While reading this match report, I want you to imagine someone playing the saddest tune on the world’s smallest violin.
Let’s begin with the positives, because there were some. Really. You won’t hear a lot about it in the aftermath of all the carnage but our first half performance was good. Bayern seemed uncertain how to approach the game and Arsenal, pressure off, took advantage of it. We were sharper in the tackle and troubled their left hand side with Walcott’s pace. Walcott bundled his way through three or four players in typical Theo style and blasted it past Neuer for 1-0. Neuer will be disappointed he didn’t save it despite the power on the shot.
We had other chances, too. Giroud missed a good one from six yards out. Walcott got clear but his heavy touch allowed Neuer to mop up the situation. Walcott again had the opportunity to make something when he raced onto Mustafi’s excellent through pass, but opted to go near post instead of across goal. Walcott was again involved when his decent claim for a penalty was shot down. If we were more clinical, that epic comeback might not have been such a remote possibility.
I think you know how the rest of this story goes. Koscielny conceded a penalty after a shoulder-to-shoulder with Lewandowski. It looked soft. The ref initially booked him but, after consulting the official behind the goal, changed his mind and sent Koscielny off instead. Cue head scratching all around. Lewandowski duly dispatched the pen and got Bayern level. Then Arsenal waved the white flag.
This is the part when you pick your ball up and go home. Unfortunately, the players had to see out the second half against a Bayern team smelling blood. A poor kick from Ospina put us in trouble and led to Robben getting clear and curling in with his left for his customary goal against us. Douglas Costa produced a similar finish to round off a counter attack. Then Vidal dinked one over Ospina for 4-1. And just to make it a nice even 10, Vidal scored again late on. 5-1 the final score, 10-2 on aggregate. Good grief.
If we’re being reasonable, the scoreline doesn’t reflect how the game went. As bad as we are, I don’t believe we lose 5-1 with 11 players on the pitch. The red card was dubious and completely changed the game.
But again in big games, it’s could have, should have, would have and all that. Arsenal could have made it exciting had they taken their chances. Arsenal would have competed with 11 men. The harsh reality is that Arsenal have neither the ability or the spirit to prevent a collapse once it starts happening. They rarely pull out of a tailspin. It’s never a defeat by a close margin. It’s always a humbling.
Arsenal were always going out of the Champions League. One good first half wasn’t going to change that. If there’s something to be disappointed about, though, it’s the manner in which the players gave up. It’s the way they didn’t bother with damage limitation or salvaging pride and just accepting a beating. I didn’t see a determination to not be on the receiving end of another hammering.
It’s one thing after another right now and very few people will come out of this looking good. There were protests against the manager before the match and he’ll certainly cop most of the blame for this, harsh as it may be in these circumstances. Alexis will receive a lot of sympathy but his performance tonight was abject. He looked every bit a player no longer bothered about playing for Arsenal. The players will be lambasted for their lack of fight. The board will be seen as cowardly, letting Wenger take all the heat while they sit in the background. The situation is begging for someone to stand up and lead. The problem is nobody has any idea who that’ll be.
Looking ahead, we have Lincoln on Saturday in an FA Cup quarter-final. As with the Sutton game not long back, there’s potential for an accident but you have to believe Arsenal will shake off this latest disappointment and get the job done. For Wenger’s sake, I hope they do.
It’s goodbye to the Champions League for another season and our focus will now be on securing another top four finish, so we can go do it all again next season. If we reproduce that first half in the games to come this season we might have something to enjoy in this final three months.
Otherwise, we can sleep easy knowing that we won’t draw Bayern Munich in the Europa League next season.