Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal crumbled, but we won't give up on slender Euro hopes: Koscielny

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Laurent Koscielny admits Arsenal failed to "stay together" as they were humbled by Bayern Munich on Wednesday - but refused to throw the towel in.

Arsene Wenger's side were thrashed 5-1 at the Allianz Arena in the opening leg of their Round of 16 clash, with four of the Bayern goals coming after Koscielny had been forced off through injury.

The match was level when the Frenchman limped off four minutes into the second half after Arjen Robben's strike had been cancelled out by Alexis Sanchez, who tucked away the rebound from his own saved penalty.

But the hosts turned the screw and struck three goals in 10 minutes courtesy of a Robert Lewandowski header and a brace from Thiago - with substitute Thomas Muller adding the gloss.

Not only does the result leave Arsenal staring at a seventh straight exit from the Champions League at this stage of the tournament, it has also seen a clamour for Wenger to leave when his contract expires in the summer.

The Frenchman has repeatedly said throughout the season he will not make a decision on his future until then and that has not changed. Wenger said the game was a "nightmare" for his side and Koscielny's assessment was similarly damning.

Asked what went wrong, Koscielny said: "I don't know either. I think the first half was good - we were deep, like you need to be, and tried not to give them space or opportunities. It being 1-1 at half-time was good for us but after we conceded the second goal, I think we needed to stay more compact.

"You need to stay together, defend together with all 11 players and keep this. We didn't."

Despite the second-half capitulation, Koscielny insists Arsenal will fight to overturn the chasm in the home leg, but they would have to become the first team in the history of the Champions League to come back from a four-goal deficit and advance.

"In football, you never know," he added. "We are professional, we have a second leg and we will try to win. But after a game like this it's very difficult. But we'll fight because we are professional and we play for Arsenal."

Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti was also careful not to suggest his side had already booked their place in the quarter-finals.

"We played very well before the penalty, then not so well until half-time, but sensationally after the interval," he said. "We demonstrated our qualities and scored the goals at the right time. The 5-1 victory puts us in a very, very good position for the return."

While Bayern celebrated another massive win, Wenger's future was being questioned by a host of former Arsenal favourites.

Former full-back Lee Dixon believes Wenger's demeanour suggested he was considering his options. He said: "He just seems so low. I think he's realising that with this team he's getting no response from them. They're not doing themselves justice, or him.

"That is the first time I've seen him where I've thought, 'he thinks it's time'. The fact that he hasn't been able to get a response from the players in the last few weeks might be the final straw.''

Martin Keown, who won three league titles under Wenger, said: "It's almost embarrassing - outclassed, outplayed. This is his lowest point. Twenty years and Arsene must be considering his future now. The difference between the squads, they (Bayern) were men against boys.''

Belfast Telegraph


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