Exactly 365 days after setting his side on the road to victory in last season’s UEFA Champions League last-16 first leg tie with Arsenal FC, the 24-year-old was at it again on Wednesday, helping the holders to a battling 2-0 win on another barnstorming night at the Emirates.
'You need big players'
“I think I’ve had a few good games for Bayern, but this was definitely one of the best,” Kroos beamed, clearly relieved to have seen his side come away from a punishing encounter - conceivably the Bavarians’ sternest examination to date under Pep Guardiola - unscathed.
“We rode our luck in the first 15 minutes, especially with [Mesut Özil’s] penalty,” he continued. “Obviously, it would have been a great deal harder if it had gone in […] In big games, you need big players and Manuel Neuer gives us that security. He saved the penalty, which says it all.”
'They really took it to us'
The sincerity of Kroos’ words should not be cast off as scripted sycophancy. “I don’t know if I’d say [Arsenal] are the toughest side we’ve faced this season, but they really took it to us for the first five minutes,” admitted the Germany international. “After the ten-minute mark, it was more like 11 versus 11.”
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny’s 38th-minute sending off following a rash challenge on Arjen Robben ensured parity wasn’t to last, however, and although Austrian Player of the Year David Alaba was unable to convert the ensuing spot-kick, Bayern’s animalistic bent ultimately proved decisive in overthrowing the defiant, ten-man hosts.
'Not over yet'
“We’d already been looking for a way through, but of course once Arsenal went down to ten men we knew they’d sit back and pack the centre of the park,” Kroos explained. “It’s often even more difficult for a team to play against ten men, but I think the most important thing is to keep running, boss possession and press the opposition. That’s what we did and in doing so we found the gaps.”
All the defending champions have to do now is finish the job. “Scoring an away goal and keeping a clean sheet was really important, but so was the second goal,” confirmed Bayern’s diamond in the uncharacteristic rough. “It was a step in the right direction, but we all saw last year how dangerous Arsenal can be. We know it’s not over yet.”
Christopher Mayer-Lodge reporting from the Emirates Stadium