Bayern not ready for Champions League, says Wenger

The Arsenal manager feels the Bavarians have some way to go before becoming European champions ahead of the likes of Barcelona

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has claimed that Bayern Munich “are not ready” to win the Champions League after his side claimed a 2-0 victory at the Allianz Arena.

The Bavarians progressed to the quarter-finals of the competition on the away goals rule after recording an impressive 3-1 first-leg win over Arsenal in London, but the Frenchman feels die Roten cannot go the distance.

“I don’t know if Bayern are ready to win the title,” he told ZDF after the match.

“We have played Barcelona twice in recent years and believe me, they are the best team.”

Reflecting on the match, Wenger voiced his pride with his side’s performance in Germany, but rued their failure to produce a credible showing at home three weeks ago.

“The hope was always there. We scored the second goal too late, but we felt Bayern were nervous,” he continued.

“We won, but we played badly in the first match and we paid for it. Qualification is over 180 minutes and we played badly for the first 90.”

Arsenal will now turn their attentions to their Premier League trip to Swansea on Saturday.

Arsenal goalscorer Koscielny bemoans first-leg loss against Bayern Munich

Despite picking up a 2-0 win over the German outfit in the Allianz Arena on Wednesday, the Gunners were knocked out, with conceding three goals at home costing them dear

Laurent Koscielny has bemoaned Arsenal’s poor performance in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against Bayern Munich, after the Gunners were eliminated on away goals on Wednesday.

The German side picked up a resounding 3-1 triumph at the Emirates Stadium, a result which had many people writing the Gunners off before the second leg had even started.

However, goals from Olivier Giroud and Koscielny gave Arsenal a 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night, although it was not enough to rescue the north London side’s chances of winning a trophy this season.

Speaking to BeInSport, Koscielny said: “I think its the first game that causes us prejudice, just like last year.

“Tonight, there is no place for regrets. We wanted to pressure them high and we were good.

“The second goal comes in late. It is as it is. We fought well, we tried to produce the play, but there was a big team in front of us.”

Giroud was equally disappointed, considering Arsene Wenger’s side came so close to taking an aggregate lead, but he is confident the fans will be proud of their efforts.

He added: “It was close. We are disappointed for the fans who were behind us. We almost did the perfect game.

“We scored near the beginning, and after that it was almost even but we managed to get the second. But then it was hard because the tank was empty.

“Bayern is a great team but we stood up against them. It’s a shame because there were other goal situations. But I think we made our fans proud.”

Speaking to Sky Sports, Mikel Arteta echoed Giroud’s thoughts that an earlier second goal would have been perfect.

“We gave absolutely everything we had in the game,” he said. “We knew we had conceded three goals at home and it was going to be difficult, but we kept going and we kept believing.

“It was mentally a very difficult game to manage tonight. When we scored the first one they didn’t look very convincing and we tried to take advantage of that.

“Coming here, not many teams win here. They have shown that they are a top side in Europe this season, so the lads deserve credit and the boss as well because he believed from the start that we could do it. We tried our best.”

Like his team-mates, Carl Jenkinson highlighted the importance of their early goal and, although they were ultimately knocked out of the competition, he is certain the Gunners can be proud of their efforts.

The 21-year-old stated: “We got that early goal that we needed. We knew that it was important that we kept it tight at the back and we did that. We got the second goal and we really thought we could do it, but I am proud of the boys and the effort everyone put in.

“We were so close to doing it when, to be honest, everyone had written us before the game. We have come here, we have won 2-0 and come so close to doing it. I am very proud of the boys.”

Eight contenders left for the Champions League

Wins for Bayern Munich & Malaga on Wednesday saw them join the remaining qualifiers battling for a place at Wembley in May’s showpiece final

Full time at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday represented not only the extinguishing of Arsenal’s spirited attempts at an unlikely comeback against Bayern Munich, it wrapped up the roll call of names who will contest the quarter-finals of this year’s Champions League.

In the evening’s other tie, Malaga were able to overturn a first leg loss, beating 10-man Porto 2-0 at La Rosaleda to triumph 2-1 on aggregate. The success of Manuel Pellegrini’s men ensured La Liga has three representatives, with Barcelona and Real Madrid joining them in the hat.

Barca did it the hard way, becoming the first side to wipe out a 2-0 deficit incurred away from home when they won 4-0 at Camp Nou to eliminate AC Milan, while Real Madrid’s success over Manchester United was completed by Cristiano Ronaldo’s second-half winner.

Scottish champions Celtic were put to the sword by Juventus as they lost 5-0 on aggregate, while Paris Saint-Germain ensured a French side would appear in the latter stage by seeing off Valencia.

Galatasaray, another club boosted by some high profile recent glamour signings, won through to the last eight after seeing off a resilient effort by Schalke.

Borussia Dortmund’s passage was far more comfortable however, dispatching the Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk 5-2.

Below is a run down of who will be in the draw for the last eight on Friday, March 15.

Munich near-miracle restores Arsenal & Wenger's ruined reputation

The Gunners will now be confident of hauling back Chelsea in the race for fourth place after coming so close to reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League

COMMENT
By Husmukh Kerai

Arsenal travelled to Germany with very little hope of getting any sort result against Bayern Munich but fly home with their heads held high after an impressive 2-0 win.

