Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich: 6 Things We Learned from Champions League Clash
Wojciech Szczesny was sent off and both teams missed penalties as Bayern Munich outplayed, out-thought and completely out-fought the 10 men of Arsenal in a 2-0 Champions League win at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
The Gunners had started well before Bayern took control of the game. Szczesny's rightful sending off swung the pendulum in Bayern's favor, and they never looked back. The defending Champions League champions utterly dismantled Arsenal in a torrid second half where the home side can count themselves lucky to have kept the score down to just 2-0.
Toni Kroos opened the scoring with a fabulous curled effort from fully 25 yards before Thomas Muller broke the Gunners' slim resistance with a well taken second.
The result makes Bayern firm favorites to progress to the quarterfinals.
Arsenal tore out of the blocks like their very lives depended upon the match, but it was Bayern who created the first real chance of the game.
Last season, Kroos opened the scoring in Munich's 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium, he would have achieved the same feat this time around if it were not for an amazing save by Wojciech Szczesny. Mere moments later, Arsenal went as close through Yaya Sanogo whose opportune shot was saved brilliantly by Manuel Neuer.
The Gunners continued to put the visitors under huge pressure and when Mesut Ozil turned inside Jerome Boateng, who left out a lazy trailing leg to bring his fellow countryman down, the referee had no choice but to award a penalty.
Ozil stepped up to take the all-important spot-kick and produced as lazy an effort as Boateng's tackle moments earlier. It was easily saved by Neuer to keep the scores level. There was no conviction the penalty whatsoever and it casts further doubts upon Ozil's character and dwindling form.
Pep Guardiola is normally a cool, calm and collected figure on the sidelines. However, with Arsenal inflicting their game upon the much vaunted visitors, the Spaniard paced the technical area roaring instructions to his team.
As the half wore on, Arsenal's impetus lessened and Munich ground their way into the game. The pace of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, however, was a constant threat. If it were not for the outstanding Neuer, rushing out from his goal to clear the ball, the versatile 20-year-old would have undoubtedly scored.
Bayern continued to wear Arsenal down and when Kieran Gibbs went off with a hamstring injury, it only seemed a matter of time before they created a clear cut chance.
That came in the 37th minute when Kroos' delightful chip put Arjen Robben clear through on goal. Szczesny rushed out and promptly took the Dutch star down to give away a penalty. There was little doubt about the referee's decision to award the penalty, he also issued a red card to the Arsenal shot-stopper into the bargain.
The decision was harsh, but the referee made the correct one as per the rules of the game.
Amazingly, David Alaba missed his penalty too. The Austrian's body-shape was completely wrong as he kicked the ball and it resulted in the poorly taken spot-kick.
Arsenal's fans breathed a huge sigh of relief in between the chorus of boos for the referee. A few minutes later the extraordinary first half came to a close.
Munich made a number of tactical changes at halftime and they paid huge dividends.
From being on top at the end of the first period, Bayern dominated the game in the second half to a huge extent. According to Opta, they bossed the game and had a whopping 88 percent possession during the second 45.
It was only a matter of time before they scored and when they did it was sublime.
Kroos curled in from the edge of the box after Jack Wilshere had failed to close him down quick enough after a neat pass from Philipp Lahm. The floodgates did not open, but Bayern kept coming and coming and coming.
There was to be no respite for the bedraggled Gunners in the second half and when Thomas Muller headed home after Per Mertesacker was pulled out of position, the game and most probably the tie was as good as over.
Arsenal played out the game and will be more than happy to have kept the scoreline down to just two. They were outplayed, out-thought and out-fought and Wenger will be very concerned with how Bayern dismantled his team.
Here, Bleacher Report offers six things we learned from Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich...
The Referee Got the Major Decisions, Right, but the Rules Are Wrong.
Nicola Rizzoli had a good game as referee for Arsenal-Bayern Munich. The experienced Italian referee got all the major decisions right, bar, perhaps, when he gave Yaya Sanogo a yellow card for a terrible challenge on Manuel Neuer.
On Arsenal's penalty, Jerome Boateng was in an awful defensive position and made a lazy challenge on Mesut Ozil to commit a foul. There is no doubt that it was a penalty.
On Bayern's penalty, Arsenal defended poorly and pushed up too quickly, which allowed Toni Kroos to loft the ball to the onrushing Arjen Robben, who was clear on goal.
Wojciech Szczesny definitely took the Dutch winger down, but it was hardly a malicious challenge. It was a definite penalty, however.
Then, to the letter of the law, the Italian sent the young Polish 'keeper off. Again, it was the correct decision.
According to WorldReferee.com, Rizzoli has only awarded 22 penalties and nine red cards since 2006.
On the other side, Szczesny's red card was the 100th under Arsene Wenger since 1996 according to Opta.
However, FIFA needs to look at this law, particularly in the light of goalkeepers.
Conceding a goal from a penalty and losing a man into the bargain lean the game far too heavily towards the offended team.
One suggestion could be to issue a yellow card immediately, and then allow the penalty to be taken.
If the penalty is scored, the yellow card stands.
If the penalty is missed, then the yellow card is upgraded to a red card.
Arsenal's fans may be aggrieved with the referee, but he was right.
Arsenal Have No Pace in Midfield Without Aaron Ramsey
Despite dominating the opening 10 minutes of the game, Arsenal's complete lack of pace in central midfield was exposed throughout.
Without Aaron Ramsey in the team, the Gunners badly miss a player who can move around the pitch comfortably. The pace and power he offers gives Arsenal a superb weapon as he contributes significantly at both ends of the field.
