Despite the impending departure of its coach, Bayern Munich has hit peak form in 2013, highlighted by a ruthless performance against Arsenal.
The Brazilian center back's alter ego would have appreciated the fog and smoke that blanketed the Emirates Stadium ahead of the Champions League round of 16 tie. Bayern Munich, however, needed no subterfuge in a straightforward 3-1 first leg win. Within 20 minutes, the Bavarians raced to a two-goal lead and kept the buffer through a more prickly second half.
The opening stanza performance was so efficient that not even Arjen Robben could begrudge coming off the bench. "Especially when the team plays like today it's very hard to complain," Robben told NOS.
Previously, the Dutchman had insisted after scoring in Bayern's last Bundesliga game, a 2-0 win over Wolfsburg, that he was back to full fitness and ready to rejoin the starting lineup.
In the match prior, a 4-0 beatdown of Schalke 04, Bayern faced its first shot on target for five matches. That may explain why Manuel Neuer clean forgot what to do when a corner plopped into his box and former Munich striker Lucas Podolski scored a consolation for Arsenal.
"After some games this season I haven't needed to have a shower," Neuer said. "Yes, I guess sometimes it is boring being in goal."
Regardless of the loss, perhaps Arsene Wenger should consider scoring against Bayern Munich an achievement. The Bundesliga leader has scored 57 goals in the German league this season. It has conceded seven. Arsenal was the first team to score on Neuer in 2013.
The second best team in the Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund, trails by 15 points, and can't boast a goal differential even half as good as Bayern's +50.
This much is clear: Bayern Munich does not have senioritis.
When the Bayern hierarchy announced the signing of Pep Guardiola in January, Jupp Heynckes thought the timing could hinder his final season as a coach. He said the announcement should have come before the month-long winter break.
"This is due to the media hype that might interfere with the normal working day," Heynckes grumbled to Sky. "I am the boss. Anyone who knows me knows I am the boss here."
But the veteran coach, in his third stint in Munich, got on with it. By now he's learned how to glide through turbulence. Bayern hasn't dropped points in 2013. Wenger, whose tetchy pre-match press conference dominated the headlines in England, might take a few pointers.
"I want to lose it and I want to lose the game tomorrow, so you [the press] can all be happy," Wenger said prior to the match, sarcastically. He also uncomfortably accused the wrong journalist of intentionally causing strife with a false rumor. Now essentially out of the Champions League, Arsenal will end the year without a trophy. Again.
"I think the players will take responsibility," Jack Wilshere told ITV. "We're man enough to take it." But Wenger will take the hit in the press and, with his contract set to expire after next season, could swallow the blame in the form of his job.
Heynckes, who announced his retirement (or at least his departure from the Bavarian club) last year, still has a chance to end the season with three trophies. Bayern will play Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal quarterfinals on Feb. 27. And, of course, the heavy away win over Arsenal will likely see last year's Champions League finalist into the quarters of this this season's edition.
"It was just easy for my team to play," Heynckes said in the post-match press conference. "We are currently in astonishing form. Our quality is that we can punish even the smallest mistakes of our opponents."
The sprightliness of the side has started to spread to the fans. During Wednesday's match, the away support humorously chanted, "We only sing when we're winning" and "football's coming home." Not even the fans are phoning in the last few games before Guardiola arrives.
Back in 1998, Real Madrid fired Heynckes shortly after he won the Champions League, ending Los Blancos' 32-year wait for Europe's top trophy. Heynckes just might leave Bayern a few days after winning ole Big Ears as well.
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