Arsenal Vs Bayern Munich: Recap, highlights and analysis

SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 19: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal FC reacts during the 2017 International Champions Cup football match between FC Bayern and Arsenal FC at Shanghai Stadium on July 19, 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 19: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal FC reacts during the 2017 International Champions Cup football match between FC Bayern and Arsenal FC at Shanghai Stadium on July 19, 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images) /

Arsenal continued their pre-season tour by facing Bayern Munich in China. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis from the 1-1 draw.

The result does not matter in pre-season. It’s all about the performance and the fitness. After breezing through games against lesser opponents in Australia, Arsenal travelled to China to face Bayern Munich, a team that bring back harrowing memories from recent years. It was Bayern who were much the better team, looking sharper and more creative in possession, and Arsene Wenger’s side struggled to play with confidence or rhythm in midfield, stifled by the pressing of the Germans.

Related Story: Arsene Wenger's Best Starting XI

There were some positive signs to be drawn. Alex Iwobi looked sharp when he came on in the second half, Alexandre Lacazette’s movement was dangerous from a centre-forward position, though his finishing less so, and Petr Cech was excellent in goal, making several wonderful saves from close range. Ultimately, though, Bayern were much the better team, especially in the first half, and are actually slighted a little by the 1-1 scoreline.

The first half started in predictable fashion. A strong Bayern Munich team, bursting with talent with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Frank Ribery and new signing James Rodriguez, sprayed the ball around with great fizz and accuracy. They dominated possession in midfield areas while pressing the Gunners incessantly when ever the ball was advanced beyond the half-way line.

In equally predictable fashion, it was Bayern who took an early lead. With Ainsley Maitland-Niles sleeping at the back post, Bernat nipped in front him and went down under the clumsy challenge from the young defender. It was perhaps a soft decision, with Maitland-Niles protesting his innocence, but he paid for his lapse in concentration; a hard lesson learned. It was Robert Lewandowski who planted home the penalty, sending Petr Cech the wrong way with a confident strike.

More from Pain in the Arsenal

Openings, though, were created at either end. Granit Xhaka sprayed over the bar from Danny Welbeck’s square pass, before Mesut Ozil missed a golden opportunity, again being found be a neat Welbeck clip, volleying the shot straight at Tom Starke, who had, oddly, retired earlier in the pre-season, but was asked to return with injuries to Manuel Neuer and  Sven Ulreich.

Bayern, though, did continue to create openings at the other end, with Ribery and Rodriguez looking especially spritely. Ribery pulled a dangerous low cross back, flashing in front of the six-yard box but with no one gambling at the far post, Rodriguez powered a long-range strike over the bar, and Corentin Tolisso had a goal wrongly disallowed after being adjudged offside from a cushioned header as he placed a low shot past the onrushing Cech.

And then, on the 31st minute, the key moment that Arsenal fans had been waiting all summer to see. Ozil picks the ball up in a pocket of space in between the Bayern midfield and defence. He turns, he looks up, he takes his time. He then slides a beautifully weighted pass into the run of Alexandre Lacazette, who had split the centre-halves with an incisive run forward and was perfectly in on goal, with just the keeper to beat. It was for exactly this reason why he was signed.

But Lacazette missed. He attempted to slide a shot into the near post, wrong-footing Starke, who impressively stretched his left-hand down to parry the ball clear. It was almost perfect. But while the move faltered at the final hurdle, it did indicate the threat that Lacazette offers in behind, and the skill and intelligence that Ozil has in being able to find him. Hopefully, we will see much more this coming season.

As the first half drew to a close, Bayern continued to grow in the ascendancy, with Cech called into action more and more. The first terrific save he made was from a deflected Thomas Muller shot, clawing it away as it looked destined to nestle in the net. He then charged down James Rodriguez’s close-range volley, who had time a plenty to think and execute. Arsenal’s makeshift back-three were getting carved open on regular and Wenger needed to make changes.

Thankfully, at half-time, changes were made. Youthful exuberance was brought into the side, with the likes of Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson (he actually came on for Sead Kolasinac just as the first half came to a close) and Cohen Bramall entering the fray. In fact, the only players to remain on the pitch were Petr Cech, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who shifted into the left-hand member of the back-three, Mohamed Elneny, Nacho Monreal, Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck, who moved into the central striking role with Alexandre Lacazette replaced by Alex Iwobi.

The raft of changes, from both teams, sapped the life out of the game a little, with the pace dipping to a more pre-season type flow. Passes were misplaced, the sharpness was a little off and neither team were able to create much in the final third.

Alex Iwobi battled well in midfield, trying to provide some impetus and intensity, but he wasn’t helped by wasteful teammates in possession, namely Theo Walcott. Reiss Nelson again impressed down the right-hand side, willing to be ambitious with the ball at his feet, driving at opposing players, though there were concerns with his defensive positioning at times, and Cohen Bramall had a few nice touches on the opposite flank.

The game petered out in rather boring fashion. Neither side were able to create any meaningful opportunities — Arsenal’s best chance of the second half fell to Theo Walcott, who shot from distance, looking to open his body out and curl a shot into the far corner, when other options perhaps would have been the better choice — and a lack of fitness was clear to see from both sets of players.

But then, in the dying embers of the tie, Alex Iwobi came up trumps with a lovely goal. Skipping past a defender in his own half, Iwobi drove forward, timed a slid pass to Aaron Ramsey to perfection, before then making a run into the box and converting Ramsey’s exquisite cross with a thumping header. It was a well-worked goal with brilliant interplay between Ramsey and Iwobi, and was a sign of how potent this Arsenal team can be when it all comes together.

Next: Arsenal: Predicted FIFA 18 player ratings

This game, though, was not about the result. This was about the developing and honing of fitness and match sharpness. Let’s hope that Wenger was able to offer that to all of his players. We will get another look against Chelsea at the weekend, with the hope that a slightly sharper and more precise performance will be put in.