Bayern Munich left the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night satisfied as they secured a 2-0 win over Arsenal in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 clash. The Bavarians eventually assumed control on the night but not before the hosts greeted them with a frantic start. There were a few talking points to take away from this encounter and here are three for you to sink your teeth into.
1. Kroos was the star performer for Bayern
With his contract expiring next summer, Toni Kroos has piqued the interest of Manchester United in particular while Chelsea and Juventus have also been reportedly keeping tabs on the German international and after his display against Arsenal, there may well be more suitors throwing their hats into the ring.
The 24 year-old dominated in the middle of the park, completing 144 passes, just 6 short of matching Arsenal’s tally of 150, recording a success rate of 97% according to squawka.com. He dictated and spread play expertly, executed some sublime passes, was flawless in possession and scored an impeccable goal to cap off a sensational performance.
Even when Arsenal ran rampant early on in the game, Kroos was the first to force Wojciech Szczesny into action when his left footed effort from range needed to be tipped around the post for a corner. He also played a part in getting the Polish keeper sent off. In the commotion created from the penalty decision and the red card, few bothered to marvel at the lobbed pass over the defense for Arjen Robben from Kroos that made it all possible.
In the second half, Kroos repeatedly launched long diagonal balls out wide to stretch Arsenal’s defense while he managed to play plenty of passes over the top of them with ease. Finally, his strike to open the scoring was a thing of beauty. As Philipp Lahm rolled it into his path, he used the pace on the ball to curl his effort inside the top right-hand corner.
2. Ozil disappointed once again
Another big game brought another disappointing performance from Mesut Ozil. Arsenal’s record signing seemed to begin the game well along with the rest of the team and even engineered a penalty for the home side after cutting inside Jerome Boateng only to be brought down by the center-back.
However, the midfielder utilized the much maligned stop-start technique in his run-up to take the spot-kick and struck it tamely almost straight down the middle of the goal as Manuel Neuer comfortably palmed it away. Had he converted from the spot, it might have been a different story but his miss seemed to leave him dejected and his team’s initial enthusiasm dissipated as well.
Arsene Wenger constantly preaches ‘mental strength’ but Ozil couldn’t recover from that incident as his manager pointed out after the game. “Five or ten minutes later he was still shaking his head and you could see it affected his performance," the Arsenal boss pointed out.
The German playmaker was not only unable to affect the game in the final third but he proved to be a liability after Arsenal went down to ten men and he was moved to the left side of midfield. Despite putting in a good shift, Ozil was often oblivious to the runs of Rafinha and Robben down that flank and Bayern repeatedly targeted that area.
This performance once again raises doubts over Ozil’s contribution to the team. He’s found it hard to dig in when the situation demands it but his quality is still unquestionable and one would think he’d have flourished in Pep Guardiola’s Bayern side. So is he capable of being a talismanic figure for a team like Arsenal or is he just a luxury player?
3. No shame in defeat for Arsenal
Despite the defeat, Arsenal have every right to take a lot of positives away from the game. They are probably the first team to push Bayern as hard as they did for the opening ten minutes. Even Guardiola admitted to the English club’s superiority in the early exchanges stating, “Arsenal were much, much better than us in the first 10-15 minutes.”
The Londoners began like a house on fire and for a few minutes, Bayern didn’t know what hit them. After the missed penalty though, the Champions League holders gradually grew into the game and began to flex their muscles. Against a team of such overwhelming quality, Arsenal did well to restrict them even after going a man down.
It took a spectacular strike from Kroos to break the deadlock after David Alaba’s missed penalty in the first half. Arsenal almost came away with a 1-0 defeat which would have been a decent result under the circumstances but Thomas Muller headed in the second two minutes from the end of normal time. Nevertheless, Wenger’s troops showed plenty of resolve as they could just as easily have crumbled and endured a real beating.
Tough task for Arsenal in the second legAs things stand, few would bet against Bayern finishing the job back at the Allianz Arena in the second leg. However, Arsenal will derive confidence from their exploits in Munich last season where they beat the Bundesliga giants 2-0 and were only eliminated on the away goals rule.
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