Ahead of their Champions League tie at the Allianz Arena against Bayern Munich, Arsenal could be forgiven for thinking that they could upset the odds by beating the Bundesliga champions. The Gunners had secured a memorable 2-0 victory against Pep Guardiola’s team just two weeks previously by adopting an effective counter-attacking game plan and they had won five successive Premier League games, scoring at least twice in each contest. Bayern had defeated Koln 4-0 subsequent to that loss at the Emirates but had failed to find the net again when drawing 0-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday evening. Arsene Wenger hoped that his team could at least earn a draw but the evening did not materialise as envisaged.
For the first time ever in Champions League football, Arsenal conceded five goals in a 5-1 defeat as goals from Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and David Alaba allowed Bayern to secure a 3-0 lead prior to the interval. Substitute Arjen Robben then added a fourth goal with his first touch of the ball and then Olivier Giroud replied for the visitors. Thomas Muller completed the scoring in the later stages to end a wretched evening for Arsenal.
Aside from their 2-0 win against Bayern Munich in London, Arsenal have been plagued by defensive problems in these group matches with 2-1 and 3-2 defeats incurred against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos, yet Wenger blamed a host of problems for this latest setback, more notably a basic failure to compete with their opponents.
There was also a degree of optimism offered by Wenger in claiming that his team still retained a ‘small chance’ of qualifying for the knockout phase during a week in which three other Premier League teams earned precious victories, with Manchester United needing a late Wayne Rooney goal to beat CSKA Moscow 1-0 as Chelsea and Manchester City beat Dynamo Kiev (2-1) and Sevilla (3-1) respectively.
In an intriguing Group F of the Champions League, Bayern Munich and Olympiakos now lead with nine points with Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb equal on three points. The Greek team were grateful for a 90th minute Felipe Pardo goal in beating their Croatian opponents but must next travel to Germany to play Bayern whereas Arsenal host Dinamo.
Should Arsenal win their next group game on home soil, there is every possibility of the team visiting Athens for their final game with qualification still in the balance. Bayern will be expected to beat Olympiakos and the Gunners are already aware that two wins are required to progress. A victory by two clear goals in Greece should ensure further progress in the competition but the alternative scenario would entail Arsenal failing to qualify from the initial group phase for the first time in 16 seasons.
Entry into the Europa League will be the ‘prize’ for the team finishing third in Group F, but Wenger will consider that outcome to be a failure and not worth contemplating.
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