Skip to content

Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: Bayern Munich 3, at Arsenal 1

Feb 19, 2013, 5:10 PM EDT

Down and out? Arsenal's luckless first leg vs. Bayern has Wenger's men on the brink of elimination. Reuters

At halftime, Arsenal had 51 percent of the possession, hardly indicative of a team that had been dominated. Yet thanks to a huge disparity in execution on the final third, Bayern Munich took a 2-0 lead into halftime, a scoreline that carried the Germans through the final whistle.

Though Arsenal were able to pull one back after Lukas Podolski headed home a second half corner, the Gunners still face the daunting task in the tie’s return leg, especially after allowing Bayern Munich to restore their two-goal lead late. Having dropped their home leg 3-1, Arsenal must now find a way to score at least three on the road against a club that’s allowed only seven in league this season.

That their defensive prowess abandoned Bayern for a brief moment in the second half now seems like a footnote, but it did give Arsenal brief reason to hope. After conceding a corner along their left, FCB allowed Arsenal’s 55th minute cross to drop in the middle of their area, near the six-yard box. Germany No. 1 Manuel Neuer, committing an ironically characteristic error, failed to catch a ball that bounced for former Bayern attacker Lukas Podolski, who had gotten ball-side of Bastian Schweinsteiger for an easy goal.

It was Arsenal’s first shot of the match, a testament to that first half disparity. Despite superficially even play, Bayern still reached halftime without allowing Neuer to be tested. Conversely, their ability to execute the isolated chances they generated led to a comfortable halftime lead.

The first goal came early, an errant fifth minute cross from right ring Thomas Müller finding attacking midfielder Toni Kross just inside Arsenal’s penalty area. The German international one-timed a shot into the right of Wojciech Szczesny’s net, giving the Gunners’ goalkeeper no chance to prevent the opening goal.

Mid-way through the half, Kross hit a perfect in-swinging corner near post where defender Daniel van Buyten, having cut across Aaron Ramsey, headed onto Szczesny. The Arsenal No. 1 did well to push the shot off the line, but with Müller alone in the box to play the rebound, the Gunners found themselves two goals down after 21 minutes.

They were Bayern’s only shots of the half – Kroos’s goal, van Buyten’s header, and Müller’s putback – but they highlighted the difference between the two sides. Given as much of the ball as their opponents, the Bundesliga leaders created to clean goals. With the same amount of possession, Arsenal couldn’t challenge Manuel Neuer.

“You have to give them credit for their class,” Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger said after the match. “In the first half in patches there was a difference in quality.”

In the 73rd minute, after Arsenal’s ascendancy had forced Jupp Heynckes to sacrifice Kroos for the more defensive Luiz Gustavo, a direct ball that Mario Mandzukic chested down for Arjen Robben gave Bayern a chance to put Phillip Lahm behind the defense. The right back’s ball through the six-yard box met Mandzukic as he beat Bacary Sagna, allowing the Croat to put home München’s third goal.

It was another example of the match’s defining theme: Bayern’s superior execution. It wasn’t that the Bavarians dominated the game; rather, they converted the chances they created. Arsenal not only failed to create enough opportunities, they didn’t execute as well on the ones they did. The prime example: Substitute Olivier Giroud’s chance to equalize in the 72nd minute off a cross from Theo Walcott was drilled right at Neuer, failing to convert on Arsenal’s best chance to get back in the tie.

That execution gap (and the talent that enables it) is why Arsenal is the middle of a minor identity crisis, and despite a strong second half showing that mitigated their poor start, the night at the Emirates provided further evidence of a team that has slipped from their place among Europe’s elite.

Meanwhile, Bayern has affirmed their status as one of the two favorites to claim this year’s Champions League.

(MORE: The day’s other day, Porto holding serve against Málaga)

Man of the Match: Getting two early goals on the road, Bayern settled into an approach that inhibited standout individual performances, though Toni Kroos’s contributions to the game’s first two goals are still worth of recognition. A perfect hit on Müller’s fifth minute cross left Szczesny flat-footed as the opener sailed into his nett, while a great corner that swung in and dove at the near post allowed van Buyten to take advantage of the space in front of Arsenal’s first defender.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

source: ReutersBayern’s midfield was too much for Arsenal’s – The talent and flexibility of Kroos, Schweinsteiger, and Javi Martínez were on display on Tuesday, the trio able to control that determinative period of the first half. Though Arsenal had a good amount of the ball, the positioning of Schweinsteiger and Martinez at the base of midfield allowed Bayern to stay organized and prevent Arsenal from mounting a significant threat. Going forward, the duo (Martínez in particular) were able to take advantage of Arsenal’s trio of Jack Wilshire, Aaron Ramsey, and Mikel Arteta, moving into available space as well as helping to pressure the sitters into hasty clearances.

