Bayern far from untouchable in Champions League
Munich: Bayern Munich have been almost untouchable in the Bundesliga but their edgy performance against Arsenal suggested that the lack of competition at domestic level could hinder their European ambitions.
Bayern again found the Champions League a different proposition as they struggled to break down a surprisingly cautious Arsenal in the first half of Tuesday`s game and showed vulnerabilities in defence when the visitors came at them in the final half hour.
The last time Bayern failed to win a competitive game was also in the Champions League last December, when they squandered a 2-0 lead and lost 3-2 at home to Manchester City.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also faced Bayern last season in the round of 16 and was able to make a brief comparison between last year`s Champions League-winning side, coached by Jupp Heynckes, and Pep Guardiola`s version this year.
"Bayern are a good side but they were more vulnerable this season than last year," he told a news conference after the game.
"I thought Bayern were very vulnerable defensively, we didn`t take advantage of that," he added. "I felt the situations were there where we could have made more of it."
Bayern, leading 2-0 from the first leg, went ahead 10 minutes into the second half with a Bastian Schweinsteiger goal but Lukas Podolski stunned the Allianz Arena when he levelled two minutes later.
Guardiola`s team immediately lost their swagger as the confidence drained out of them and Arsenal threatened a second.
"Bayern have weaknesses, like every other team," Arsenal`s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain told ITV. "If you score a goal, it`s going to put anyone under pressure and they might get a bit nervous.
"They`re definitely up there (with the best teams in Europe) but there are lots of other good teams. They`ve got some great players, some world class players and I wish them luck."
Those weaknesses, however, have not been apparent in the Bundesliga where Bayern`s statistics reflect an almost embarrassing dominance.
Last season`s treble winners have won 22 and drawn two of 24 league games this season and scored 72 goals, including 15 in their last three games alone. Their last defeat in the league was against Bayer Leverkusen in October 2012.
Some of their recent games have resembled playground kickabouts, such as last week`s match at VfL Wolfsburg where they scored five goals in the last half hour to win 6-1.
The week before that saw them destroy a pitiful Schalke 5-1 at home, scoring four goals in an ludicrously one-sided opening half hour when they could easily have doubled their tally.
Schalke, who are fourth in the Bundesliga compared to Arsenal`s third in the Premier League, basically employed the same first-half tactics as the English side by trying to contain Bayern, but they seemed terrified of the Bavarians and capitulated meekly.
When Guardiola recently described the Champions League as a gourmet meal and the Bundesliga as pizza, many commentators took it as criticism of the domestic championship although the Spaniard denied it was meant that way.
"We`re not going to score lots of goals in every game," Guardiola said after Tuesday`s match. "We were playing against very good opponents.
"We were very intelligent," he added. "We wanted to stifle Arsenal`s counter-attacks and control the game. We only allowed them one chance in the first half.
"All Arsenal did was wait for us to lose the ball. Overall we did very well. After they made it 1-1 we had a few problems for 15 minutes, but nothing major. We`re pleased and everything`s good."
Former Bayern captain Franz Beckenbauer was less than impressed, however.
"In the end, it`ll be like Barcelona, unwatchable," he said, referring to Guardiola`s previous team and their tiki-taka passing game. "They will pass the ball back even on the goal-line".