Bayern Munich confirmed their place in the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday, winning 5-1 away at Arsenal to seal a huge 10-2 aggregate victory. Theo Walcott gave the Gunners the lead on the night, though second half goals from Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, and Douglas Costa, and a brace from Arturo Vidal, completed a successful comeback for the Bavarian juggernaut.
In spite of their eventual capitulation, Arsenal were in the ascendancy early on, and only some quick thinking from Manuel Neuer prevented Walcott from giving the Gunners the lead after 10 minutes. As it was, he had to wait until midway through the opening period to net the game’s first goal, lashing into the roof of the Bayern net from a narrow angle.
The hosts continued to dictate the flow of the game, and Walcott went close to adding a second within a quarter-hour; unfortunately for the winger, he could only hit the side netting.
But Arsenal could certainly be pleased with their first-half efforts, with Bayern having only threatened when Lewandowski swiped at an Robben cross in uncharacteristically clumsy fashion with just over five minutes remaining. By and large, the Bavarians had been second-best, even if their aggregate lead remained a comfortable one.
Arsenal started the second half as they’d finished the first, and almost reduced their deficit further within three minutes of the restart. Unfortunately for the Gunners, Olivier Giroud failed to test Neuer after meeting an inviting Aaron Ramsey cross, the ball sailing comfortably off target.
The miss was made to look all the more costly within a few minutes, when Laurent Koscielny clumsily tripped Lewandowski in the penalty area. The defender was subsequently sent off, and the Polish striker gleefully accepted the opportunity to score from the spot. Any slim hopes that Arsenal had of getting back into the tie were ended in one fell swoop.
Goals change games, but red cards change them still more; from there it was entirely a damage limitation exercise for Arsenal, and — suffice to say — not a successful one. It took just over 10 minutes for the Bavarians to take the lead on the night, with Robben slotting beyond Ospina from close range after a neat one-two with Lewandowski.
Bayern went close to adding a swift third, when substitute Douglas Costa worked a low cross into the area for Lewandowski, only for the striker to slide the ball against the Arsenal post. The Brazilian thus took it upon himself to inflict further damage, cutting inside off the right and curling beyond Ospina to add Bayern’s next.
Worse was still to come for Arsenal. A calamitous giveaway from Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi allowed Xabi Alonso to supply Arturo Vidal, who calmly chipped Ospina for four. It was the first of two goals in five minutes for the Chilean, whose second came in embarrassingly easy fashion: A simple through ball sent Costa through, with the winger squaring for Vidal to slot into an empty net.
Only then, with Bayern 10-2 up on aggregate, did Arsenal’s humiliation finally end. The pressure continues to mount on Arsène Wenger.
Arsenal: David Ospina; Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Héctor Bellerín; Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey (Francis Coquelin 72’); Alexis Sánchez (Lucas Pérez 73’), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott; Olivier Giroud (Mesut Özil 72’).
Goals: Walcott (20’).
Red cards: Koscielny (54’).
Bayern Munich: Manuel Neuer; David Alaba, Mats Hummels, Javi Martínez, Rafinha; Arturo Vidal, Xabi Alonso; Franck Ribéry (Joshua Kimmich 79’), Thiago Alcântara (Renato Sanches 79’), Arjen Robben (Douglas Costa 71’); Robert Lewandowski.
Goals: Lewandowski (pen. 55’), Robben (68’), Douglas Costa (78’), Vidal (80’, 85’).
1. Bayern weren’t great, but didn’t need to be
It’s a damning indictment of the late Arsène Wenger-era Arsenal that Bayern could turn in such an average performance at the Emirates and still run out 5-1 winners. Though Laurent Koscielny’s harsh red card certainly exacerbated matters, the utter defensive ineptitude the Gunners subsequently showed was suggestive of a team who’ve completely lost the will to fight for their manager. Bayern scored five goals in this match, but any competent team would’ve had scant problem notching a hatful against such a ragtag bunch. Wenger’s future is looking more uncertain by the day.
2. Danny Welbeck and Arsenal are a match in misfortune
Realistically it wouldn’t have made any difference, but Arsenal’s chances certainly weren’t helped by the late withdrawal of striker Danny Welbeck. Initially included in Wenger’s starting lineup, Welbeck was replaced before kickoff by the ineffectual Olivier Giroud. It was the most Arsenal of Arsenal moments. According to the player’s Twitter, it was however illness — and not injury — that caused his absence. Given that he’s only just returned from an eight-month knee injury, Gunners fans will be hoping that’s the case:
No injury, no tweak, just ill at the wrong moment. Devastated I couldn't play tonight.— Danny Welbeck (@DannyWelbeck) March 7, 2017
3. Theo Walcott will be Theo Walcott
This was perhaps the most archetypal of Walcott performances. Not in the sense that he flattered to deceive; Walcott was undeniably excellent in the first half of this match. But it was archetypal in the sense that it was precisely this match — a dead rubber, a glorified friendly — in which he put in such a fine display. It goes without saying that he’s a very capable player, but one whose inconsistency at the top level will always prevent him from going down as an Arsenal icon. It’s a fact made all the more stark when he does turn up, and he certainly did in the first half here.