Since the departure of Pep Guardiola last summer, it was almost impossible to demand the same football in which the Spaniard demanded from his Munich team, the artistry which Bayern fans were used to was always going to fade in ways and head into a new direction under Carlo Ancelotti. The Bundesliga leaders have come under some criticism from the die Bayern faithful with the style in which the Germans have adapted too, but some questions were answered after a truly brutal demolition of Premier League giants Arsenal.
Ancelotti’s side were a joy to watch, they pressed/overloaded transitions in all phases/counter-attacked and played some football in which you only dream of watching. It showed glimpses of what Bayern possessed in 2015 after oozing brilliance all over the pitch. It was the way they were playing, from the first minute they dominated possession but was so positive in play. Xabi Alonso especially was showing why he is an expert on the ‘regista’ role as he broke Arsenal’s line with ease and orchestrated the team throughout.
It was a replica of the 2015 victory at the Allianz Arena for the home side as they ran riot with a 5-1 victory thanks to goals form Thiago, Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, and Thomas Müller. The result has almost guaranteed a place in the Champions League QF after a truly superlative display. GGFN look at three things we learned from their impressive display.
Arjen Robben and Phillip Lahm prove that age is just a number
When you talk about fine wine, you think of the concept in which it gets that much better as the years go by, and you see similarities within this age old saying to Robben and Philipp Lahm who still possess top performances on a consistent basis, despite ageing.
Despite both players being 33-years-old, they are replicating performances of which they showed in their peak years. Last night Robben scored his trademark goal which he has replicated throughout his successful career. The Dutchman found room on his left foot after a drop of the shoulder opened space from four Arsenal players before guiding it excellently past a hapless David Ospina.
You know, maybe the Arsenal players didn’t realise Robben was so deadly on his left-foot, but the whole of Germany/rest of Europe watching certainly knew, and from an Arsenal perspective, it summed up their disorganisation within defensive phases.
Whilst behind him, Lahm was building-up play, being an outlet in offensive phases but was perfect yet again in defensive transitions as Alex Iwobi was shadowed out of the game. Lahm announced he will retire at the end of season and despite Bayern having masses of money and colossal talent in their ranks, replacing Lahm, one of the best ever will be something close too impossible.
Thiago continues to shine
Thiago Alcântara has without a doubt been Bayern’s most exciting player to watch this season after overcoming his torrid injury misfortunes. The Spaniard was causing the Gunners all sorts of problems and gave the midfield/defence a headache whenever he was in possession. The 26-year-old drove Bayern forward, dominated the midfield and often received the ball on the half-turn gave plenty of time to create/dictate whilst putting Arsenal under relentless pressure.
His performance was one of the best in the CL this season, he would drift into the half-space to ensure space is created for others but ultimately look to do the damage in the No. 10 role, and certainly showed Mesut Özil how it was done on the big occasion.
The Bayern magician scored two in seven minutes and was at the heart of the game’s most outstanding moments including his superlative goal which saw Lewandowski split open the Arsenal centre-backs with an immense back heel which led to Thiago easily slotting past a helpless Ospina.
If it wasn’t for Marco Verratti’s wonderful performance vs. Barcelona, you could argue that his performance was the best in the CL this season. He was wonderful to watch, as many would say he was at the heart of the ‘champagne’ football which Bayern possessed in a 10/10 display. If Thiago stays fit and firing, he won’t only lead the Germans to another Bundesliga, but maybe the Champions League trophy too.
Bayern miss Jerome Boateng, despite the routine victory
Despite only conceding one goal throughout the 90 minutes, Jerome Boateng’s absence at the back is clearly visible and is an obvious miss for Ancelotti’s men. The German international is the heart of the central defence and the Germans are much calmer/composed at in defensive phases with their 6ft3 man at the back.
Despite the score-line, Arsenal had two very good chances in the first half to pull away from Bayern, both Özil and Xhaka should have put the Gunners ahead after finding plenty of space in and around the box. Martinez/Hummels also struggled to deal with movement, especially from the likes of Sanchez/Ox who made several runs into strong areas which highlighted their defensive frailties in dealing with pace.
In defensive transitions, they seemed to struggle and were lucky Arsenal weren’t more clinical in front of goal as they certainly could have had three or four away goals going into the second leg, but luckily for the Bundesliga leaders, they are heading into the second-leg in a very comfortable position.