German champions Bayern Munich has little reason to celebrate despite an impressive 10-2 aggregate win in their last 16 clash against Arsenal. After clinching a place in the Champions League quarterfinal for the sixth time in succession, coach Carlo Ancelotti and team were by no means satisfied.
Not only the Italian was aware of the very evident problems in the first half. They seemed to indicate that the Bavarian club may face serious problems against the potentially stiffer opposition in the upcoming quarterfinal due to be played in mid-April. Arjen Robben sounded out a clear warning to his teammates and demanded a significant improvement in the next round.
“Maybe I should be quiet and not say anything critical at all, especially after winning 5-1. But we have to treat the game in London as a warning sign,” the Dutch striker said. “The message must be: We can’t play the first half like that again.”
Bayern defender Mats Hummels was also far from happy about Bayern’s performance. “We were too ponderous. I don’t know what would have happened if Arsenal had scored a second goal in the first half,” he said.
The German international warned his side to take every game seriously. “In general we are in a good shape, but we should stop thinking we are guaranteed a place in the final. In London, we were trying to administrate the first game result at first.”
Many still see the Germans on their way to the Champions League final, which will be played in Cardiff/Wales on June 3 – and as one of the favorites to win the treble for the second time after 2013. While Bayern president Uli Hoeness is relying on his positive gut instincts as far as this season’ s Champions League is concerned, his Bayern board colleague Karl-Heinz Rummenigge reminded his side of “how we did it in 2013”.
Rummenigge was sure Bayern would face more quality in the next round. “It will be more difficult for us in the quarters. The Champions League does not forgive bad 45 minutes,” he said in advance of the draw on Friday week. The Bayern CEO reminded everybody that in 2013 team and coach Jupp Heynckes “took every challenging step by step.” He also went on to demand a revival of that strategy.
While the Germans turned the game against Arsenal around in the second half, they showed again their dependency on certain figures in their squad. Brilliant wingers like Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben can’t be replaced and Bayern has to hope the fast duo can finish the season without another injury. Both have been injury-prone in recent years.
Bayern also relies heavily on center forward striker Robert Lewandowski, who scored a penalty against Arsenal. They, however, seem vulnerable in midfield and at the back. Former German international and Premier League player Thomas Hitzlsperger feels Bayern conceives far too many away-goals: “They will have to change that in the future,” the 34-year old said.
The Arsenal games again showed that there seems to be no place for Thomas Mueller in Ancelotti’s tactical strategy. The striker found himself on the bench for the whole of the second leg in London. The Italian coach indicated that he will stick to his more secure system with Thiago and Xabi Alonso in midfield and Ribery and Robben operating down the flanks.
The self-criticism of Bayern at the same time shows their enormous ambitions. Arsenal hasn`t been a real challenge in both games as the Premier League club finds itself in the middle of a crisis. On top; Bayern’s defense still has to proof it can withstand pressure by a higher quality team in Europe.
Alonso, by the way, is expected to leave the 2016 German Champion at the end of this season. The 34-year old Spaniard will soon make an announcement about his future said Rummenigge.
While players like Hummels and Robben were critical regarding their team’s performance, coach Ancelotti was talking about his team’s mental problems even after a comfortable 5-1 first leg win. According to the 64-year old, “you can tell yourselves you have to stay focused coming off such a convincing win but it’s hard in the end.”
The self-criticism of Bayern at the same time shows their enormous ambitions.
Arsenal hasn`t been a real challenge in both games as the Premier League club finds itself in the middle of a crisis. On top; Bayern’s defense still has to proof it can withstand pressure by a higher quality team in Europe.
For the time being, Bayern has progressed and is waiting nervously for their next opponent, while the club has already earned up to 70 million Euros.
Meanwhile, Ancelotti has set a new Champions League record. The Italian has reached the quarterfinal for the 11th time making him the No. 2 behind former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson who took his side to the quarters on 12 occasions.
(With Inputs From Xinhua)