Arsenal: Cech, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Campbell, Alexis, Giroud
Subs: Macey, Gibbs, Chambers, The Jeff, Iwobi, Flamini, Koscielny (unfit)
Arsenal’s Champions League hopes hang by a thread after a 5-1 battering at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich. Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and David Alaba gave the home side a 3-0 lead at the break, Arjen Robben came off the bench to extend the lead before Olivier Giroud grabbed a handsome consolation. Muller completed the rout in the dying moments, completing his brace with a low finish after a fine break. The result, coupled with news that Olympiacos beat Dinamo Zagreb, means qualification is now out of the Gunners hands ahead of their final two games.
An already depleted squad was dealt a further blow in the hours before the game with Laurent Koscielny diagnosed with a hip problem that ruled him out. Gabriel partnered Mertesacker in the centre of defence as our stricken French defender took a place on the bench just to make up the numbers. He was joined there by the likes of Gibbs – not preferred to Joel Campbell despite rumours – and young Jeff ‘The Jeff’ Reine Adelaide. As expected Mathieu Flamini replaced Hector Bellerin on the right.
Arsenal knew they needed to keep it tight early on and they lured us all into a false sense of hope and security by looking pretty comfortable for nine minutes. The hosts were restricted to a couple of pot shots and we popped the ball around in neat little triangles around the midfield. For a brief moment thoughts of the Bernabeu in ’06 and the San Siro ‘08 flitted through my mind.
Naturally, that didn’t last. On ten minutes Thiago found space on the left edge of the area and curled a right foot ball to the far post where Lewandowski sprung the offside trap before applying a nifty header that skipped off the turf and inside the Cech’s far post. Replays showed that Gabriel had played the Pole onside.
Arsenal’s reaction to the setback was impressive…for all of 30 seconds. From the restart we engineered a fine move down the left that saw Mesut Ozil put the ball in the back of the net from a Monreal cross.
The German wheeled away in celebration while his compatriots in red moaned to the referee about a handball. The referee, after consultation with the numpty behind the goal, took the hint and disallowed the goal. Just to rub salt in, Ozil was booked. In fairness it did look like he used his elbow to convert the chance.
After that it was all Bayern. Lewandowski curled an effort that Cech parried for a corner and then moments later tested the Czech with a header from six yards. Ball retention was a major problem for the Gunners. Over and over and over we’d steal possession and promptly surrender it inside two awkward passes.
It wasn’t a major surprise that Bayern doubled their lead before the half hour mark, nor was it a bombshell that an Arsenal player applied the final touch to Muller’s shot as it crept inside Cech’s near post. The goal wasn’t pretty even before Mertesacker’s outstretched leg applied the mucky lipstick.
Cech denied Muller and Costa in the moments before half-time, but just when you thought we might escape without conceding a third we did exactly that. Alaba had been attempting pot shots all night and eventually found the top corner with aplomb. No deflection needed on this occasion.
It was more of the same in the second half for the beleaguered Gunners. Costa and Alaba combined to take Debuchy out of play and Robben, on just seconds earlier for Coman, poked the pull back into the top corner with his first touch.
At the other end Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal both broke through the Bayern defence after fine moves, but neither man could apply a finish matching the build-up.
With Bayern treating the game as won we started to pass the ball around nicely again. The boys in black and blue – it really is a god-awful kit – were further encouraged by the ‘olés’ of the travelling Gooner contingent. It was fun to hear given the circumstances…good on ‘em, why not try and enjoy yourself having fuelled up in Munich’s Hofbrauhaus?
There was more to cheer on 69 minutes as Olivier Giroud scored a barnstorming consolation. Taking a cross from Sanchez on his chest the Frenchman, in one swift motion, scissored an acrobatic volley past the stranded Neuer from ten yards out. It was nothing less than he deserved for a half decent showing in difficult circumstances. (4-1)
Cazorla missed a sitter, Alexis and Ozil indulged in some showboating (yes, really), Debuchy made a Bellerin-esque last-ditch tackle to deny Robben and Iwobi and Chambers came on for Giroud and Cazorla respectively.
In the dying moments Muller applied a lethal finish as Costa sprung a lightning quick break. Were the home side worth five goals? Probably. They’d done it to four other sides.
On a night when we were well and truly Mullered, saw our football Lewandowski well off piste and our players end up Lahms to the slaughter there was further bad news from Athens. Dinamo Zagreb had been up 1-0 at half-time against Olympiacos but went down to ten men after the break and lost 2-1 to a last minute winner. Should the Greeks draw with Bayern in their next game we’ll be scrapping for a Europa League place.