The Gunners drew 1-1 on the night, a late penalty save from goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski ensuring that they at least avoided a second successive defeat against the Germans as they bowed out of Europe 3-1 on aggregate.
The damage was done in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal will rue an early missed penalty by Mesut Özil and the dismissal of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. Bayern were ultimately the more accomplished side over the course of the tie and will be favourites to retain the Champions League.
The night saw a resilient Arsenal team hoping to overturn an unlikely deficit, who equalised through Lukas Podolski’s powerful strike having fallen behind to Bastian Schweinsteiger’s close-range effort early in the second half.
A standout performer on the night was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who enhanced his credentials with a purposeful and energetic game. Just as in the AC Milan Champions League tie at home and at the Maracana last summer in England’s friendly against Brazil, Oxlade-Chamberlain illustrated that he was unfazed by the scale of the opposition or stadium that he was immersed in. In a deep-lying midfield position that he is still relatively unaccustomed to, his growing maturity was impressive for Arsenal in driving at the heart of the Bayern team. His direct and dynamic runs posed the most potent threat for the visitors, drawing fouls and committing defenders to earn free-kicks in dangerous areas. The pace and positivity that he exuded added another dimension to the Gunners’ attack, a commodity that will be essential in the absence of Theo Walcott.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny demonstrated their defensive prowess for large spells of the game, a solidarity that has been instrumental to Arsenal in providing a platform for their attacking players to build upon this season. They were strong and resolute at the centre of defence in making a number of interceptions and astute blocks, where they survived relatively untroubled to half-time.
Arsenal, to give them credit, set about their task with a steady assurance. They had to withstand long spells of pressure and a domination of Bayern possession but there were rare moments in which the goal was seriously threatened. Fabianski’s dramatic late save from Müller’s penalty ensured that Arsenal left the Allianz Arena with a creditable draw and a fair reflection of the game.
Despite being eliminated at the last-16 stage of the competition for the fourth successive year, it is important that Arsenal do not dwell on their disappointment for long. There are important domestic fronts to attend to, most notably a North London derby with Spurs on Sunday. The Gunners must remain focused in a tough month comprising of fixtures against Chelsea, Everton and Manchester City as the Premier League enters its climax.
There is also the added incentive of ending the nine-year trophy drought in the form of the FA Cup. A realistic opportunity of lifting silverware beckons where Arsenal must overcome a tenacious Wigan team, who beat Manchester City in the quarter-final, before potentially having the chance to play Sheffield United or Hull in the final at Wembley.
It is important that the side pick themselves up from this and bounce back. Arsenal must draw positives from their Champions League experience and strive for success in order to reciprocate the team spirit that contributed to the outstanding form towards the end of last season. After all, there is a lot to play for and Arsenal’s season is still very much alive.
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