Before the match, Fox’s commentary team called the Round of 16 Arsene Wenger’s Waterloo. Waterloo, however, marked the end of Napoleon’s reign once and for all, and while the especially embarrassing manner of this trip to Munich might be the end of Arsene Wenger, the more apt comparison would be the Peninsular War where Napoleon, like Wenger here, got bogged down in a series of defeats and false dawns that replicated each other with some familiarity.
Arsenal started poorly, and Arjen Robben’s goal after 11 minutes was well deserved. Francis Coquelin, for the third time in four matches, didn’t tackle a player when he should, and instead showed Robben inside onto his left foot, where he curled a 25-yard shot past David Ospina. If Robben hadn’t done that so many times over the past 15 years, it might be forgivable. If Francis Coquelin brought anything to Arsenal, it might be forgivable. If Arsene Wenger was a good manager, it might be forgivable. Sadly, none of those things are true.
Bayern Munich are not the same Bayern Munich as they were under Pep Guardiola, and that showed as Arsenal came back into the match, and got an away goal. Lewandowski fouled Koscielny in the box, Alexis missed the penalty but scored the rebound and Arsenal went on to create two more good chances in the first half, though neither Xhaka nor Özil could convert.
In 12 minutes second half minutes, though, Bayern ended the tie and perhaps any realistic chance that Wenger can stay at Arsenal. Laurent Koscielny injured himself making a clearance, Gabriel came on, and the floodgates opened, with goals from Lewandowski, and two from Thiago. On the first, David Ospina, too short to be a good goalkeeper, lost his feet, and couldn’t save Lewandowski’s looping header from a foot away. The defending, though, left a lot to be desired: Mustafi, beaten by Lewandowski in the air, Gibbs, sucked in by poor play from Iwobi meant he couldn’t get to Lahm.
The third? Well, Thiago ran off the midfield two (HI FRANCIS!), Lewandowski dropped deep, Gabriel went with him, and Thiago collected Lewandowski’s backheel in the space and slotted past Ospina. The fourth came after Arsenal fell apart, with Coquelin’s header falling to Thiago at the edge of the box. His shot deflected off Xhaka, and then went in off Ospina’s foot.
The fifth summed it all up. Oxlade-Chamberlain lost the ball on the edge of his own box, Thiago pounced and rolled to Müller, and ensured that Arsenal can’t even have a Pyrrhic victory in the 2nd leg.
Four years ago, with a Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey marshaled midfield, Arsenal won 2-0 at the Allianz Arena. Three years ago, with Arteta in midfield, Arsenal drew 1-1. Last season, Arsenal lost 5-1. This season, 5-1. And perhaps Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker, Arsenal’s leaders those seasons where they got results in Munich, no longer being in the team has exposed the fact that Arsene Wenger cannot set up a team anymore. Indeed, there’s probably an argument to make that if Arsenal are to save their husk of a season and finish in the top 4, Wenger shouldn’t be on the flight home.