Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Arsenal 1-5 Bayern Munich (Agg 2-10): Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa, Arturo Vidal, Others, Sends Arsene Wenger's Side Packing

How a team react when a game is lost can tell you a lot. Arsenal's response to impending defeat was to roll over for a tummy tickle and the upshot was a night of perfect symmetry.

5-1 to add to a 5-1 and an aggregate score of 10-2. It is the kind of scoreline that you have to look at for a while to really understand. 10-2. 10-2. Yes, really. Look away and look back and it will still be the same.

Tuesday night's result didn't necessarily reflect the flow of this game. Arsenal were the better team for almost an hour and were in the lead until Laurent Koscielny was sent off for conceding the penalty that led to Bayern's equaliser.

Theo Walcott gives Arsenal the lead on the night as he fires into the roof of the Bayern Munich goal from a tight angle

Walcott runs back to his own half after scoring and points to the Arsenal supporters after getting a goal back

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski makes no mistake with his penalty to send goalkeeper David Ospina the wrong way

Lewandowski ran straight towards the jubilant Bayern supporters after he scored from the penalty spot

Arjen Robben celebrates by pumping his chest out in front of the Bayern fans as his team-mates trudge back to their half

Midfielder Arturo Vidal cups his ear to the supporters after he scored two goals in just four minutes as Bayern sealed their win.

But that fact makes this worse, not better. To get thumped on a bad day can happen to any team. But to take a shellacking when you were in control is another form of embarrassment altogether.

But this is the world of the modern Arsenal. Even when they threaten to be good they can turn out to be dismally bad. That doesn't happen to many teams in sport but it does to this one.

In Bavaria three weeks ago, Arsene Wenger's team were submissive. Here, they took that characteristic to unprecedented levels. After Robert Lewandowski scored Bayern's penalty the home team fell apart. They fell apart in terms of their organisation, their discipline and their collective understanding. More tellingly, they fell apart emotionally.

Once the tie was essentially over, Arsenal's sense of who they are supposed to be left them altogether. Wenger had called for his players to chase down their first-leg deficit with 'lucid rage' and they responded by raising the white flag.

And this is what will kill Wenger. At full time, he looked daggers at Greek referee Tasos Sidiropoulos but the official's only crime was to show Koscielny a yellow card after his assault on Lewandowski and then correctly replace it with a red on the advice of an assistant.

It was a weird moment but not definitive. The definitive part of this wretched night was the way Arsenal responded and for all the words of recrimination, Wenger will know this.

Managers can talk to their players in the week and can observe them train. But if they want to know what's really going on in their hearts and minds then they have to watch them play.

Under-pressure manager Wenger gives a thumbs up to supporters before the crunch European fixture in north London

Bayern manager Carlo Ancelotti observes the early stages of Tuesday night's clash against Arsenal at the Emirates

Renato Sanches and Thomas Muller started the game on the bench - Muller scored in the first leg at the Allianz Arena

Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil was expected to miss the game through illness but made the bench after a late fitness test

The game was stopped briefly so stewards could remove streamers and toilet paper that had been thrown on the pitch

Even Manuel Neuer got involved to help clean up the pitch after the game was stopped by referee Tasos Sidiropoulos

Here Wenger saw a group that has lost its way. It is a group of footballers unfit for the physical and mental demands of the game at this level. As Wenger continues to mull over his future, he must ask himself how he has allowed this to happen.

This was a strange night of football from start to finish. For the most part, there was no obvious animosity towards Wenger from the stands, nor towards his unhappy striker Alexis Sanchez.

Indeed, when Theo Walcott burst through early on the right to place a blistering shot above Manuel Neuer there was a feeling that Arsenal were at least going to go out of this competition with some dignity and maybe even a second-leg victory.

For the first half Arsenal were as Arsenal can be on good days. They were aggressive, fleet-footed and incisive. This was the Arsenal Wenger still dreams of. It's the version of his team that sustains him.

They could have had a penalty when Xabi Alonso felled Walcott but more crucially they really should have had a second goal shortly after the interval as an Aaron Ramsey cross dropped perfectly for Olivier Giroud seven yards out.

Another goal at this point and we would have had a game on our hands, and Arsenal would have had a platform from which to reach for a miracle.

Alexis Sanchez, who was dropped to the bench against Liverpool, started the game and was working hard from the off

Walcott struck with 20 minutes gone and his right-footed effort fizzed into the roof of Neuer's goal

The 27-year-old's powerful effort left the Germany international Neuer without a hope of getting to the ball

Walcott wheels away in front of the Bayern supporters who were bunched in the lower of the Clock End at the Emirates

Wenger clenches his fists following Walcott's goal that gave his side a chance to get back into the Champions League tie

Lewandowski forces a strong tackle from Arsenal's central defender Shkodran Mustafi as Bayern pressed forward

Full back Hector Bellerin feels the full force of experienced winger Franck Ribery during the first half

Striker Olivier Giroud jumps to meet a header and manages to direct it towards Neuer's goal but the goalkeeper saved easily

The Frenchman reacts to missing his header as Bayern's Javi Martinez looks up the pitch

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sprints past Bayern central midfielder Vidal as Arsenal hunt for a second goal

Walcott reacts angrily after an appeal for a penalty where he thought he was clipped by Xabi Alonso (left) was rejected.

But Giroud is typical of the modern Arsenal. He is good but just not good enough. As if to demonstrate as much, he sent in a header that drifted weakly over the bar. Wenger continues to think Giroud is an asset, blinded by stats that mask the fact that he doesn't deliver when he absolutely needs to.

But here was evidence to the contrary and within six minutes Lewandowski was pushed over by Koscielny and the evening was turned on its head.

With hope gone and Arsenal's captain not far in its wake, it was no surprise that the air disappeared from the evening. But Arsenal's subsequent capitulation was still unforgivable. Pride should have prevented what followed.

The England international was then booked by Greek referee Sidiropoulos for having a tussle with David Alaba (right)

Sanchez tussles with Bayern central midfielder Vidal as the Chile international tries to break on the counter attack

Koscielny got caught in a running battle with Lewandowski as the striker charged towards the Arsenal goal

Lewandowski goes down after being clipped by the defender as the striker got closer to Ospina's goal.

Bayern's goals flowed like water in the last 22 minutes as Arsenal sulked and then disengaged completely.

Sanchez should have tackled Arjen Robben but didn't and the Dutchman scored. Then, in turn, substitute Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal — twice — walked through Arsenal's open door and set about stealing the furniture.

Afterwards Wenger described the match officials as 'scandalous'. It was the perfect adjective but Wenger will know perfectly well it was aimed at entirely the wrong group of people.

Wenger's players wrote their manager his own resignation letter for him on Tuesday night. He would be foolish not to read it.

The referee awards defender Koscielny a yellow card after the Frenchman bundled over Bayern striker Lewandowski

But within seconds the referee had changed his mind and instead of booking Koscielny he gave him a straight red

Sanchez waves to the Arsenal supporters as he trudges off the pitch after being replaced

Supporters left in their droves ahead of the full-time whistle at the Emirates as Arsenal failed to stop Bayern

Bayern Munich rolled out their final insult to Arsenal via Twitter with this cheeky social media post on Tuesday evening

Arsenal supporters protested against Wenger before the match on Tuesday night outside the ground

Sections of Arsenal's support want Wenger to leave the club he has been at for over 20 years at the end of the season

Supporters make their way to the Emirates ahead of Arsenal's Champions League last-16 tie with Bayern Munich.


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