Men against boys: How Bayern taught Arsenal a footballing lesson

Die Roten came away from London with three away goals to condemn Arsenal to a second defeat in the span of 4 days piling more pressure on Arsene Wenger.....
When Thomas Muller struck the second of Bayern's three goals against Arsenal in the first half at the Emirates Stadium, social networking sites went into overdrive writing the tie off and calling for manager Arsene Wenger's head. On a night when they had to prove that they were serious on winning the Champions League, Bayern Munich did just that as they carry a 1-3 lead to the second leg in Germany. Goals from Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic piled more misery on the already beleaguered Wenger whose team was booed off after the game takes a look at some of the talking points that cropped up during this thrilling encounter in London as Die Roten stamped their class over a below-par Arsenal.

Bayern exploited Arsenal's weak left flank

When Thomas Vermaelen stepped out onto the lush turf in the Emirates Stadium he knew he was in for a tough night against four-time European champions Bayern Munich who possess arguably one of the most potent full back-winger combinations in all of Europe. It was no surprise when Bayern's first goal came down Arsenal's left flank when Thomas Muller's 'cross' came into Toni Kroos' path who smashed an emphatic volley to beat Wojciech Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.

Vermaelen was roasted by Lahm and Muller on Arsenal's left

Vermaelen's torrid time continued throughout the match as the Bavarians constantly targetted his side with Muller and Lahm making a mockery of the left-side of Arsenal's defence. The Belgian was often caught making wing-back like runs into the opposition half only to lose possession in the final third and leaving his defence wide open for a Bayern counter-attack. Such was Bayern's dominance on the right hand side that 10 of the 23 crosses that the Germans attempted were from Vermaelen's end.

The Belgian needed all the help he could get from former Bayern man Lukas Podolski which in turn curbed Arsenal's attacking threat down the left-hand side even though Prince Poldi did not affect the tempo of the game in anyway. More often than not, Aaron Ramsey ended up being Arsenal's furthermost player down Arsenal's left

To cap things off it was from Vermaelen's end that Bayern got their third goal when Phillip Lahm teed up Mario Mandzukic to score.

Heynckes got his tactics spot on, sadly for Wenger.

With both sides employing a 4-2-3-1 system, the teams relied on a targetman to aim for. The difference in this game was that Bayern had that striker and Arsenal didn't. The decision to bench Olivier Giroud in favour of Theo Walcott as the central striker would have struck many as yet another bizarre decision by Wenger. But Le Professor had a point.

Bayern's right side of defence namely Daniel van Buyten and Phillip Lahm are not very comfortable with pace. This was seen in the early exchanges during the match when Arsenal attempted to pass their way through the middle. However they did not have a plan B when this tactic did not work out. Santi Cazorla was wasted down Arsenal's right in the first half as he was choked by Dante and Javi Martinez.

Arsenal's full backs Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna were needless to say ineffective. The Frenchman did not punt any crosses into the box in the first half as there was no targetman to aim for and in the second he chose to pass square despite Olivier Giroud's presence in the box. However in all fairness to Sagna, he was more often than not double-teamed by Franck Ribery and David Alaba who found it tough to get past the Arsenal full back in the whole game.

In stark contrast, Heynckes arrived with a set plan in mind. He set out to stifle Arsenal's creative threat of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla. With Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez assigned to patrolling duties in the middle of the pitch, the Germans knew that if the Arsenal duo were kept on a leash, the Gunners would not have much to offer. Arsenal adopted a kamikaze approach once the game started forsaking defensive shape to compensate for attacking threat. Bayern weathered the storm and were soon in the lead thanks to Kroos' strike.

Kroos was omnipresent for Bayern

Once this happened, Heynckes instructed the goalscorer to drop deeper into midfield to help out his teammates. The 23-year old did precisely that as Bayern adopted a 4-3-3 to counter Arsenal's midfield with Kroos on the left hand side. The trio were very mobile as they switched positions with absolute ease creating a headache for the Gunners to deal with.

