Arsenal 0 Bayern Munich 2 - comment: Toni Kroos shows why Pep Guardiola's rotation policy is justified

The midfielder, who has been linked with a move to Manchester United, scored a sumptuous goal at the Emirates

Of all the observations to be drawn from Bayern’s victory on Wednesday evening, there is one in particular which muscled its way into the headlines in Germany and England alike. That Toni Kroos is anything but surplus to requirements in Munich.

It wasn’t just his own, radiant performance. It wasn’t just the wave of gushing that inevitably comes with such a beautiful goal. It was also the way that – if it had eluded the international audience until now – Guardiola’s system of rotation truly proved itself in the eyes of the world.

For while Manchester United fans may have got terribly excited by Kroos’ little grumble with Guardiola last month, this game truly proved how insignificant his temporary exclusion really was. That Bayern’s midfield is versatile enough to leave players out is exactly what Guardiola wanted. That different players rise to the challenge that squad depth sets at different moments is cleverly incorporated bonus.

Kroos could not have proved his worth in a finer way than he did at the Emirates. But around him, the virtues of rotation were exposing themselves in other ways. We saw, for example, Phillipp Lahm take over from Javi Martinez in midfield after Bayern had got the game under their control. Martinez, the man so good at cutting out the long ball counter attack, would have been less potent than Lahm with Bayern pressing Arsenal’s box.

We also saw Thomas Müller, not a stranger to playing on the left, on the bench, despite the lack of either of Bayern’s top left sided attackers. And then we saw Bayern overload the right wing. So very aware that Arsenal may try to exploit the weakened left hand side, Guardiola was not willing to risk building too many attacks through David Alaba’s superb offensive capabilities. Of all his touchline orders, one stood out: vociferously pointing to the ground in front of a sheepish Alaba: stay back sometimes, David, Ribéry isn’t here to bail you out.

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

A nearly catastrophic backpass and a missed penalty aside, Alaba held his own under unfamiliar circumstances. His mentality, incidentally, is the reason he is considered a penalty taker. Or have we forgotten that glorious strike in the semi-final shootout against Real Madrid two years ago? Already suspended for the Final, the then 19-year-old ignored the pressure of taking the first penalty, and left Iker Casillas gaping at a bulging net.

One could go on and on about the different attributes of this squad, and while the performance in North London certainly did not show them at their most scintillating best, it did show the heightened subtlety and adaptability which Guardiola brought to this already excellent team.


The finest example of that, of course, was Kroos’ individual performance. All of Thomas Müller, Phillipp Lahm and Matthias Sammer have opined in the last few weeks that players must accept the competition, but perpetually fight only for the team. In Sammer’s philosophy – focused so much on individuals and leaders – that means carrying the team along with brilliant solo performances.

That is what Kroos did against Arsenal. The perfect team player, with the burning desire to prove his own individual worth to Guardiola’s troops, he balanced selflessness perfectly with self-belief.

It is the attitude which Guardiola and Sammer are creating within their set up, and Kroos will not be the last player to return from an internal setback burning to show his brilliance. Others too, will pull off such brilliant individual performances, designed solely to make this already splendid team even greater.

Suggested Topics
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before