Arsenal continued their pre-season with an impressive victory over Bayern Munich, and it was a great barometer for how well our squad’s fitness work is coming along.
For ninety minutes, we competed with one of the best teams in Europe, and while the detractors will point to both sides using fringe players and youth, it would still be easy enough to succumb to defeat. The fact we won the game is a huge boost for the upcoming International Champions Cup fixtures and also the start of the season, showing we are at least on the right track for our preparations.
Our eleven was understandably more established than the one which defeated Colorado Rapids two days previously. Bernd Leno started in goal, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis and Nacho Monreal in defence. Granit Xhaka and Jo Willock comprised the midfield, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang behind Alexandre Lacazette up top.
It was a distinctly first team feel to proceedings, and Bayern named a relatively strong side, with Neuer, Thiago, Javi Martinez, Jerome Boateng, Corentin Tolisso, Thomas Muller and David Alaba lining up for the Germans.
We started the game well with some promising play on the right with Maitland-Niles and Aubameyang linking up well. We had a few opportunities too, but none were converted, so the game remained goalless.
Then, Bayern sprang to life and Leno had to intervene with a wonderful save from Muller’s quick finish.
That was the tune of the first half. Hotly contested but no goals.
The second half saw changes, and plenty from the Germans.
Sead Kolasinac came on for Nacho Monreal and Martinez came on for Leno, but Bayern replaced Javi Martinez, Thiago, Neuer, Tolisso, Boateng, Arp, Ontuzans, Alaba, Muller, Kehl and Johanssen – the entire side.
It would do no good though, and we took the lead soon after the break. Substitute Poznanski turning in Auba’s low cross into his own net.
It was no less than we deserved, and the chances started to flow from both sides as the game opened up.
We made further changes too, with Robbie Burton coming on for the impressive Jo Willock, and Reiss Nelson replacing Henrikh Mkhitaryan. We then had two chances to kill the game off, but a combination of great defending from Kimmich and a failure to reach a tantalising cross materialised into us failing to score.
We would be punished for this profligacy too, as Robert Lewandowski glanced a header into goal from former Gunner Gnabry’s cross.
Four changes followed, with Nketiah, Chambers, John-Jules and Saka coming on, and it would make a massive difference too, as Nketiah would go on to score a late winner.
We could have had more, but it was a performance that showed we are creating plenty and applying some defensive tactics successfully. Last season would have seen us fold quite easily, but what can we take away from this win?
Jo Willock is ready
Willock was the standout man in the first half, and made more tackles and had the second most touches than anyone. Willock is taking the chances given to him and he seems adept in attack as well as tracking back. A true box-to-box man, Willock is going to prove to be extremely useful this coming season.
Auba lethal out wide
The Gabon striker was pumped for this game, and gave Bayern a torrid time out on the flank. His pace was destroying anyone who came near him and while we know he can cut in and create damage, it was great to see his wide play incorporate other players and danger for the opposition.
Nketiah Saves his skin
The young striker didn’t enjoy the greatest game versus Colorado, but his cameo in this game saw him create as well as show great instincts for his goal. He changed the game with his introduction and he must take his chance in the next game he plays if he wishes to stay with the squad rather than a loan deal
Nelson must start
When Nelson came on, he immediately got stuck into taking the game to Bayern. He seems a different player since his loan spell last season, and he could be the wideman we so desperately need. We must wait to see if he is involved more in the next friendly matches.
This win means something
The victory counts. We have beaten Bayern, and of course it was a friendly designed to step up prep for the domestic campaign, but it was still Bayern and we need to use this as a catalyst for the coming season. If we had lost then it would have been focused on, but the fact we defeated the German champions? It means we can enjoy the fact we have defeated one of the bigger boys.
Well done Arsenal for a fantastic result.
Next up we have Fiorentina in the next batch of International Champions Cup matches.