Arsenal's chance at ending their title-less run took another serious blow with their 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.
The Gunners' haven't won a title since the 2005 FA Cup. They came to the Emirates Stadium this week looking to try to keep their last remaining chance at a title this season alive. Yet on the night, it was simply all about the German giants, who cruised past the North London club to take a commanding lead heading into the second leg back in Germany next month.
Arsenal now find themselves on the brink of elimination in the tournament—needing to essentially win by three goals, in Germany, to progress to the quarterfinals.
Read on to see the biggest reasons for Arsenal's defeat in this one.
Lack of direction in attack
Achieving some success in attack against a dominant defensive club like Bayern Munich was never going to be an easy task for Arsenal here.
The German giants have one of the most imposing records in world football in terms of goals conceded this season, and showcased again here just how solid they can be at the back. It took a rare error from Manuel Neuer to give Lukas Podolski his goal, otherwise it seems that the North London club would not have troubled the score attendant at all in this one.
Yet despite Bayern's defensive solidity, Arsenal were still caught out here by their own lack of direction going forward—especially through the middle.
Jack Wilshere didn't take the Germans on through the middle until the result was seemingly all over. Mikel Arteta offered nothing other than sideways passes back to Thomas Vermaelen and Santi Cazorla—their go-to man in terms of creativity—was left to shoulder a load that not even his spectacular shoulders were able to carry here.
Theo Walcott's inclusion as a striker meant that the Gunners did not have a go-to man at the top of their attack, which in itself was not a problem. The problem became when Arsenal couldn't get the ball to him anywhere other than the wings, which usually then resulted in a poor cross into the middle.
Arsenal arguably looked at their best when Olivier Giroud came on and gave them some presence in the middle. Up until then, they were seriously lacking.
Think of it like this—if Barcelona are the model for possession-based, attacking football (commonly called tika-taka), then Arsenal have the tika without the taka.
They have the possession under control and can frustrate their opponents' defense, but they do not have the attacking football that Barca have. They do not have the direct running at defenders nor do they have good balls being poured through to their forward line.
That was certainly noticeable in this one, and a key reason for defeat.
Still not sure in defense
Arsenal did have to endure some positional changes for this clash, with captain Thomas Vermaelen heading out to left back to cover the injured Kieran Gibbs.
Yet despite that change, the Gunners' defense was simply woeful in this one, with the North London club not possessing the communication and solidity that was on display less than 100 yards away.
Laurent Koscielny was probably the best at the back for Arsenal, but the Frenchman struggled in his communication with Per Mertesacker throughout—leaving far too many opportunities for Bayern Munich to gain ascendency in attack and create goal-scoring chances.
They allowed too much space for the opening goal; they didn't mark up properly on the corner on two occasions for the second goal; and they didn't pick up Philip Lahm or shut down the middle of the box for the third and game-clinching goal.
Bacary Sagna was caught out here, but not exposed completely due to the fact that the German side didn't attack down the right as much as they did the left.
But still, it wasn't great from the Gunners here, and it's been their inconsistencies that have let them down time and time again this season. If they could sure up at the back, you'd have to think that the North London club would become a real threat going forward this year.
Yet with just three clean sheets in their last 13 games—and neither of which came against solid opposition—it seems that's a long way off from happening.
Bayern Munich were simply too good
Whilst Arsenal had a lot of problems coming into this match and throughout the fixture as well, the truth is that the Gunners weren't completely terrible. In comparison to how we've seen them play throughout the year already, it wasn't as bad as say, losing to Blackburn or Bradford City was.
The truth here was that Bayern Munich are a very, very good football team who are tough for any team in world football to match up against. Period.
Their defense is the best on the planet, their midfield is strong—decisive and cohesive—and their attack features some of the most prolific goalscorers. Bayern stop goals at one end and they take their chances at the other; it's almost as simple as that for the German league leaders.
Bayern's squad is also ridiculously strong, with the Germans holding a prolific goal-scoring record through the Champions League tournament so far.
10 - Mario Mandzukic became the 10th different player to score a Champions League goal for Bayern Munich in 2012-13. Update.2013-2-19 21:26:26
Whilst Arsenal's first substitute was Tomas Rosicky, Bayern's was Arjen Robben—a Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Eredivisie and FA Cup champion. And they still had guys like Mario Gomez on hand to bring on later in the match also.
Simply put, Bayern Munich have too much skill and too much strength for a club like Arsenal to match up against, and the result was merely a reflection of that.
It seems that the second leg will just be a matter of formalities now.
What did you see as the biggest reasons behind Arsenal's defeat here?
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