That they were able to get that high and provide that help was a major difference between the two sides. Bayern’s play and the quality of their midfielders allowed their two deep midfielder to push forward, the 15-20 yards of space they sometimes kept between themselves and their central defenders standing in stark contrast to Arsenal’s holders. While Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey were often 8-10 yards away from their defensive line, Bayern was content to let van Buyten and Dante deal with Arsenal’s attack.

The positioning was a metaphor for the difference between the two sides, and that was just their deployment. In terms of actual play, if you were to rank the games six starting midfielders based on their Tuesday performance, Bayern’s three would be at the top of the list while Arsenal’s ranked fourth through sixth. The Gunners’ trio were never able to have an impact on the match.

Is it worth it? Moving Cazorla wide to make room for Ramsey? - It’s difficult to say how much this mattered. Cazorla playing in the middle wouldn’t have prevented either of the first two goals.

Ultimately, that’s what dictated how this match played out; however, with Arsène Wenger electing to put Cazorla wide right in the defensive phase and leave Jack Wilshire as the through-the-middle outlet, Arsenal moved their best player farther away from the action. Although he came into the middle in the attacking phase (and Wilshire was active enough in his role trying to connect out of the back), you can’t help but wonder if Arsenal would have been a little more potent with their first half possession had Cazorla been the man receiving the ball out of the final third.

It’s not unheard of for Arsenal to play like this. When Aaron Ramsey is in the team (which he was on Tuesday), Wenger adjusts by pushing Wilshire forward and Cazorla wide. But that choice comes with costs. Today, Ramsey played a part in both first half goals (see below), Arsenal didn’t have Wilshire’s quickness and distribution deeper in their formation, and Cazorla was pushed away from the action. It’s hard to see how those costs were offset by getting Ramsey into the team.

Bayern is otherworldly right now – Even with Arsenal’s dip in quality and Bayern’s second half slip, consider the result: Bayern takes a 3-1 lead out of the Emirates.

That’s huge. For comparison’s sake, look at what Barcelona’s taken from the Emirates in recent years. In 2010-11, Barcelona was trailing after their first leg in London, eventually turning around a 2-1 deficit to advance 4-3. The year before, Barcelona was drawn 2-2 at the Emirates before routing Arsenal at the Nou Camp, 4-1.

Even for the half hour the game sat 2-1, Bayern never looked as vulnerable as Barcelona did in those games. That history left a voice in your head saying “Arsenal could do this again,” but ultimately, Bayern showed that may be on another level. Tonight’s game just wasn’t that close.

“We are currently in astonishing form,” Heynckes said after the match, “our quality is that we can punish the smallest mistakes of our opponents.”

Packaged for takeaway

  • Bastian Schweinsteiger picked up an 39th minute yellow card and will miss the second leg in Munich. Look for Luiz Gustavo to take his place along side Javi Martínez. Given the score, don’t look for it to matter that much.
  • Other Bayern yellow cards: Phillip Lahm and Thomas Müller. Losing either of them would be a significant blow.
  • Nacho Monreal, cup-tied thanks to his time with Málaga, was ineligible for tonight’s game. As a result, Thomas Vermaelen slid out to left back, with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker getting the call in central defense. The Belgian international did a good job on Müller.
  • Aaron Ramsey failed to get to the cross that led to the first goal. It was a difficult play, one that would have required him to react immediately to Müller’s ball, but it’s one other players would have made. The same could be said on the 21st minute corner, when van Buyten ran into Ramsey’s zone to flick the ball on goal. It wasn’t a good night for the 22-year-old Welsh international, and approaching five years since he arrive in London from Cardiff City, you wonder if he’s ever going to live up to the speculation that surrounded him as a 17-year-old.
Latest Posts
  1. Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama fearful of Ebola at Africa Cup of Nations

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:06 PM EDT

    Nigeria's Super Eagle goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama catches the ball during a World Cup 2014 qualifier football match against Ethiopia on October 13, 2013 in Addis Ababas. AFP PHOTO / SIMON MAINA Getty Images

    Lille and Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama thinks it would be dangerous to hold the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ebola outbreak.

