Gary Lim: Bayern are the team to beat in Europe
Guardiola's gladiators school Arsenal in a masterclass display of attacking football
BAYERN MUNICH 5
(Robert Lewandowski 10, Thomas Mueller 29, 89, David Alaba 44, Arjen Robben 55)
(Olivier Giroud 69)
When it was done and dusted, the world could only marvel at the beauty of it all.
Bayern Munich's 5-1 victory at the Allianz Arena yesterday morning (Singapore time) left Arsenal's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League knock-out stage hanging by a thread.
In 90 minutes, the German giants smashed the egos of millionaires from England's joint-best team into smithereens.
In a display so pure and powerful, they have set the marker for this year's competition.
They have neither Barcelona's Lionel Messi nor Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
But, even without Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben in their first 11, the Bavarian outfit have performed on a plane beyond what any of the other big guns have reached this term, including Barcelona and Real Madrid.
If even the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Oezil, Santi Cazorla and Petr Cech can't stop such humiliation, then what chance is there for the lesser mortals, of which there are still plenty left in the competition?
With the win, Bayern are on the brink of a last-16 spot, while Arsenal stare group-stage elimination in the face.
Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Mueller and David Alaba netted a goal apiece to make sure of victory by half-time.
Substitute Robben's 55th-minute goal sparked an all-too-brief resistance from the visitors, who pulled one back through Olivier Giroud.
When Mueller stabbed in Bayern's fifth of the night a minute from time, he also removed the last remaining morsel of self-esteem from Arsenal's lifeless body.
It was that one-sided.
Bayern mustered 23 shots compared to Arsenal's seven, completed double of the Gunners' 341 passes, and notched a pass completion rate of 91.3 per cent (78.6 per cent for the visitors).
Like a master painter eager to vary his strokes for effect, Pep Guardiola had his team stretch and contort Arsene Wenger's side in every imaginable way.
Like a sculptor's masterpiece, the final product was one of perfect symmetry and fluidness.
They did it slow, they did it fast. They burnt the flanks and they burrowed through the centre.
There was so much to Bayern's game that they looked invincible on this day - the seamless transition from defence to midfield to attack, the drive that propelled the players quicker than their opponents and the telepathy that channelled the ball on its path.
Xabi Alonso held his ground in front of the back four like it was still year 2005.
Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman sped down the wings and tormented Arsenal's fullbacks throughout, while Thiago Alcantara bossed the midfield and distributed the ball immaculately.
The strike partnership of Lewandowski and Mueller caused dizzy spells in the opponents' defence.
The back four comprising players such as Jerome Boateng and Philipp Lahm looked comfortable, although they were tested by Arsenal's quick counter-attacks on a few occasions in the second half.
At the base of a solid spine, Manuel Neuer stood guard, always alert to the danger.
Guardiola also had stunning options on the bench in the form of Robben, Holger Badstuber, Medhi Benatia, Rafinha and Arturo Vidal.
There are also Ribery, Mario Goetze and Juan Bernat on the comeback trail.
Arsenal could only watch and, indeed, it was a painful footballing lesson dished out by the team to beat in Europe this season.
PEP: This is my best Bayern squad
At this moment, they do it well because every player knows he has to play well because there is someone else waiting to play.
- Bayern coach Pep Guardiola (above)
Bayern Munich's 5-1 demolition of Arsenal in the Champions League yesterday morning (Singapore time) is a reminder that the German side are holding nothing back in their pursuit of a sixth European crown.
"We cannot play to draw," said captain Philipp Lahm. "We have to be stepping on the gas all the time."
Their relentless style, which also saw Bayern win their first 10 Bundesliga matches before last week's draw against Eintracht Frankfurt, was evident once more in the Allianz Arena as they brushed Arsenal aside.
First-half goals from Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Mueller and David Alaba left Arsenal rocking before Arjen Robben delivered the knockout punch with less than an hour played.
Arsenal pulled one back through Olivier Giroud with 21 minutes left but Mueller restored Bayern's four-goal lead in the last minute.
The victory was even more impressive given that Arsenal are the only team to beat Bayern this season and the English side came into the game having won their last five league matches.
The German champions' 2-0 loss in London last month - their first defeat in all competitions - even sparked talk of a mini crisis but that chatter was proved ill-founded in the opening 45 minutes yesterday.
The win took Bayern top of Group F on nine points along with Greece's Olympiakos, with Dinamo Zagreb and Arsenal both on three.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola put their success down to competition among his players for a starting spot in the team.
With a depth of squad that is the envy of most, Guardiola had the luxury of leaving Dutchman Robben on the bench for the first 55 minutes with wingers Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa, both new signings, riding rough-shod over Arsenal.
Robben then came on to score with his first touch in his first Champions League game of the season.
"This is the best Bayern squad since I've been here. Everyone wants to play," said Guardiola. "They need to fight for a starting spot. At this moment, they do it well because every player knows he has to play well because there is someone else waiting to play.
"It was a good first half. We were better after the first goal and played with high intensity.
"This team always have to play at full throttle."
With defenders Medhi Benatia and Holger Badstuber also making their way back from injury, competition will only increase.
Franck Ribery is also working his way back to fitness and Guardiola has a squad brimming with confidence as he looks for the first Champions League title in his third season at the club.
Tight defences are what Bayern have had to get used to in recent weeks and Guardiola said the German champions always had to change.
"I have said, 'Boys, we always have to adapt to how the opponents play'," Guardiola added.
"If our opponents are defensive like Frankfurt, then that is correct for their coach. It is us who have to adapt." - Wire Services.
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now