Tuesday 21 November 2017

Deflation once again as Gunners crash out in ignominy

Arsenal 1 Bayern Munich 5, Bayern win 10-2 on aggregate

Arturo Vidal dinks the ball over David Ospina to score for Bayern Munich. Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Arturo Vidal dinks the ball over David Ospina to score for Bayern Munich. Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Sam Wallace

It is spring in European football's greatest competition and, as usual at the Emirates, they are pulling down the shutters on Champions League football for another year - lights out, doors closed, dissent murmured and see you again next season for more of the same.

Or will everyone still be here next time? The seventh successive group stage exit was painful and humiliating for Arsene Wenger in a new way, a 10-man team still attacking in suicidal fashion to the end against one of the most indomitable sides the modern game has seen in front of an Emirates that was emptying at a rate. It felt like the end of days for the Arsenal manager.

Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in action against Bayern Munich's Arturo Vidal. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters
Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in action against Bayern Munich's Arturo Vidal. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Many Arsenal teams of the last eight years of Wenger might have won this game, lost the tie and perhaps gone on a run from there but there was something exhausted and helpless about this side, gulping for air and coming up short.

There was a dreadful symmetry to the two 5-1 defeats away and home and something of the schoolboy team thrashing about the way Douglas Costa and then Arturo Vidal added three goals between them in the last 12 minutes.

Protested

On the touchline, Wenger protested the red card for Laurent Koscielny (below) that prefaced the penalty that led to Robert Lewandowski's equaliser from the spot on 55 minutes. Then came the blitz, and he sat down again. Against a 10-man Arsenal there were four more goals and in the Clock End they chanted for Stan Kroenke to "get out of our club", while others produced the "Wenger Out" messages that are always there, ready to be deployed in case of emergency.

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny in action with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski. Photo Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny in action with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski. Photo Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

This was a terrible night in the history of Arsenal and Wenger, and while their situation as far as the current season is concerned is not so bad there is no doubt that the mood and the bigger picture is much more damaging.

Arsenal might have started on the back foot, deprived, as they were, of two more players by illness although the club say that not every individual who has suffered has the same bug. Mesut Ozil, who missed the defeat by Liverpool on Saturday with illness, stepped up to the bench to replace Alex Iwobi, who was also declared ill.

Then with minutes before kick-off, Danny Welbeck, who had played a full part in the warm-up also succumbed and Olivier Giroud stepped up from the bench to replace the Englishman in the starting line-up. It meant that Alexis Sanchez, who had previously been deployed centrally was moved out left in the 4-3-3 formation that Wenger had selected.

The Chilean was obviously the subject of some interest but the absorbing first half did not centre upon the left side, rather it was Arsenal's right where Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were their team's best attacking threat.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez walks by manager Arsene Wenger after being substituted during matchl. Photo: Nick Potts/PA
Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez walks by manager Arsene Wenger after being substituted during matchl. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

There is something about the trajectory of Walcott's career that would have told you that in the second leg, at home, of a tie Arsenal were trailing 5-1, he would be the man to show. It was late, maybe just too late, but admirable as well as frustrating in equal measure.

His goal was classic Walcott - power, pace, a giant slice of luck and a finish that no one was expecting, least of all Manuel Neuer. The great German goalkeeper remained in position, his arms above his head, long after Walcott had rifled a right foot shot past him and into the net.

It was an unusual goal, Walcott, powering away from Franck Ribery, getting a rebound off Giroud's heel and then barrelling past Mats Hummels. He beat Neuer from a tight angle with his power but even so, a goalkeeper of this quality should have saved it.

Arsenal should have had more before the break. There was the whiff of a penalty about a tackle from Xabi Alonso on Walcott on 32 minutes but the Spain midfielder got enough on the ball, with his studs. Then a minute later Walcott found himself in an identical position to the one he scored from and this time hit the side-netting.

Bayern were rocking a bit but held on until half-time.

The Koscielny red card was only dealt after the Greek referee Tasos Sidiropoulos had first given him a yellow for throwing an arm across Lewandowski in the box for the penalty. It seemed to be the assistant additional referee who advised that Koscielny had made no honest attempt to play the ball and therefore was not to benefit from the mercy of the new rules.

The rest was painful for Arsenal. Arjen Robben seized on an error from Sanchez after a poor goal kick from David Ospina had put his team in trouble.

Lewandowski hit the post before the next three rained in. The first was brilliantly done by the substitute Costa who took his time before cutting in from the right and bending one in the corner with his right. Vidal's two goals were scored against a team unable even to hold a defensive line.

By the end, the trauma was such that those who had stayed to the end felt like onlookers at a terrible accident, looking away in the interest of decency towards those affected. No anger at the end, just an unnerving silence. (© Daily Telegraph. London)

Irish Independent

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