Arsenal did it – they beat Bayern Munich!

Well, kind of. The International Champions Cup seen the Gunners play much the all-to-well known Munich in Shanghai on Wednesday the 19th July, in what was a friendly encounter that replicated many of the previous ties between the two sides with one notable difference – Arsenal won.

The rare victory in the non-competitive tie came down to two goalkeepers – both playing for Arsene Wenger’s men.

The game was won on a penalty shoot-out (the Germans don’t always win), with Emiliano Martinez the hero, but Petr Cech’s performance in normal time is also worth heralding.

As mentioned, the game followed the well-worn pattern of Munich dominating, but thanks to Cech’s performance, they only managed to put one goal into the net, as opposed to the five they managed in both ties of last season’s Champions league encounters.

This goal came early on, from the penalty spot, with Robert Lewandowski sending Cech the wrong way – the only wrong step the veteran goalkeeper took all day.

That goal was to remain the difference between the sides until Alex Iwobi found the net with a terrific header following good build-up play with virtually the last action of normal time.

The game ended 1-1 and then immediately proceeded to penalties (no extra-time), which Arsenal came up trumps in, with Martinez, who had replaced Cech before the end of normal time, saving efforts from David Alaba and Juan Bernat and Renato Sanchez hitting the crossbar to give Arsenal the win.

The game was attended by an enthusiastic capacity crowd in the Shanghai Stadium, and those attending got to see a typically strong Munich performance, and a perhaps unexpected Arsenal victory, to continue their strong pre-season thus far.

The game began with the withdrawal of per Mertesacker before kick-off, meaning Arsenal’s defence featured 19-year-old Krystian Bielik with goal scorer in the previous match against Western Sydney Wanderers Mohamed Elneny helming the middle.

The improvisational air of the side was found-out straight away by the Bundesliga Champions, with debutant James Rodruiguez (who arrived on a two-year loan dal from Real madrid last week), getting the first of many efforts away early on, just failing to find the goal and hitting the sidenetting.

This set the tone for the first half, with Rodruiguez making his presence known, with a third minute lobbed through pass from the Columbian was failed to convert by Thomas Muller.

They did convert minutes later through the penalty, with Lewandowski making no mistake from the spot, after youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles was pulled up for felling Bernat in the box.

Arsenal replied to being behind with quick-fire efforts from Mesut Ozil and record signing Alexandre Lacazette; Ozil’s volley straight at Munich’s Tom Starke and Lacazette’s being kept out by the keeper in a one-on-one situation, in what was Arsenal’s best spell of the half.

Another new Munich signing, midfielder Corentin Tolisso was then denied by an incorrect offside flag after a fine move by Ancelotti’s men.

The rampant Rodriguez had another effort denied by Cech, when the goalkeeper managed to close him down while one-on-one, following saves from two deflected efforts courtesy of Muller and Bernat. The former Chelsea and Czech Republic keeper really was on top form in Shanghai, which was good to see.

New signing Sead Kolasinic went off with what appeared to be an illness after 42 minutes, after putting in a poor performance in the makeshift defence – it is worth giving the benefit of the doubt to the new full-back here one feels though, as he was clearly unwell.

James was stopped once more, looking destined to find the net on his debut, by a last-ditch Granit Xhaka tackle on the stroke of half-time, with Arsenal heading in at the break losing by a deficit of one.
The second half started similar to the first, with Cech stopping another two efforts from Rodriguez, who was surely frustrated by the Arsenal man’s prowess.

The game descended into relatively unnecessary physicality during the second half, when Maitland-Niles’ clattered into Franck Ribery after being dispossessed by the French winger and Elneny went in hard on Tolisso, leaving the 22-year-old in pain on the ground.

The intensity slowed down however, with a string of substitutions by both managers.

Arsenal suddenly found a second wind approaching the final whistle, with Iwobi beginning and ending a move that brought the game to spot-kicks, with his header into the Bayern net bringing normal time to a close at 1-1.

Cech departed the field before full-time, and following his heroic performance, it was Martinez’s time to step-up. And that he did.

Alaba’s opening effort was kept out by Martinez, to put Arsenal off to a good start in the shoot-out. However, when Elneny’s shot was saved by 17-year-old Bayern sub keeper Christian Fruchtl after two spot kicks a piece, the sides were levelled.

Both sides scored their next penalty, but Sanches’ effort cannoning off the woodwork turned the tide, with Iwobi scoring his kick to make Bernat’s penalty a must-score.

He did not however, with Martinez coming good once again, and Arsenal coming out as victors in the friendly tie against their European “rivals”.

In a rather strange occurrence, Arsenal were awarded a trophy following the game (their only tie in the ICC).

Beating Bayern Munich is an achievement, but whether it warrants a trophy is debatable.
When receiving the trophy, Cech refused to lift it, and warned the enthusiastic young players to not get too excited, to save themselves for “real” trophies.

So what was learned from the fixture? Well, we got to see that our goalkeepers are doing well, so that’s something. Although, Munich were the better side throughout the game despite the result, and even though the game was a friendly, there are some defensive issues that will need to be assessed by Wenger and his team.

On the 22nd July, Arsenal continue to their pre-season against Chelsea in Beijing, and will hope to keep the winning streak going.