You can argue all day about whether Arsenal are falling below acceptable stands in the league but last night's defeat to Bayern Munich should not be used as evidence in the case against Arsene Wenger, says Sarah Winterburn...
By Sarah Winterburn
Last Updated: 20/02/13 11:33am
Note to Brendan Rodgers; That's what a near-perfect away performance looks like. And the 'near' only applies to a split-second of madness after Jack Wilshere struck a perfectly ordinary corner-kick.
Bayern Munich did not need to be perfect to beat Arsenal. They did not need to be devastating, breathtaking or extraordinary. They just needed to be disciplined, determined and clinical.
They ceded the majority of the possession to Arsenal, they gave the ball away more often than Arsenal, they were clearly rocked by Arsenal for the first half-hour of the second half, Wilshere was arguably the best individual player on the pitch and yet Bayern emerged 3-1 winners and rarely looked like anything less.
This was not about Arsenal lacking mental fortitude, Arsene Wenger losing the power of motivation, the manager 'losing the plot' or any other tired story arc, this was simply one of the best two teams in European football playing against the fifth-best team in English football and predictably winning.
You can argue all day about whether Arsenal should only be the fifth-best team in English football (their wage bill suggests they should probably be the fourth) but nine times out of ten, when an excellent team like Bayern Munich come up against a merely decent team like Arsenal, the better team will win. The Gunners have been victims of the vagaries of cup football twice this season but that did not apparently earn them a shot at being the unlikely victors.
There was no shortage of motivation and no shortage of desire - the momentum they gathered after Lukas Podolski's strike would have cracked most teams - but there was obviously a shortage of quality in the final third and a lack of leadership and organisation in the first third. It's not a new story. Whether you wanted Wenger to stay or go on Tuesday afternoon, nothing you saw on Tuesday night should have changed your mind.
This was a Bayern side who had gone over four hours without allowing their opposition a single shot on target until Friday evening and had not conceded a goal in 664 minutes until Podolski's simple header. They are a phenomenon. Arsenal fans could hope for a Chelsea-style miracle but they had absolutely no right to expect.
The media revelled in a 'meltdown' that was really only a manager being grumpy for pretty much the first time in 17 years and they will revel in another defeat which probably means yet another trophyless season. Those who are sensible will know that they were simply beaten by a very, very good team.
This article first appeared on Football365