Arsenal Win Shows Bayern Munich Are a Class Above the Premier League

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014

Bayern's Thomas Mueller, center, celebrates his side's second goal during a Champions League, round of 16, first leg soccer match between Arsenal and Bayern Munich at the Emirates stadium in London, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 .(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant/Associated Press

They often say that at this stage in a world-class continental competition, such as the Champions League, the margins between winning and losing are all too faint to register. That luck, the supposedly exclusive manner in which victory and defeat are carried from one sportsman to the next, is all that it comes down to in the end. 

Wednesday night, Bayern Munich took that notion and burnt it to the ground. And with it, the very concept that Arsene Wenger and his side could ever be considered European heavyweights in this season's battle to be the best. 

That's not to say that the currently German and European champions were not lucky at the Emirates tonight. 

Both sides received penalties that looked as clear as they possibly could, but one could argue as to why the home side received a red card for Wojciech Szczesny's challenge on Arjen Robben while Jerome Boateng was let off with a yellow card for a clumsy trip on Mesut Ozil, just minutes before, in his own box. 

Many have speculated, such as Oliver Kay of The Times, that the challenge on Robben was dangerous and as such, the red card was justified. A point certainly worth debating if one hopes to avoid the main topic of the night's game: Arsenal were not good enough. 

Perhaps it wasn't a coincidence and the moment Szczesny saw red was when Bayern collectively chose to strike, but even the most optimistic of Arsenal fans wouldn't have predicted their side to continue their gung-ho tactic for any longer than the first 20 minutes. It was a smash and grab effort that Wenger had hoped would startle Bayern.

It didn't in the end, and the German side slowly set about the same domination that we've seen from them all season. 

Any spectacle that had enticed onlookers and neutral football fans alike to such a fixture was all but gone by half time when Pep Guardiola chose to remove Boateng and bring on right back Rafinha. This meant Javi Martinez, a natural central midfielder who looked out of his depth in the first half, pushed back to centre defender while captain Philipp Lahm took up his dominating role as midfield enforcer. 

From then on, Arsenal never got a touch of the ball as Lahm and his gang of merry midfielders teased the home side into submission. 

Through bitter torture of possession and absolute control, a style of play known only too well to anyone who's watched a Guardiola team before, Bayern didn't simply attack Arsenal for 45 minutes—they prodded and poked for any opening. 

It was this method that led to the opening goal, a cut back to Toni Kroos on the 54th minute after a number of dribbles and runs had left the young starlet with enough time and space to curl a perfectly placed shot in to the top right corner of Lukasz Fabianski's goal.

This wasn't an overload of attacking football or impatient desire to take the lead. It was calm and collected football that showed just how much better Bayern knew they were. They didn't need to rack up the goals as quickly as possible. They'd score when they needed to, and there was nothing Arsenal could do about it. 

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Such a gulf in class was made all too clear to any onlooker just minutes from full-time when a hasty Arsenal made their way up the pitch following a foul in the Bayern half. A free-kick was awarded and a set piece looked as though it held the home side's final grasp for salvation. 

It was Laurent Koscielny in particular who led the charge in hope of an equaliser. The central defender could have given away a second penalty just minutes before had Thomas Muller fallen more gracefully when the Frenchman made contact with his ankle. As such, it was he who was punished by the Bavarian machine when the counter attack inevitably followed. 

Bayern raced down the pitch, and through the magic of Lahm, were able to find Thomas Muller unmarked in Koscielny's absence to knock home for the second goal. The young German forward's movement simply cannot be overstated as he again showed his inescapable appetite for scoring in the most appropriate of scenarios.

Nor can we accept anything but absolute excellence in the manner in which Guardiola's side set about picking off Arsenal. For this win shows the true extent of the European champions, their credentials for making history by retaining the competition this year, and the level of their class above Arsenal and the Premier League they reside in.