Hardened Bayern show true colours and hand Arteta biggest challenge | Ed Aarons

Estimated read time 5 min read

Roughly translated, Bayern Munich’s motto “mia san mia” means “we are who we are”. On a night when Arsenal were hoping to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2009, it was Thomas Tuchel’s side who showed that there is no substitute for experience when it comes to this competition.

Having now become only the second manager after a certain José Mourinho to lead his side to the last four with three different clubs, Tuchel knows what it takes to go all the way. Yet while the Bayern manager did his chances of finding new employers this summer no harm, after a vastly improved second-half display ended Arsenal’s dream of winning this competition for the first time, Mikel Arteta now faces one of the biggest challenges of his managerial career as he attempts to pick up his jaded squad after a week that has played out exactly how he must have feared it would.

After the disappointment of surrendering the lead in the Premier League title race by losing to Aston Villa on Sunday, the reaction of Arsenal’s players after Joshua Kimmich’s 63rd-minute goal told its own story. While the captain Martin Ødegaard attempted to rouse them, Declan Rice’s slumped shoulders hinted there would be no way back.

Harry Kane had warned Arsenal to expect “a ­different type of performance in the Champions League” from a Bayern side that surrendered their 11-year stranglehold on the Bundesliga title at the weekend to Bayer Leverkusen and so it proved. When Manuel Neuer punted the ball up the pitch after it had been played back to him straight from the kick-off, it was clear that – just as in last week’s first leg when they stunned Arsenal with two goals in the space of nine minutes – Tuchel’s tactic was to try and hit them on the break.

But Kimmich, who has been forced by the former Chelsea manager to revert to right-back this season, having spent the last few years as a central midfielder, had promised that Bayern would “try to put our stamp on the game”. Having taken out Rice from that Neuer punt forward, Kane had the game’s first two chances inside the opening 10 minutes and looked in the mood to extend his already remarkable record in this competition.

Mikel Arteta looks downcast after losing against BayernView image in fullscreen

The England captain was the first player in Champions League history to have scored nine goals in his first nine appearances and also held the record for the fastest to reach 20 in just 24 appearances, although he has since been surpassed by a certain Erling Haaland. Yet, along with the twinkling feet of the outstanding Jamal Musiala, it was Leroy Sané who presented the main threat to Arsenal’s defence following his virtuoso performance in the first leg. The former Manchester City winger was heavily criticised last season after failing to hit the heights expected of him here but he gave Arsenal’s left-back Takehiro Tomiyasu, who was starting his first Arsenal match since December, a thorough test during the first half-an-hour.

The left flank has been a headache for Arteta this season but his decision to select the Japan defender ahead of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Jakub Kiwior seemed to be paying off as Tomiyasu was increasingly able to get forward to support Gabriel Martinelli. The Brazilian had the best chance of the first half when he fired straight at Neuer after being picked out by Ødegaard’s excellent low cross. “We’re Arsenal through and through,” sang the travelling fans from high up in the gods after watching their team end the half with marginally more possession. It was as good as it got for them.

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After being banned from attending the first leg, the Bayern supporters had already delivered their riposte with a banner aimed at European football’s governing body which read: “We don’t like you either. Exclude Uefa! Get out of our stadium!” They raised the volume again at the start of the second half when Leon Goretzka’s header crashed against the crossbar and Gabriel’s wayward backpass almost caught out David Raya.

Arsenal were creaking but still looked capable of creating their own chances against a less than vintage Bayern backline. Sadly for them, their own defensive issues have returned to haunt them at just the wrong moment and Kimmich was given the freedom of Bavaria to head home Raphaël Guerreiro’s cross and spark wild celebrations inside this enormous stadium. Arsenal never looked capable of mounting a comeback and a wild shot late on from Gabriel Jesus, who was a substitute, summed up their misery.

To put things into some context, the six-time winners Bayern have now reached nine Champions League semi-finals (although this is their first since winning it in 2020) since Arsenal’s last one 15 years ago. Kane keeps alive his hopes of making up for losing in the 2019 final with Tottenham as Arteta can only reflect on being taught another harsh lesson.

Source: theguardian.com

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