After the off day at the Emirates a fortnight and a day earlier, runaway Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern München were back at their imperious best to dispatch Premier League title-chasers Arsenal at the Allianz Arena.
After the winning start to the season there had been a few eyebrows raised in Munich after the defeat in London and the flat goalless draw against Eintracht Frankfurt that had ended Die Roten’s run of ten straight wins, but the naysayers were firmly put in their place by a performance that was clinical and powerful, yet beautiful and mesmeric. Coach Pep Guardiola had promised something special, and his players delivered: Bayern were looking like Champions League winners again.
With Arsenal shorn of a number of key players it was always going to be tough for Arsène Wenger’s men, and it took just ten minutes for Bayern to open the scoring against the team sitting in second place in the prestigious English Premier League. A perfectly weighted ball into the opposition box from Thiago Alcântara was headed home beautifully by Robert Lewandowski, whose perfect positioning left the Arsenal defenders looking desperately for the offside flag.
Gunners’ ‘keeper Petr Cech had played like a man possessed to deny the free-scoring Polish striker at the Emirates, but this time he was left completely flat-footed as the Bayern number nine hit the back of the net for the twenty-third time this season.
Arsenal did have the ball in the Bayern net almost immediately, but unlike Olivier Giroud’s opener in the first game the goal line official spotted an obvious handball, this time from Mesut Özil. It was the first and last time the visitors would threaten the Bayern goal in the first half.
When Bayern get their noses in front, containing them is as easy as trying to squeeze a jellyfish into a matchbox - and Arsenal soon found themselves among the hapless victims that have been carved apart at the Allianz this season. Just short of the half-hour mark French youngster Kingsley Coman found the always busy Thomas Müller, and when Der Raumdeuter’s right-footed shot took a slight deflection and fizzed low to Cech’s right, it was not a matter of if Bayern would win, but by how many.
The Gunners found themselves pushed firmly on the back foot as they were subjected to a footballing masterclass by the Bavarians. Coman and Douglas Costa were terrifying down the flanks, and fullbacks Philipp Lahm and David Alaba were also joining in the fun. The prolific Lewandowski and Müller were a constant danger and Xabi Alonso was setting up attacks with his usual pananche from the back, but the real torturer in chief was the magnificent Thiago, who is getting better with every game. At times, the young Spaniard was untouchable.
It was wave after wave of dark red, with shots coming in from all angles. Cech did well to spectacularly keep out a Müller snapshot two minutes before half-time, but just a minute later Alaba curled an unstoppable left-footed drive from just over twenty yards that left the Czech ‘keeper completely helpless. As the two teams headed for the tunnel with Bayern three goals to the good, it was pretty much over as a contest.
Bayern started the second half as they had ended the first, and Guardiola decided to ramp up the torture by bringing on Arjen Robben for Coman six minutes before the hour mark. It took just thirty-seven seconds for the Dutchman to make his mark, his lethal left boot finishing off another fantastic move engineered by the dynamic duo of Costa and Alaba.
It was all set for Bayern to keep going and run up a cricket score, but like so many times this season they switched down through the gears when in a comfortable position. Arsenal were finally able to create some chances of their own, and after Santi Cazorla forced Manuel Neuer into a fine stop they finally blotted the Bayern score sheet. Özil’s left-sided cross was perfectly met by Giroud, who swivelled nicely as he smashed the ball past Neuer.
The temerity of their opponents sparked a second wind for the men in red, and the chances started to come again. A sumptuous pass from Thiago put Robben in the clear only for the Dutch winger to be foiled by Mathieu Debuchy after rounding Cech, but two minutes from time the North London side were condemned to their biggest-ever European defeat when Costa - whose pace and boundless energy puts the Duracell bunny to shame - burst through the centre to find the fast-advancing Müller, whose perfectly-executed right-footed finish beat Cech low at his near post to complete the rout.
Bayern have averaged more than four goals a game at the Allianz this season, and despite the scoreline there was no great shame in Arsenal’s defeat. It could very easily have been more.
Bayern’s win takes them to nine points from four games, level with Greek side Olympiakos and six clear of both Arsenal and Croatian outsiders Dinamo Zagreb. A point at the Allianz against the Greeks in three weeks’ time will seal their place in the last sixteen, but it is clear that they will be looking for more - a lot more.
FC Bayern München 5-1 Arsenal
Lewandowski 10., Müller 29., 89., Alaba 44., Robben 55. / Giroud 69.
FC Bayern: Neuer - Lahm (c) - Boateng (69. Benatia), Martínez, Alaba - Alonso - Müller, Costa, Thiago, Coman (54. Robben) - Lewandowski (71. Vidal)
Arsenal: Cech - Debuchy, Mertesacker (c), Paulista, Monreal - Campbell (59. Gibbs), Coquelin, Cazorla (87. Chambers), Özil - Sánchez - Giroud (84. Iwobi)
Yellow Cards: - / Özil, Campbell
Stats summary (courtesy of kicker.de):
Shots on goal: 23 / 7
Passes: 746 / 341
Completed passes: 681 / 268
Missed passes: 65 / 73
Passing success: 91% / 79%
Possession: 68% / 32%