Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted his team “collapsed” in the second half of their 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday and conceded that the German club “are a better team than us.”
Arsenal were level 1-1 at half-time but look headed for a seventh straight exit in the round of 16 after conceding four goals in the second half after captain Laurent Koscielny limped off with an apparent hamstring injury.
Wenger, whose future was thrust further into doubt following another disappointing display by Arsenal, said Koscielny’s injury was the turning point in the game.
“I think the most important in the second half [was] we lost Koscielny very quickly,” Wenger told BT Sport.
“And suddenly it looked like we collapsed. Mentally, we collapsed, and overall I must say they are a better team than us as well. They played very well in the second half and we dropped our level. And we were a bit unlucky as well, but overall, well done Bayern. They were better than us.”
Alexis Sanchez had cancelled out Arjen Robben’s opener by converting the rebound from his own missed penalty and Arsenal had two good chances to take the lead before the break, but Manuel Neuer saved shots from Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil.
After Koscielny went off in the 49th minute, Bayern scored twice in the next seven minutes to take a 3-1 lead.
Thiago Alcantara then scored his second of the night in the 63rd minute and substitute Thomas Muller rounded off the rout in the 88th minute after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave the ball away outside his own area.
Wenger complained that Bayern’s second goal, a header by Robert Lewandowski, came after the referee had initially given a corner to Arsenal but changed his mind, and Neuer took a quick goal kick while another ball was still on the pitch.
Arsene Wenger complains about a decision going against his team ahead of Bayern Munich’s second goal.
“The referee gives a corner for us. And the ball is on the pitch, they play with the second ball,” Wenger said. “Look, I do not look for excuses, I look for an explanation because we were quite solid defensively and after that, of course, it’s very difficult. In these kinds of games you need a bit of luck going in your side and you need to be focused for 90 minutes. I felt the third goal was a killer for our players because after that we had no response.”
The loss immediately reignited the debate about whether Wenger can stay in charge at the club after this season, with his contract expiring in the summer.
Arsenal are 10 points behind leaders Chelsea in the Premier League, with the FA Cup now their only realistic chance for a trophy.
But when asked if the second half on Wednesday was one of the lowest points of his 21-year Arsenal reign, Wenger did not want to discuss his own emotions.
“How I feel, I don’t think that is the most important,” he said. “But of course it is disappointing.”
Asked if Arsenal require a miracle to progress against Bayern, Wenger said: “Of course. I think we have to recover first and focus on our next game [against Sutton in the FA Cup on Monday].”
Arsenal and Bayern meet again in their round-of-16 second leg at the Emirates Stadium on March 7. – ESPN