Head coach Pep Guardiola claimed that the reigning European champions played at “a very high level” in the 1-1 draw, a result which moves them within five games of becoming the first-ever side to successfully defend the UEFA Champions League title.
While it wasn’t the master class witnessed on the domestic front in recent weeks, Bayern’s performance and unerring dominance was a far cry from the ‘boring’ tag attached to their brand of football by former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. “Possession for possession’s sake is pointless, creating chances is important,” were words famously spoken by Guardiola, but the Spaniard missed out one key component - converting those chances.
Nine of the record titleholders 14 shots against the Londoners came from inside the area with Arjen Robben, Mario Götze and Mario Mandzukic all guilty of squandering goalscoring opportunities before Lukasz Fabianski saved Thomas Müller’s 91st minute penalty. “You don’t get to choose what happens to you on the pitch,” said Müller. “Everyone of us wants to score when given the opportunity. Sometimes you connect properly, sometimes you don’t.”
However, considering his side had scored 12 times in their previous two matches, Guardiola was quick to assert that, despite his side’s poor conversion rate, “Arsenal were better for eight minutes in the first leg, we were superior for the remainder of the 180 minutes”. Influenced by the decision to play Javi Martinez at centre-back and Thiago Alcantara’s metronomic movements in midfield, Bayern’s insatiable appetite for ball retention both frustrated and stifled Arsene Wenger’s charges on Tuesday.
"We were very intelligent. We wanted to control Arsenal's counter-attacks and the game," elaborated Guardiola, who seemed perplexed that Bayern’s opponents hadn’t been more assertive in their approach to the encounter. "We only allowed them one chance in the first half. All Arsenal did was wait for us to lose the ball. We controlled the match, except for the goal we conceded, but our opponents didn’t push us.“
At the other end the visitors failed to cope with Bayern’s, at times, breath-taking manipulation of the channels in the final third and could regularly be seen with eleven men behind the ball in a bid to maintain parity. "We tried to apply pressure and attack,” said goalscorer Bastian Schweinsteiger. “Arsenal pulled everyone back in a bid to close down the space. Our penetration was reasonably good, but we failed to score [in the first half].”
Football fans the world over may be running short of superlatives, but captain Philipp Lahm echoed the sentiments of his international team-mate, admitting Bayern “made too many mistakes after the break”. The honest assessments of messrs Lahm and Schweinsteiger only further highlights that the World and European Champions are yet to be the finished product under Guardiola. However, if this is just the beginning, then their journey is going to be anything but boring.
James Thorogood reporting from the Allianz Arena