It may not have been the humiliating experience that was the defeat to Blackburn Rovers, but nonetheless Arsenal are staring down the barrel of an eighth consecutive year without a trophy after being outclassed 3-1 at home by Bayern Munich in their Champions League last-16 first leg.
Manager Arsene Wenger had called upon his players to put on a display in a tetchy press conference leading up to the game at the Emirates, but as soon as Toni Kroos put the German champions ahead after just seven minutes, Bayern were in total control of a first half that could have ended up any score.
That Jupp Heynckes’ side added just a Thomas Muller goal before half-time was of relief to Arsenal, especially when against the run of play Lukas Podolski pulled one back against his former club.
But after a brief rally, during which Oliver Giroud missed a good chance to level the scores, Bayern secured the win when Mario Mandzukic bundled a home a fine team move – a goal that surely puts the tie beyond Arsenal.
The Gunners must score three times at the Allianz in three weeks’ time and when you consider Bayern have conceded more than two goals just once in their last 75 home Bundesliga matches, it is no wonder Wenger has admitted his side will go another year without silverware and that his main focus is now to make sure Arsenal are in the competition next season.
“Look, we’ll have two battles but maybe the easier battle will be to be back in the Champions League,” Wenger said. ”
“But we have to give everything to try and change things in the second leg. Let’s not hide the truth: it will be extremely difficult [to qualify for the quarter-finals] against a team of that quality.
“They didn’t play two finals in the last three years without having that quality. We have to give our best and hope we have built our confidence up a bit more by the time the second leg comes around because that belief will be needed. We have to try to make the impossible possible.”
Wenger was quick to praise Heynckes’ team, who are now 3/1 second favourites with bwin to win the Champions League at Wembley.
“My players gave absolutely everything but we played against a side who have no doubt at all,” said Wenger. “They have a history in the last six months where everything is positive, every player is confident to play with full power.
“That’s not the same for us at the moment. You have to give them credit for their class. They are a team of pure class. In patches in the first half it was a difference of quality in their display to ours.”
The result has put Wenger under greater pressure and with a top-four place in the Premier League far from assured, the 63-year-old needs to secure a 16th consecutive year of Champions League football via the Premier League because as odds of 20/1 to qualify for the quarter-finals show (Bayern are 1/100), there is little chance of that happening by winning the competition.
Yet if you think Arsenal do have hope, you can back them at 7/1 to win at the Allianz in the return leg in three weeks’ time. Bayern are 7/20 favourites, with the draw at 73/20.