Arsenal win 2-0 at Bayern but it's not enough to stay in Europe
Arsene Wenger points to performance and spirit – but it means another season without silverware
Munich 0 Arsenal 2 [3-3 on aggregate, Bayern win on away goals] It was glorious, it was gutsy, but the Gunners are out of Europe and for the first time since the 1995-96 season no English side will feature in the last eight of the Champions League.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the fact that the Premier League was unable to provide a team for the quarter-finals of Europe's showpiece competition was a "massive wake-up call" to English football.
"If you think we had Manchester City and United, Chelsea and Arsenal all out by the quarter-final - it's a long time since that happened," said Wenger. "We have to take that into consideration in the way we think about the future of the Premier League."
Wenger didn't offer any immediate solutions but then he's already got enough on his plate with Arsenal. The Gunners' exit from Europe means the club must endure an eighth season without silverware, a barren period that will increase the pressure on their manager.
For those Arsenal fans who believe the Frenchman has had his day the result in Munich was the one they least wanted. Arsenal are out of Europe but they went down fighting, allowing Wenger to once more paper over the cracks in a squad that whatever he may say to the contrary is not good enough to compete at the highest level.
The truth is Arsenal beat Bayern because they were playing without pressure and because their hosts were lackadaisical from the outset, confident that they were already in the last eight after their 3-1 first-leg victory at the Emirates in February.
Wenger made five changes to his starting line-up for the second leg with Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski all missing for one reason or another. In came goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for his first start in 13 months and Tomas Rosicky also got a rare run in midfield.
If Arsenal fans had been expecting the worst with their patched-up side they were almost as stunned as the home crowd when Olivier Giroud thumped home Theo Walcott's low cross from the right after just three minutes.
But despite the dream start Arsenal still required two more goals if they were to overhaul the Germans, and it wasn't until 86 minutes that the Gunners managed to find the net once more when a header from Laurent Koscielny beat Manuel Neuer. The last five minutes were thrilling, but ultimately forlorn for Arsenal as Bayern held on for the aggregate win.
"I believe we were very, very close,” said Wenger. "I know these players, they have a fantastic attitude and spirit. We have the quality but unfortunately we have to go out of the Champions League. It hurts very much but the positives are the performance and the spirit."
Arsenal fans waking up this morning will feel a horrible sense of deja vu. Another season without trophies, another season where the best they can hope for is a top four finish and qualification for next season's Champions League.
And what can they expect if they achieve that? Another plucky exit at the last 16 stage? Wenger can bang on about "performance” and "spirit” as much as he likes, but what the fans crave are trophies and titles. ·