The Gunners have been eliminated from the Champions League on away goals but all the pre-match talk suggested it would be a far more severe outcome, and there are plenty of positives for Arsene Wenger and his men to concentrate on during the flight back to London.

They had Bayern Munich on the ropes in the final 10 minutes of the tie, something that was unimaginable three weeks ago when a demoralised Arsenal team scampered off the pitch after giving up the first leg with barely a whimper.

Wenger’s men had been written off by all observers. They were without the talismanic Jack Wilshere and came up against a side who were widely regarded as one of the favourites to win the Champions League.

A 3-1 lead looked unassailable and Arsenal had had three weeks to realise how little everybody believed in them.

But they had Jupp Heynckes and his men on their toes until the very final whistle after putting in a performance that nobody expected.

Wenger enjoyed a rare night, in recent months at least, where he actually enhanced his reputation.

The Frenchman made two big calls in his team selection for which he deserves massive credit. Regular first-team goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and club captain Thomas Vermaelen were both dropped after weeks of questionable performances.

The two players that came in, Lukas Fabianski and Laurent Koscielny, were two of the star performers on the night. The Poland international keeper was hauled into action for the first time in 13 months and rose to the occasion to walk away with a well-earned clean sheet. The French defender, on the other hand, turned in a fine display, was quick and decisive in his defensive work and rose magnificently to head in the second goal late on.

Wenger was brave with his decisions, a bravery which was also evident in the performance of his players.

A potential comeback suddenly became a reality as early as the third minute. Olivier Giroud turned home Theo Walcott’s low cross to give the 3,000 travelling supporters something to believe in.

Bayern fans were stunned and didn’t really know how to react, their team plunged forward in numbers but could not muster the same clinical edge from the first leg.

Arsenal held on valiantly as Bayern upped the ante after the break. Keiran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson personified the concentration and application of Wenger’s men. The two Englishmen in particular provide a lot of hope for the Gunners defence, which has been under par too many times this season.

The Gunners weathered the German storm and set up a nervy finish for the hosts. Koscielny cannoned in a header to level the tie at 3-3 but it was too little too late as a third goal evaded them, not least because of a poor free kick and two silly fouls from Mikel Arteta.

But the win did restore the reputation of Wenger and his side. The increasingly maligned Gunners boss made the right calls in terms of personnel and tactics and showed he is capable of making decisions in big games.

Although Arsenal are five points behind fourth-place Chelsea on the domestic front, the win against Bayern is a reminder to everybody, the players included, of what they are capable of and what is expected of them. Their season is not over yet.

Football results have a funny way of greying the absoluteness of mathematics. With this most unlikely of European victories, the five-point gap to the Blues, which had looked a chasm before kick-off in Bavaria, now looks eminently bridgeable. Especially with Chelsea fighting on three fronts.

A 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena is a fantastic achievement in its own right, and especially so in these particular circumstances. Wenger’s men played with a nothing-to-lose attitude on Wednesday night, a mindset which will serve them well as they go up against their London rivals for Champions League qualification.

Arsenal have somehow salvaged some desperately needed momentum from what looked a hopeless cause and an increasingly frustrating season. With nine games to go, they must build on this result to ensure they can dine at European football’s top table again next time around.

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Wenger 'proud' of Arsenal despite Champions League exit

The Gunners pulled off an unlikely 2-0 win against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night, but a poor 3-1 defeat at home in the first leg has ultimately cost them

Arsene Wenger has hailed Arsenal’s resilience, despite their 2-0 win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday night not being enough to secure progression in the Champions League.

The Gunners took the lead within the first three minutes at the Allianz Arena, as Olivier Giroud tapped in from close range before Laurent Koscielny levelled the aggregate score four minutes from time.

Bayern’s three goals scored at the Emirates Stadium meant they scraped through by the virtue of away goals, but Wenger praised his team’s display and was happy they showed that they at least deserved to be there.

Speaking to reporters, Wenger said: “I am very proud of the team but very disappointed for everyone who follows Arsenal that we didn’t get the third goal.

“Qualifying is 180 minutes but our first 90 was not our best. I believe it was very possible to knock Bayern out. Overall, at least we have shown we deserved to be there.

“They are a very defensive team and stopped us playing tonight. Honestly, the referee tonight was a bit difficult for us. We had not the same opinion on some situations.

“I believe our defence played very well overall. They looked in control and were solid defensively. [Carl] Jenkinson, [Per] Mertesacker, Koscielny, [Kieran] Gibbs and [Lukasz] Fabianski all had good games.

“You are never going to stop a team like Bayern creating chances.”

Last season’s Champions League exit came under similar circumstances as the Gunners almost overcame AC Milan’s four-goal lead from the first leg and Wenger admits that once again a poor showing in the first meeting has proved costly.

“It is a bit similar to last year against Milan,” he added. “The regret is not tonight. The regret is the first leg at home.

“We were under pressure tonight. A bad performance tonight could have been terrible for the morale of the team and pressure as well.”

The most notable absentee from the Arsenal starting XI was Thomas Vermaelen, with the Belgian seemingly dropped following a string of poor performances, but Wenger would not comment on whether the defender will continue to sit matches out.

He said: “I don’t want to explain that. It is possible he might play at Swansea. I haven’t decided yet. I might rotate.”