We collapsed mentally, says Wenger after 5-1 defeat

Arsenal face seventh successive last-16 exit post Bayern mauling in first leg

Afp February 16, 2017
Arsenal face seventh successive last-16 exit post Bayern mauling in first leg. PHOTO: REUTERS

MUNICH: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted his side had “collapsed mentally” in their 5-1 Champions League rout by Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

The under-pressure Frenchman said there were no excuses as the Gunners faced a seventh successive last-16 exit after their latest mauling.

“We conceded the second goal and then the most important thing was that we lost Laurent Koscielny [to injury]. We collapsed mentally,” said Wenger who will now face fresh calls for his resignation.

Wenger’s post-match press conference lasted barely five minutes and was cut short after he answered just a few questions.

“I am not looking for excuses. Overall, I must say they were a better team than us, they played very well in the second half and we dropped our level,” he said. “They were better than us, well done to Bayern. Their third goal was a killer, we had no response. It is a shock of course to lose at this level.”

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Wenger refused to discuss his personal mood after the match. “How I feel I don’t think is the most important but of course it is disappointing,” he said.

Arjen Robben opened the scoring after just 11 minutes at the Allianz Arena when the Dutchman beat Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina with a fine left-foot strike into the top corner.

Chile international Alexis Sanchez levelled for Arsenal on the half-hour, hitting in a rebound at the second attempt after he had a controversial penalty saved by Manuel Neuer.

But Robert Lewandowski restored the German side’s lead after 53 minutes, heading in a cross from Philipp Lahm with Thiago Alcantara adding a third just three minutes later.

Thiago piled on the misery for Wenger’s men with his second and Bayern’s fourth just after the hour with substitute Thomas Muller adding a fifth two minutes from time.

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Wenger said the loss of Koscielny just after the break, with the scores at 1-1, turned the game.

“It was a strange game because we played quite well in the first half, we then conceded goals in quick succession,” he said.

“I’d have loved to have kept Laurent on the pitch and it’s difficult to measure the impact, but the fact is we have to cope with the result. We had an extremely bad result tonight.

“It was difficult to shake off the two goals in quick succession, we lost our organisation and our centre back,” he added.

The Frenchman said his side lost their composure after Lewandowski’s powerful header from a cross and suffered a “nightmare” final 25 minutes.

“We were badly done for the second goal and the real problems came after the third goal, because we lost our organisation,” he said. “We were very jaded and vulnerable from that moment on. The last 25 minutes were a nightmare for us, because we had no response."

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Ancelotti backs Wenger

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti backed under-fire Wenger to lead Arsenal out of their slump.

The Italian believes the Frenchman has the experience to pull Arsenal out of the mire as they stare down the barrel of a seventh last-16 exit in consecutive seasons.

“This is football, Arsene has the experience to manage this result and move forward, this is only one game,” he said.

However, Ancelotti said the focus is now on completing the job in the second leg, which would see Bayern knock Arsenal out in the last 16 for the fourth time.

“The result was really important and we have the advantage, but we don’t want to make a mistake,” he said. “We want to play like we did tonight with the same intensity, the same spirit and the same tempo, because we don’t want to give ourselves problems.”