Going into the second leg of the Round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich, Arsenal found itself in a difficult situation. Starting goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was red carded in their first match against Bayern, Jack Wilshere joined Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott on the list of notable absentees due to injury, and Mesut Özil was struggling for form. So to most this seemed done and dusted. Bayern was up 2-0 on aggregate, meaning Arsenal had to win by 3 goals away from home in arguably the most intimidating stadium in the world at the moment, Bayern's gorgeous fortress the Allianz Arena.
Arsenal started the game fairly well, pressing the Bayern midfield high and not letting them settle into the game, but the lack of real chances the Gunners failed to create would prove costly as Bayern calmed the play down and started to dictate the pace of the game. Arsene Wenger opted to shift Özil out wide in favor of playing Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain in the germans favored spot behind the striker. The Ox's pace proved difficult for Bayern throughout the whole game as he time and time again ran at Bayerns defense and caused havoc. But where he failed was the final pass, something Özil would have provided had he been played through the middle.
As the game progressed it seemed more than likely Bayern would take control, and in the 55th minute they did so through a couldn't miss chance from the returning Bastian Schweinsteiger. 3-0 up on aggregate and Arsenal having to score 4 goals in less than an hour against the recognized best team in the world looked too big of a task. But there was hope as Lukas Podolski scored 2 minutes later to even the game at 1-1 and reduce the aggregate to 3-1. But that would be it, as Bayern's midfield and defense never got rattled and held their ground perfectly. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery tormented the Arsenal flanks and Mario Mandzukic played his role perfectly as a target man/hold up striker.
So what does the end result mean for both teams? For Bayern it's business as usual. Marching on towards the Champion's League final in Lisbon to try and do what no team has done before, defend their crown as champions. They also are still very much alive for another treble as they will not be caught in the Bundesliga and the Deutscher Pokal is in the final stages. For Arsenal, it's a very different story. What seemed their most promising campaign has started to unravel. 7 points back in the Premier League and out of the Champions League their sole hope for a trophy is the FA cup in which they are now the odds on favorite to win. There are murmurs if Arsene doesn't deliver a trophy this year he may be on the way out, and I for one wouldn't be able to come to his defense much longer.
But the real story here is how far Arsenal still have to go to really challenge the elite while also showing just how good Bayern is. Arsenal is 1 or 2 really great players away from challenging every year for every trophy, while Bayern is looking like a well oiled machine poised for a long stay at the top of the football summit.
What are your thoughts? Can Bayern repeat as UCL winners? Will Arsenal break the drought? Let me know in the comments below.