Munich, Nov 5 (IANS) A day before Bayern Munich’s Champions League return match against Arsenal, coach Pep Guardiola seemed to be far away in the universe with his eyes wide open staring at a point light years away instead of sitting behind a curtain of microphones at a press conference.
What was the 44-year-old Spaniard thinking about?
Millions of football fans thought about the question as the “will-he-stay-mania” reached a new pitch as TV stations turned to star gazers for advice, who predict Guardiola will stay.
Munich newspapers are interpreting the fact that Guardiola’s closest advisers, brother Pere and agent Josep Maria Orobitg, travelled here to watch the game against Arsenal as an indication that the much-admired coach will sign a new contract soon, reports Xinhua.
After the 0-2 defeat in London, it does make more sense to assume Guardiola was unduly worried about beating a team that had countered his system with a rather simple and compact approach in which they played long balls over Bayern’s defence and also hoped to be successful at dead-ball situations.
It worked for one game, but it was unlikely that it would work for two. For many, the home match against Arsenal, which Bayern won 5-1 here on Wednesday, was overshadowed by talk of whether Bayern coach Guardiola was going to stay or leave. And some assumed the result might have influence. Nevertheless, the Spaniard himself, for good reason, had to think about how his team was going to undo a defensively oriented team.
Exactly that question seems to follow Guardiola like a shadow, call it his general problem. Looking at that theory, the game against Arsenal was expected to deliver first answers about whether Guardiola’s Bayern would be able to handle the problem better in his third year at the club as his squad is regarded better as ever.
To try that against a team like Arsenal would be a challenge on a world class level. The absent-looking Guardiola was considering how to fulfil his dream of perfect football and not about his future.
Guardiola’s answers were impressive. Guardiola demanded his team to be more effective in front of the goal, play with more speed, push down the flanks, not only wingers like Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa but also the right and left backs, Philipp Lahm and David Alaba, be more flexible when attacking, cross more and change positions.
Bayern played an exhilarating first half. Arsenal had little time to get their breath back. Keeper Petr Cech was the busiest man on the pitch but was unable to stem the tide.
Robert Lewandowski (10th), Thomas Muller (29th) and David Alaba (44th) gave Munich a 3-0 half-time lead. Only at the start could Arsenal gain some space, but a Mesut Ozil ‘goal’ was disallowed as the German international used his arm to guide the ball into the net. Otherwise, Bayern were on top, winning back any lost balls and generally imposing their will on the game.
Arsenal could not get near Manuel Neuer’s goal again and could not get a grip on their opponents. It was a demonstration of a modern football power. Bayern thrashed Arsenal.
After Arjen Robben came after halftime it was soon 4-0 and the team currently second in the Premier League were being overrun. The fact that Olivier Giroud reduced the arrears in the 69th minute did not change the one-sided impression of the match.
By now Bayern had changed to a lower gear and were cruising. Frustrated, Arsenal had lost their appetite for the contest.
In the last 20 minutes Arsenal were lucky not to suffer greater ignominy as Robben and Muller, not fully concentrated anymore, missed easy chances though the latter did add the final goal just before the final whistle.
Bayern have passed their first real test with flying colours. Whether the convincing win delivers a hint about Guardiola’s future is uncertain. The coach, however, was pleased with his team’s performance, but said: “Questions about my future are not allowed.” Maybe now the rest of the story is left for the star gazers or Guardiola’s advisors.