The last 16 Champions League tie against Bayern Munich was always going to be a difficult one for Arsenal.
However, the Gunners having keeper Wojciech Szczesny sent-off on 37 minutes made the task near impossible.
The Polish international’s challenge on Bayern’s Arjen Robben lead to the European champions having what turned out to be a crucial one man advantage.
Arsenal started the game off in a decent manner and on eight minutes had the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot.
Germany international playmaker Mesut Ozil won the spot-kick and then saw his poor penalty saved superbly by Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer.
Even after the penalty miss the home side were still well in the game. Bayern were growing into the game by the 37th minute dismissal of Szczesny.
However, they were not dominating proceedings. The sending-off completely changed the game. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger decided to bring on substitute keeper Lukasz Fabianski for the Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla.
Out of sorts
German playmaker Mesut Ozil continued his poor run of form in this game. In fact I was surprised that Ozil was not the man sacrificed for Fabianski to come on. The former-Real Madrid man was sloppy in possession and one of the few Arsenal players that did not come out of the game with any credit.
Time and time again Ozil left his full-back Nacho Monreal exposed to two Bayern players at times. The Bavarians kept targeting the Gunners left side because they could see that Ozil was not up to the task of helping out his teammate.
Defending is not Ozil’s strong point, but he could still have made more of an effort to close down the opposition. Instead he just watched on as Bayern launched attack after attack on the Gunners defence.
When he did get the ball he gave it away and contributed absolutely nothing to the team in the second half. Arsene Wenger was somewhat blind to Ozil’s performance, as the veteran Frenchman decided to bring on Tomas Rosicky for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, when Ozil was crying out to be replaced.
In the second half European champions Bayern played it perfectly well for a team with an extra man. The Bavarians used all their passing and ball retention skills to pen in Arsenal for much of the second period.
Bayern stretched the Arsenal team, with Arjen Robben remaining out wide to make the Gunners work as hard as possible. In truth Bayern could have ended up with a far lead, but for some good defending and some good luck.
The second half was almost like a training ground exercise of attack vs. defence, as Arsenal struggled to get out of their own half. At the heart of everything good that Bayern produced was central midfielder Toni Kroos.
The Germany international opened the scoring with a fantastic effort from 25 yards, before controlling the midfield and putting his Arsenal counterparts under constant pressure. He could of add a second goal late-on, but struck the post with a low effort.
Kroos is an example of the talented generation of players that are flooding German football at the moment. The 24-year-old is reportedly in a contract dispute with Bayern. On last night’s performance though Bayern must do everything they can to secure his future in Bavaria.
Incredibly the midfielder had more touches of the ball in last night’s game than the whole of the Arsenal team combined. No doubt German head coach Joachim Low was watching last night’s game purring at Kroos display and despairing at Ozil’s. There was just no comparison between the pair’s performances.
Reigning Premier League champions Manchester United have been linked with a big money bid for the former-Leverkusen loanee, it looks unlikely that Kroos will be allowed to move on anytime soon though.
Bayern showed against Arsenal that they are still the team to beat in the Champions League this season. Take away the fact that the Gunners had ten men and you are left with the Bavarians dominating the ball for almost the entire second half.
No doubt it would have been slightly different had Arsenal retained all 11 players, but in truth Die Bayern may still have emerged with a victory as they look just as ruthless, if not more ruthless under Pep Guardiola than under Jupp Heynckes last season.
Winning 2-0 at the Allianz Arena is not impossible in the second leg, as the Gunners proved last season. However, a two goal deficit will be difficult to turn around in Munich. The lead is not an insurmountable one, but Gunners need to have the ball before they can score against the Bavarians and Bayern now seem even better at keeping it.
Arsenal are not out of the Champions League just yet, but if they do exit the competition then they will probably have been beaten by the best side in the competition and there will be no shame in that.
Can Arsenal make a recovery in the second leg to progress into the quarter-finals?
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