Arsenal knocked out of Champions League by Bayern

Jago News Desk Published: 18 April 2024, 03:49 PM
Arsenal knocked out of Champions League by Bayern
From left: Kai Havertz, Martin Ødegaard and William Saliba cannot hide their despair as Harry Kane (far right) and his Bayern Munich teammates celebrate Champions League progress. Photo: Getty Images via The Guardian

It was a night when Bayern Munich lived up to their assertions that, when the Champions League comes around, they are an altogether different beast. Perhaps the obituaries were written too quickly for a troubled superpower that, on this evidence, retains the muscle memory of serial winners. They are two games from visiting Wembley in search of a seventh continental title and the manner in which a depleted side put the dampeners on Arsenal suggests Thomas Tuchel may yet sign off from his fleeting tenure by making an irresistible point.

This was, nonetheless, a missed opportunity for Mikel Arteta and his players. Arsenal had a clear foothold in the game after producing an accomplished first half but were outplayed after the interval and left feeling distinctly flat. The fact is they departed with a whimper and it was impossible to shake the sense that, ultimately, they did not quite back themselves enough. Bukayo Saka’s unwise decision not to shoot when presented with a deliciously located free-kick deep into added time was emblematic of the gulf in clarity between these sides.

Perhaps Arsenal may acquire that kind of edge in time but, as Bayern closed the game out with a swagger, that day felt some way off. Arteta suggested afterwards that it could be a decade in the making. The home side had set out with relative caution, allowing their opponents possession and feeling content to pick their moments on the counter. But Arsenal struggled when they dialled up the intensity later on and, while Joshua Kimmich’s fine header settled the tie, the margin of victory could have been greater. Bayern fizzed and, as Arteta lamented, there was to be no “magic moment” in the visitors’ first quarter-final since 2010.

That landmark alone should call off any stampede to brand Arsenal’s endeavours a failure but Arteta certainly faces a task to lift his players after a week that, at home and abroad, promised infinitely more than it delivered. If Gabriel Martinelli had shot to one side of Manuel Neuer when located by Martin Ødegaard shortly after the half-hour, a chance that turned out to be their best of the evening, they could have contemplated a feat whose transformative potential Arteta had flagged beforehand. Those are the fine lines that dictate fortunes at this level and it became clear Bayern knew how to control them.

Arsenal had sought to make their own marginal gains, forcing Bayern to change ends and attack the Südkurve first to the audible disapproval of a boisterous crowd. It seemed a sound plan: Tuchel’s team may have been floored domestically but this venue oozed confidence in its own skin at the outset, the atmosphere perfectly at one with the stage. The absences of Alphonso Davies, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman offered further encouragement, particularly to those charged with neutering Bayern’s threat down the flanks.

Tuchel likened the opening period to a chess game. “Nobody wanted to sacrifice a figure on the board,” he said, although Bayern were happy to give up the ball and proved it when Manuel Neuer belted it upfield within seconds of kick-off. Harry Kane, generally well-policed by Arsenal’s back line, was off-target twice early on and Jamal Musiala forced David Raya into a parry but otherwise moments of genuine threat were few. Leroy Sané, Bayern’s remaining source of wing menace, did not look fully fit and Arsenal appeared increasingly secure.

Ødegaard forced an awkward save from Neuer with a deflected shot and Martinelli, buzzing away on the left, almost found joy with a slaloming solo run. He would live to regret his failure to beat Neuer but there was little indication at the halfway point that Arsenal, moving the ball around smartly and creating spaces, would run out of steam so markedly.

They were served a warning within a minute of the restart when Leon Goretzka, evading any pursuers with a late run from midfield, headed Kimmich’s diagonal cross against the bar. It signposted what would follow, although first of all Gabriel Magalhães almost steered into his own net in another sign that proceedings had changed hue.

Bayern were quicker, snappier and more dynamic in most departments by the time Sané, perhaps picking his moments, scorched towards the right byline and floated a cross that Raya pawed out to the opposite side.

It was collected by Raphaël Guerreiro, hitherto an underwhelming replacement for Gnabry, and in the meantime Kimmich took off. Guerreiro picked out his dash into the box perfectly; Arsenal had again not tracked their man and the finish, thundering and emphatic, was ample punishment.

Sané spooned over a chance to make it two and, while Arteta threw on Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard, Arsenal lacked spontaneity and ideas. Ødegaard’s shot into the side netting, deemed by the officials not to have been tipped wide by Neuer, was their only real dalliance with salvation.

Their final moment of hope slipped away when Saka made a quick pass to Ben White, whose effort was blocked, rather than taking on a set piece to the right of the D. At the end Arsenal’s players stood with hands on hips and shirts pulled to their chins; they had just not done enough.

Source: The Guardian