On Monday, Bayern Munich head coach Pep Guardiola called for aggression while insisting his team would try to win Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League match against Arsenal. The match at the Allianz, however, played out much differently.
Bayern, looking to become the first team in 23 years to repeat as European champions, were able to control the match from its opening moments, due in part to Arsenal’s willingness to sit back and wait for opportunities to counter. Even after the game opened up, the Gunners never got within the two-goal deficit they were handed in London, with Bastian Schweinsteiger’s second half opener temporarily putting Arsène Wenger’s side down three.
Ultimately, after Lukas Podolski pulled his former teammate’s goal back, Arsenal left the Allianz as they started: two worse than Bayern. In the process, we saw the degree to which Bayern can dictate a match when given no other task but hold on.
“Arsenal had no chances in the first half. They defended with many players and we controlled the match,” Guadriola explained to Sky Sports Germany, “except for the goal we conceded and that could have been a foul.”
“They were better for eight minutes in the first leg … For the rest of the time we were superior.”
Bayern held 67 percent of the ball and limited Arsenal to three shots on target, half as many as the Bavarians put on Lukasz Fabianski. Over the course of two legs, Arsenal was outshot 41-15 and had only 27 percent of the ball.
“We played on a very high level, Guardiola explained, “and now we are in the quarterfinals.”
There, Bayern will be heavy favorites to claim a sixth European title, but with no limits on which teams can be drawn together, there’s no guarantee the quarterfinals will be as smooth as the Round of 16. With Real Madrid continuing to improve, there’s at least one other team that can serve as this year’s Borussia Dortmund and at least challenge the world’s best team.