His overall importance can be seen is statistics from Who Scored. Ramsey contributed 3.7 tackles per game during his 18 games. This is still the highest rate at Arsenal and is the fifth highest in the Premier League. He also contributed 2.2 shots per game, 1.4 key passes per game, made over 70 passes per game and had a pass success rate of over 84 percent, not to mention his eight goals and six assists in the Premier League in just 18 games.
Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta are not as mobile as Ramsey and against the very best sides, like Bayern Munich and recently against Liverpool, they are exposed.
To show how much Arsenal were completely outplayed, all one has to do is to look at the statistics. In the second half of the game Arsenal made only 38 passes and had just 12 percent possession in the second half according to Opta.
Ramsey's return cannot come quick enough.
Pep Guardiola Got His Tactics Wrong in the First Half
Bayern Munich went to the Emirates Stadium at the exact same stage of the Champions League last season and obliterated Arsenal in a one-sided affair.
Under Jupp Heynckes, Bayern's manager last season, the visitors played with two orthodox wide men and cut the Gunners to shreds on the flanks.
In the first half of this year's affair, Arjen Robben and Mario Goetze played closely to Mario Mandzukic in a system that looked like a tightly knit 4-3-3. As Munich eventually ground their way into the game, against Arsenal's regular nine-man defense, the man on the ball had no options up front as Per Mertesacker and superb Laurent Koscielny could easily mark three men is a small area.
The end result was that many of Munich's attacks broke down.
The Spaniard changed things around significantly in the second period and pushed Robben and Goetze onto the touchlines. This basically spread Arsenal right across the pitch and created huge gaps when Bayern overloaded them down the flanks.
There is little doubt that Bayern deserved their win, but they could have been in the lead far before Wojciech Szczesny was rightly sent off, if Guardiola had used the correct tactics right from the start.
Olivier Giroud Contributed to This Defeat by Not Starting
Olivier Giroud has been dropped to the bench for Arsenal's last two games amid rumors, as per the Daily Mail, he had an affair with FHM Model, Celia Kay.
Just 90 minutes before the Gunners' crunch FA Cup game against Liverpool, the French international tweeted an apology to his "family and friends and my manager, team-mates and Arsenal fans."
He then tweeted, "I now have to fight for my family and for my club and obtain their forgiveness. Nothing else matters at the moment."
Giroud has denied the allegations, but that hasn't stopped Arsene Wenger dropping his one and only international-class striker to the bench.
Had Giroud played instead of the raw Yaya Sanogo, who was lucky not to receive a red card for an awful challenge of Manuel Neuer, Arsenal would have offered a far bigger threat up front. They would also have had a huge target to hit when under pressure.
Giroud's ability to hold up the ball has been key to all that has been good about Arsenal this season.
They missed that part of his game, perhaps, even more than his goals.
His loss was a self inflicted wound and that only makes it worse.
Philipp Lahm Is a Sensational Player
Pep Guardiola has been credited with saying that Philipp Lahm "is the most intelligent player I’ve ever coached," as per TalkSport. Considering the players that Guardiola coached at Barcelona, just think, Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andreas Iniesta to name but a few, that is an incredible statement.
The 5'7" 30-year-old right-back-cum-left-back-cum-central-midfielder is easily one of the best players in the world, and has been for most of the last decade.
He is a supremely gifted and, most importantly, balanced player. This balance, combined with his superb ability to read the game, marks him out as a brilliant talent.
Against Arsenal, Bayern's captain was hugely influential regardless of where he was deployed on the pitch.
In the first half he started at right-back, but was pushed inside following Rafinha's introduction for the ineffectual Jerome Boateng. He dictated the tempo of the game and caused umpteen problems for Mesut Ozil, who simply did not know how to defend with 10-men.
His move into midfield basically shut Arsenal out of the game. The home side offered nothing going forward with 10-men and much of that was down to Lahm's performance.
After the match the likeable German told UEFA.com:
This was a huge challenge. Especially in the opening stage it was very difficult for us. But in the end we can be very happy with the result.
I think we had the game under control after about 20 minutes and dominated the match afterwards.
His versatility will be important as Munich progress in the competition, they take an almost unassailable 2-0 lead into the next leg, and he is rightly regarded as one of the most intelligent players in the game.
Mesut Ozil Put in a Disgraceful Performance
While most of Arsenal's players put in heroic performances in the face of great adversity, the same cannot be said of Mesut Ozil.
Arsenal's record signing has been off-color for the best part of two months and he simply did not try against Bayern Munich.
He never seemed to recover from his missed penalty and shirked his defensive duties throughout.
Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna put in excellent defensive performances, in particular, and stood out as Arsenal's best players. They were badly let down by the midfielders in front of them, and Ozil was the prime culprit.
Time and time again, the German international failed to track his man and as the pressure built, Bayern exposed Nacho Monreal by doubling up on him. Ozil had been pushed left following Arsenal's reshuffling after Wojciech Szczesny's sending off.
Mathieu Flamini grew more and more frustrated with Ozil as the game went on and remonstrated with the inept 25-year-old on more than one occasion.
Munich had turned the tide of the game at least 10 minutes before Szczesny was sent off. One must legitimately ask why Arsene Wenger persisted with Ozil? Santi Cazorla was unjustly substituted for Lukas Fabianski, and would have worked far harder than Arsenal's No. 11.
To put Arsenal's play with 10 men into context, Manchester City played with 10 men against Barcelona in their Champions League defeat recently, and offered a far bigger threat going forward and better defensive solidity because every man worked their socks off.
The next question to be asked is: Is Wenger afraid to leave his record signing out of the team?
Arsenal's season stands on a precipice and this could be the key decision to save it.
After the match, Wenger questioned Ozil's penalty technique to the awaiting press conference, as per ESPN.
By saying, "I prefer people run properly at the ball," Wenger has roundly criticized the German.
Will he drop him, though?