Once Cazorla was shifted to a more central role and Aaron Ramsey dropping back alongside Mikel Arteta, this allowed Jack Wilshere more freedom to make his driving runs against Bayern's defence. Arsenal had their tail up and took the game to the Bavarians. The Gunners got a fortuitous equaliser and almost made an unlikely comeback when Giroud's volley was somehow saved by Manuel Neuer. However Arsenal's cavalier approach only resulted in them conceding a third goal which effectively sealed the tie in favour of the Bavarians.

Arsenal's backline practically non-existent

Arsenal's assistant coach Steve Bould would have had half a mind to pull on a jersey himself and show his defenders the right way to guard a backline. The Gunners' defence were all over the place which made it all the more easy for Bayern to pick gaps. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were lost as Heynckes' men dragged them around the Arsenal 18-yard area with their clever movement. With Vermaelen and Sagna concerned about the threat of Lahm, Muller, Ribery and Alaba, Arsenal's centre-halves were given a lesson in teamwork when Toni Kroos and Mario Mandzukic revelled in the freedom at offer.

Arsenal keeper Szczesny was at fault for two of his side's goals. Kroos' opener at first glance would have looked unstoppable. The German hit the ball hard into the ground and the resulting bounce carried it past the Polish keeper. However if one takes a look at the replays from the camera behind the Arsenal goal, it was seen that Szczesny's position was at fault as he was more towards the right of the goal when the ball was in the middle of the Gunners' 18-yard area. This ensured that Kroos' shot which was aimed for left side of the goal ended up beating the keeper with ease.

Szczesny did not have the best of games for Arsenal

Bayern's second goal was a lesson on how not to defend a corner with Kroos involved yet again. The 23-year old's flag-kick was met by van Buyten, who was unchallenged with Mertesacker nowhere to be found. Szczesny managed to get a hand on the Belgian's header when he should have done much more. This resulted in the ball dropping kindly for an unmarked Thomas Muller who guided it into the net for his team's second.

What was even more alarming was the fact that Bayern's players more often than not managed to ghost into the Arsenal 18-yard area behind the centre-backs from throw ins. Thomas Muller and substitute Mario Gomez showed the shocking levels of awareness shown by Mertesacker and Koscielny who will be thankful that no goals came off these mistakes.

Toni Kroos owes Jupp Heynckes a lot

When Pep Guardiola takes charge of Bayern Munich next season, he will be in charge of a side that has for long been known for being one of the breeding grounds for future Germany internationals. The Roten have gifted the national team with some exceptional players like Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, Holger Badstuber and Toni Kroos.

Kroos is one player who has benefited immensely from Jupp Heynckes' tenure at the Bavarian club. The 23-year old was shipped to Bayer Leverkusen on loan in January 2009 to gain first team experience.

Bayern reaping the benefits of their solid youth programme

The youngster was a revelation at Leverkusen as he scored 10 goals in 43 appearances which prompted his parent club to bring him back. Heynckes' has overseen Kroos' development by starting him in as many games as possible. This has fructified for the four-time European Champions with Kroos starting 27 of the 29 games Bayern have played in the Bundesliga and Champions League. It only goes to show the influence he has had on this formidable Bayern team. Nine goals, including Bayern's opener against Arsenal, along with seven assists have all but cemented his place as the creative force in the Bavarian team.

Manuel Neuer a jittery presence for Bayern in the game

Part of a defence that has conceded only 15 goals in all competitions so far, Neuer has been a spectator in Bundesliga games. However in the Champions League, the former Schalke man has looked unsure in goal letting in 8 goals in 6 games. This was on exhibit in the second half of the Bavarians game against Arsenal. The 26-year old came out of his goalline seemingly ready to collect Jack Wilshere's corner, but ended up freezing which allowed the ball to fall kindly to Lukas Podolski who scored with his shoulder.

Neuer has had better days in a Bayern shirt

With Arsenal garnering some momentum with the goal, Neuer was set to receive more shots at his end. Wenger recognised the chink he found in the German side and brought on Olivier Giroud to put Neuer under further pressure. The Roten keeper was clueless about Giroud's fierce volley which somehow struck his forearm before bouncing away to safety. Arsenal attempted to punt the ball into the box more to unsettle the Bayern custodian. But the Germans held on for a first ever win in London and put one foot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

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