Bayern Munich 5:1 Arsenal Analysis and Thoughts
Wednesday 15th of February 2017 will be remembered for some time after the events that occurred at the Allianz Arena in Munich. The match was built up as the game that would decide or, at least heavily influence, the future of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, and it has given a lot of people a very clear view. The game really was an embarrassment for Arsenal as a club, as their players where not walked, but more trampled and stamped all over by an inspiring Bayern team, who in my opinion, where not even at their best after a patchy season, and for me epitomised Arsenal in recent years in one game.
Before the game everyone was hopeful that they could go there and maybe come away with an away goal or even a miraculous win against a familiar opponent, who had not been kind to them in recent years. As the game began there was an early mistake but it was soon made up for by a Sanchez goal off the back of an unconvincing penalty. 1–1, everything going well at half time, Arsenal in a strong position, much like they are at the halfway point in most recent seasons. Pundits and fans said the same thing, hold out for a draw and maybe nick one at the end. The chance was there, set up by the team and all they had to do was reach out and grab it, but, in classic Arsenal style, it went horribly wrong. There best defender, and only glimmer of a defensive leader went off and the whole team crumbled spectacularly. The second, third and fourth went flying in in a matter of 15 minutes and the game was over, the chance of Arsenal having any success was over like that, again like in the league. But then all of a sudden, once the pressure had gone, they started to play relatively well, defending as they should have done from the whistle, until Muller put another one past Ospina in the second last minute. I admire it really, how they managed to put a whole season into one game, it is very creative. Jokes aside I do feel for Arsenal fans. The team showed no desire, no hunger, to go out and do what they needed to do. Only Sanchez did, and I am sure he will not be there for much longer after their recent form and, who could blame him? He has the hunger to win trophies and I think his attitude was clearly seen not only tonight, but when they drew 3–3 with Bournemouth and as everyone celebrated the historic comeback, he had none of it. He is the one Arsenal player I admire, and I hope he moves on to bigger and better things at the end of the season. As for the rest of them I feel no sympathy (maybe a little for the young, inexperienced Iwobi in all fairness). They gave the fans nothing all game, and let down a manager who needed them most at that moment, to pull something out the bag and save him from the backlash he is now receiving.
Bayern lined up in a 4–1–2–3 formation to start the game but found themselves moving to a 3–3–4 formation when attacking and this was for most of the game as they dominated the ball with 74% possession. The middle of the park was where most of the play was for Bayern as their wingers tended to favour coming back inside due to their favoured foot being opposite to the side of the pitch they where positioned on. This should have been a key defensive point for Arsenal that their midfield obviously didn’t understand, as Robben cut in on his left to score a beautiful opener. Alonso’s game was key for the progression of Bayern. His ability to sit in with the two centre-backs and the fact he was always reliable on the ball to retain possession, meant Vidal and most importantly, Thiago, could push forward and join the attack. In the first half the Bayern build up play was far too slow and was the reason they couldn’t capitalize on their possession with more goals. The full backs where also essential in Bayern’s offensive play with Alaba providing good overlaps to cross, or overloading midfield. His versatility and quality all over the pitch is the reason I regard him in such high esteem and is why I believe he is a valuable asset to Bayern Munich. I must also give a large mention to Philip Lahm. The 33 year old, who is set to hang up his boots at the end of the season, looked more fit and able than half of the Arsenal team, spending his whole evening working the channel on the right, delivering some fantastic balls into the box, one of which resulting in a Lewandowski header for the second goal. It was a lesson in how to be a world-class modern full back, and he really showed his class and experience that evening. Vidal had a good controlled game, doing his duties defensively and going forward but it was his teammate Thiago, who i would say was the best out there. He controlled the game all night and everything went through him, not to mention both of his goals. He found space in-between the Arsenal defensive lines and was not afraid to pass it in or receive it under pressure, in order to create something. His freedom was key, as I said in the build-up, allowing him to use his creativity to score goals. The overall link up all over the pitch for Bayern, from Lahm and Robben to Thiago and Lewandowski, was outstanding. They all knew each other’s movements and some of the link up play, especially for Thiago’s first goal, was World class and Arsenal could not deal with it all night.
On occasion Bayern had to defend in a 4–4–2 formation, with the three midfielders working back to press Arsenal play. One of the reasons I said Bayern where not at their best was because they looked susceptible on the counter. For the majority of the game it was Alonso, Hummels and Martinez as the deepest three and their distinct lack of pace was obvious, where on occasion they had to concede a free-kick to stop a counter, and the absence of Boateng showed as they also didn’t have his passing quality at the back. However against Arsenal it was not too much of a worry for them but they will need him back at full fitness for the next round if they want a more sound defensive display.
Arsenal lined up in a 4–2–3–1 formation but as predicted, ended up defending in a 4–4–2 for most of the game, looking for any opportunity to break out on the counter with the combined pace of their attack. In the first half they sat in very deep and allowed Bayern to play the ball around in their half with their poor pressing play, which was not proactive in anyway and lacked the effort levels to make it effective. The wingers, especially Iwobi, could not grasp the tracking back and pressing game and this was a downfall for Arsenal as it lead to two of the goals in which Iwobi couldn’t defend Robben or Lahm. The pressing game improved after their equalizer but this did not keep up and after the second goal the half-press resumed and by the time they where 4–1 down they had given up hope. After the departure of Koscielny early in the second half, Arsenals defence declined and they allowed the attackers of Bayern too much space to perform and could not track runs in behind or get tight to there men and keep them from turning towards goal. They seemed unable to get a decisive clearance for the fourth goal, and the last goal, gifted to Bayern by Oxlade-Chamberlain, summarized the whole evening. In the midfield Arsenal where completely overun by the class of Vidal and Thiago, who are on another level technically to Xhaka and Coquelin. Since the departure of Patrick Viera they have not had a technically gifted, physical leader in the midfield, or all over the pitch in all honesty, and this is where they need to improve in the summer. Overall they where extremely poor and where punished easily by Bayern for their lack-lustre performance.
I decided to write this article a while after the game as I wanted to see the reaction from fans and Pundits on the future of the Arsenal manager, and from what I have seen, it is pretty clear that a larger percentage of people are calling for an end of the Wenger era, and I must say I do agree. What Wenger has done for the club is immense. Bringing them three League trophies, six FA cups and six community shields, along with a new stadium and continual Champions League football and the title of a ‘Big Club’ in the modern era. You cannot dispute that he has done great things for the club but recently there has been a feeling of discontent at Arsenal Football Club because of the way their progression has become stagnant. Too often in recent seasons they have not had the same quality of player or the mental strength of rival clubs to become champions of England, let alone Europe. His content for a top four place is starting to anger fans that are looking around at other clubs who are pushing forward, buying new players and winning trophies. They want this for themselves like any other sane football fan would. They want the long overdue glory of a league title or a European crown. There are those, like Gary Neville, who believe that stability he has brought to the cub is not something that should be thrown away in the hope they can move forward, and that they should be happy with the relative success they are having and keep the class that many football clubs have lost, of keeping a manager for more than a season and giving him a chance to make something. But times have changed. Wenger has done all he can for the club in my opinion. The players have become too complacent and have no fear of being dropped from the team when they are not playing well. This mentality is poisonous for a team that hopes to win anything as hey have no drive. I believe it is time for Arsenal to bring in a new manager who will shake up the team and also attract big names to the club, allowing them to break the ice and begin to progress into real contenders once again.