Arsenal 0 Bayern Munich 2 - comment: Pep Guardiola knows how to control Champions League ties and when to deliver fatal blow

Bayern Munich left the Emirates with a 2-0 win and look on course for a place in the quarter-finals

Emirates Stadium

Bayern Munich came here and gave Arsenal a lesson last year as well, but if Jupp Heynckes’ treble winners played with the unforgiving power of machinery, there is something far more precise, scientific and adaptable about this version.

Pep Guardiola is often characterised as a football zealot, a man with an evangelical approach to a certain conception of the game but he is not just a theoriser. He has a forensic, ferocious eye for detail, as he showed again last night, making the changes to exploit Arsenal’s 20 tiring legs best, to control the game and win it.

Philipp Lahm revealed last week just how hard Guardiola works the Bayern players with his tweaks and changes. “He is football crazy, in a positive sense,” Lahm said. “He studies every opponent minutely, and he shows us solutions.”

Lahm spoke of the alterations Guardiola would make before and during every game, and he would know. Not only has Lahm been converted from right-back to central midfielder this season, but in a recent defeat of Mainz Lahm had to play in four different positions.

 

Last night, Lahm had to make do with three. He started at right-back in a 4-1-4-1. This allowed Javi Martinez to play just in front of the back four, where he could, in theory, shield his centre-backs from Arsenal’s direct approach.

As it happened, though, Bayern looked taken aback by the pace and focus of Arsenal’s start and they needed the hosts to wind themselves before they could get into the game. The crucial moment came eight minutes before the break when Arjen Robben burst in behind, reaching Toni Kroos’s perfect pass.

Read more: Szczesny could face action over gesture
Kroos shows why Guardiola rotation policy is justified
Giroud was not dropped as 'punishment' - Wenger
Wenger remains optimistic
Match report: Bayern too strong for 10-man Arsenal
Player ratings: Who scored lower - Ozil or Szczesny?
Red card was correct - but also unnecessary and unjust
Arsenal have mountain to climb
Penalty miss had 'huge impact' on Ozil
Guardiola knows how to control games - and when to deliver fatal blow

David Alaba missed the resulting penalty and Bayern needed a better way in the second half of exploiting Arsenal’s flagging legs. Guardiola must have also known that his centre-back Jerome Boateng was fortunate to be on the pitch, having, while on a booking, tripped Jack Wilshere from behind.

So Boateng came off for right-back Rafinha, and Guardiola changed to 4-2-3-1. Martinez dropped into centre-back, Lahm moved into holding midfield and Thiago Alcantara switched on to the left. Bayern started to see more of the ball, but Guardiola urged Robben to be more direct, and soon enough it worked. The Dutchman darted inside, linked with Lahm, and Kroos scored beautifully.

Wanting more movement up front, Guardiola removed Mario Mandzukic for Thomas Müller. Thiago dropped back into the middle, Mario Götze went wide and the 4-3-3 strangled the play in the middle.

But there is a time to control and a time to strike, and Bayern knew they could win this tie on the night. So Claudio Pizarro, not a very obvious choice, replaced Thiago for the final 12 minutes, and was pushed up just off Müller, with Lahm and Kroos trusted to look after midfield.

Arsenal’s centre-backs have been excellent all season but after an exhausting evening the double threat was just too much for them. In the penultimate minute, Lahm drifted forward and floated a cross into the box. Pizarro dragged Per Mertesacker away and Müller, the man with the best nose for goal in the game, slipped in behind Bacary Sagna and darted a header into the net. It was just what had been expected of him.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Life and Style
A general view during the 2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at Earl's Court exhibition centre on 2 December, 2014 in London, England
fashionIt's not all about the catwalks: the big changes of the past year can be summed up in six clothing items
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?