  2. Dunga, Brazil football federation create new code of conduct for national team

    Oct 23, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Carlos Dunga

    Brazil’s national football team has a new code of conduct under manager Dunga.

  3. WATCH: Spurs midfielder Erik Lamela strikes astounding ‘rabona’ goal

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-SHERIFF TIRASPOL

    Wonderful touch and power utilized on a first-class goal from Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Erik Lamela.

  4. Tottenham striker Harry Kane scores hat trick, then allows goal as emergency netminder

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane, left, and Aston Villa's Matthew Lowton. AP

    Harry Kane notched a hat trick in Tottenham’s Europa League victory over Asteras Tripoli, and he then found himself manning the goal as a netminder following a Hugo Lloris red card.

  5. Lille 0-0 Everton: Toffees stay unbeaten in Group H

    Oct 23, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    distin_3083675b Getty Images

    Lille and Everton played to a 0-0 draw at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Europa League group stage competition.

  6. Frank Lampard could be fit to play in City’s match vs. West Ham

    Oct 23, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    Manchester City’s Frank Lampard could be fit to play against West Ham in Premier League competition on Saturday.

  7. Cristiano Ronaldo on El Clasico: ‘I won’t be playing against Messi. I’ll be playing against Barcelona.’

    Oct 23, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo AP

    “I won’t be playing against Messi — I’ll be playing against Barcelona,” says Ronaldo, concerning his duel with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

  8. Brendan Rogers has faith in Balotelli, but noncommittal on striker’s future

    Oct 23, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    Balotelli AP

    Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers likes what Mario Balotelli has to offer, but he’s unsure if the forward will last a while at Anfield.

  9. VIDEO: Can Manchester United beat Chelsea? PST Extra breaks it down

    Oct 23, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    PST Extra - Oct. 23

    Will the Blues lose their first game of the season away at Old Trafford on Sunday? JPW and Prindi analyze that and more.

  10. Father auctions his son’s allegiance… Manchester United or Manchester City?

    Oct 23, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-MAN UTD Getty Images

    Little Eddie won’t have a say in who he supports, but it’s all for a good cause.

  11. Sunil Gulati backs Jurgen Klinsmann following MLS dispute, USMNT “on the same page”

    Oct 23, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT

    GulatiKlinsmann Getty Images

    Gulati: “Jurgen is our coach and technical director, and I fully expect that to be the case through to the 2018 World Cup.”

  12. Diego Costa remains a doubt for Chelsea amid illness, groin strain

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

    With Costa struggling to make the bench, plus Remy out, Chelsea are running out of strikers.

  13. All eyes on Origi: Tim Howard, Everton wary of on-loan Liverpool forward

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:04 AM EDT

    Belgium v USA: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Howard: “I know what he likes to do, but that doesn’t mean I will always be capable of stopping him.”

  14. MLS Atlanta urges David Beckham, Miami to share stadium with Dolphins

    Oct 23, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT

    Cincinnati v Miami Cincinnati v Miami

    Atlanta Falcons owner urges Beckham to link up with Miami Dolphins to sort out MLS stadium mess.

  15. Everton fans reportedly attacked by gang in Lille ahead of Europa League clash

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:36 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-EVERTON-SUPPORTERS FBL-EUR-C3-EVERTON-SUPPORTERS

    A gang of 100 local men reportedly ambushed Everton fans outside city center pub.

  16. Report: Dutch star Dirk Kuyt heading to Southampton

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Will Saints swoop to sign former Liverpool star?

  17. Reality check: Outclassed by Real Madrid, what now for Liverpool?

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:34 AM EDT

    Liverpool’s players react to Real Madrid humbling, as growing pains continue to spiral out of control.

  18. After winless October, USA drop out of top 20 in latest FIFA rankings

    Oct 23, 2014, 7:54 AM EDT

    Klinsmann Getty Images

    After two draws in October, the USA drops six places in latest world rankings.

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?