
The ex-Hansa Rostock attacker made a vital stop early on and made an even better block of Per Mertesacker's volley after the half-hour mark. All in all an excellent display from Kroos, who was withdrawn with 17 minutes left.
Talismanic winger Franck Ribery was found missing for Bayern in Tuesday's match. Usually the Bavarians' best creator of chances, he failed to assist a single effort on goal and made none of his typical mazy dribbles.
Ribery worked hard in defense, it must be said, but he also gambled and lost on several occasions when he aimed to intercept passes. Alaba was accordingly left to defend against both Aaron Ramsey and Bacary Sagna, a very tall order. The Frenchman was withdrawn for the last 27 minutes.
Mario Mandzukic hadn't scored a Champions League goal this season heading into Tuesday's match and appeared well on his way to further disappointment entering the latter stages of the game.
The Croatian striker missed from a free header shortly before halftime. On 77 minutes he had another opportunity and scored a scrappy but critical third away goal from close range as the ball looped high into the air before descending into the net.
His play in front of goal aside, Mandzukic worked extremely hard and held up the ball very well. His performance suggested that perhaps Bayern don't need Robert Lewandowski after all.
Arjen Robben (Substitute, 63')
Given 27 minutes to show his quality, Arjen Robben gave an encouraging performance. He's past his best and no longer has the ability to win games on his own but certainly proved influential against Arsenal.
The 29-year-old unselfishly played the ball to the overlapping Philipp Lahm who crossed for for Mandzukic's goal that might have put the tie beyond doubt.
Luiz Gustavo (Substitute, 73')
Two months after he was revealed as a transfer target for Arsenal, Luiz Gustavo had his chance to prove himself against his potential suitors in a 17-minute appearance off the bench.
The Brazilian helped tighten things at the back for Bayern as he, Dante, Van Buyten, Martinez and Schweinsteiger left the hosts with no room to operate in and around the edge of the penalty box.
Mario Gomez (Substitute, 81')
A substitute for the final 12 minutes of the match, Mario Gomez had neither the time nor the match sharpness to make a difference.
The 27-year-old, who has only started one match in 2013, only had one chance to score but rushed his shot. After pouncing on a ball he had deflected, Gomez fired an off-balance strike when he had time to settle himself and perhaps square to Thomas Mueller in the center.