Bayern too good for brittle Arsenal

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Arsenal face an uphill task, and by uphill I mean Mount Everest-style, to qualify for the next round of the Champions League after a 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich on Tuesday evening.

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The Germans were just too good for the Gunners, even if a more spirited second-half display provided a glimmer of hope. Arsene Wenger spoke before the game about how 0-0 is a good scoreline at home in the Champions League, but it took less than seven minutes for that possibility to go out the window.

Toni Kroos put the visitors ahead and their lead was doubled after unconvincing defending from a corner allowed Thomas Mueller to stab home from close range. It could have been game over before halftime when a Mario Mandzukic header went just wide with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker nowhere.

There was a bit more fight about Arsenal in the second half, but Bayern trusted their incredible defensive record to keep the home side out. They let Arsenal have the ball, confident they could cope with anything thrown at them, and it took a bit of good fortune for Lukas Podolski to score against his old club.

When a Santi Cazorla shot deflected wide off Podolski, somehow the referee (who was card happy and not particularly good) gave Arsenal a corner. From the resulting set-piece there was uncustomary hesitation from the German defence, the ball bounced, and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer came out, leaving the former Cologne man the simple task of heading into an empty net.

At that point it was imperative that Arsenal, at the very least, didn't concede again. In fact, they almost equalised when substitute Olivier Giroud connected well with Theo Walcott's cross from the right-hand side, but sadly his shot went straight at Neuer.

The Gunners were then caught out pushing forward, Arjen Robben and Philipp Lahm exploited the overlap as Thomas Vermaelen was left with two men, and although there was a touch of good fortune to the finish, the Gunners were punished for not paying enough attention to the defensive side of the game as they tried to score an equaliser.

Perhaps they might have been better to sit and concentrate on not conceding another, although it is difficult to do at home with a crowd urging you on. However, going to Munich looking for two goals is a difficult enough task; now they have to score at least three and that, frankly, looks impossible.

If the criticisms of Arsenal and the manager reach a crescendo again, especially in light of the FA Cup defeat at the weekend, it ought not to be overlooked that Bayern are a very impressive outfit. They're extremely solid defensively and wonderfully efficient in attack. Despite their horrible loss to Chelsea in last season's final, you wouldn't bet against them going all the way again this time around.

From an Arsenal point of view, the rest of the season is now very clear, if disappointing. Everything must go into the Premier League and the race to finish fourth. It's very much a case of que sera, sera in the second leg against Bayern, especially as it's followed by a difficult away trip to Swansea.

Arsenal had a better chance of winning the FA Cup than the Champions League, and Wenger put his eggs in the wrong basket with the team selection last weekend. He can't afford to do that again, the Premier League has to be the priority, even if it makes the miracle Arsenal need in Munich even more unlikely.

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