A brutal and clinical footballing lesson

Posted by Sam Limbert

Jack Wilshere couldn't believe his eyes during Arsenal's defeat to Bayern MunichGettyImagesJack Wilshere couldn't believe his eyes during Arsenal's defeat to Bayern

Whilst defeat to Bayern Munich was expected by many Arsenal fans, it still didn't make it any less painful to see the Gunners given a footballing lesson by a team that looked supremely confident.

- Schaaf: Thanks, London! It's Bayern a pleasure

- Mangan: Bayern too good for brittle Arsenal

- Wilshere: Arsenal slump not Wenger's fault

The least that was expected of Arsenal was to give 100%, something that had been horribly lacking against Blackburn. But it seems as though some of the players will have come off the pitch against Bayern with regrets, knowing they could have done more to prevent the 3-1 defeat. There were periods in the game when Arsenal did try to assert themselves and put the Bundesliga leaders under pressure, but it couldn't be sustained.

Considering that both teams lined up in a similar 4-2-3-1 formation, Bayern gave Arsenal and Arsene Wenger a lesson in playing that system, showing that it can be both solid defensively and flexible when attacking.

Bayern's front four of Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Franck Ribery and Mario Mandzukic regularly interchanged positions, with all, at different times, targeting make-shift left-back Thomas Vermaelen. On the counter attack, all were willing to make runs to make space for others and all had an understanding of their team-mates fluid movements.

The four also showed the impressive defensive side of Bayern's game. Every time they lost the ball, they were quick to move into the position in the formation that they were closest to, rather than moving to their original starting place. The whole team, particularly in the first half, then squeezed Arsenal high up the pitch, meaning Mertesacker, Koscielny and Arteta had plenty of the ball, but were faced with a mass of Bayern bodies to pass through. The Arsenal midfield was then too static, with the centre-backs having few options to pass forward to.

In comparison, the Arsenal front four didn't have the same understanding. When Santi Cazorla or Lukas Podolski drifted in from the wings and the attack broke down, there was plenty of space for Bayern to control the ball and regain their own attacking formation whilst Arsenal were unbalanced and chasing the game.

Arsenal's main striker, Theo Walcott, was also static. Mandzukic pulled Mertesacker and Koscielny around the pitch, however Walcott was comfortably marshalled by Dante and Van Buyten. He seemed as if he was waiting for a perfect through ball, rather than trying to make things happen himself. When Arsenal did get into wider areas, they kept having to go backwards and there was also no chance of Walcott challenging Dante or Van Buyten in the air.

Once again, the lack of options in the Arsenal squad was exposed. Olivier Giroud didn't have a good game against Blackburn so for most normal squads, dropping him would have made sense. However on seeing the way Walcott made a minimal impression on the Bayern back-line, I was desperate for the Frenchman to come on and give Arsenal a focal point up front. After the introductions of Tomas Rosicky and Giroud it seemed like a lack of options to change the game.

Unlike losing to Blackburn, there isn't much embarrassment in losing to Bayern. However, the defeat only served to highlight the gulf between the top European clubs and the current Arsenal squad. In the short term, the team have to focus on getting back in the top four of the Premier League because that is the only thing realistically left for the club this season. If that happens, the club have to take notice of, and act on, the difference between Arsenal and the elite, otherwise the painful demise will continue.

ESPN Conversations