Bayern Munich’s Champions League win over Arsenal offers club, coach Thomas Tuchel and striker Harry Kane redemption arc

In the opening exchanges of Bayern Munich’s Champions League quarterfinal win over Arsenal, the German giant’s apprehension was palpable, with Thomas Tuchel’s side seemingly shackled by the knowledge that a defeat would end any hopes of silverware this season.

Bayern’s progression to the semifinals after Wednesday’s 1-0 second-leg victory and 3-2 win on aggregate came just days after Bayer Leverkusen had won the Bundesliga in enthralling fashion. For Munich, winners of the German league for the previous 11 seasons, Leverkusen’s success was a jolt to a club that has reigned soccer in Germany for decades.

Dominating possession in the opening passages of the second-leg quarterfinal, it was Arsenal which looked more at ease despite the relative inexperience of Mikel Arteta’s team at this level. But as the game progressed, so too did Bayern’s belief that a so far tumultuous season could be salvaged at the 11th hour.

There was a fevered atmosphere at a packed Allianz Arena and the game was preceded by a pyrotechnic show put on by Bayern fans that stretched across the entirety of the Südkurve.

That raucous Bavarian home support might just have helped edge the Germans over the finish line, with not much separating either side in what played out to be an intriguing yet tactical chess match between Bayern’s Tuchel and Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta.

The victory, secured by a thumping second-half Joshua Kimmich header, now leaves Bayern with a European heavyweight clash against 14-time European Cup winner Real Madrid.

But what does last night’s success mean for incumbent head coach Tuchel, who is set to part ways with the club at the end of the current campaign?

Consistently heralded as one of football’s most innovative and compelling tactical minds, the Bayern head coach has seen his aura slowly erode over the course of his last two managerial postings.

Bayern Munich fans show their support with flares prior to the quarterfinal match against Arsenal FC at the Allianz Arena. - Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Bayern Munich fans show their support with flares prior to the quarterfinal match against Arsenal FC at the Allianz Arena. - Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

At Chelsea, where despite winning the Champions League in 2021, the 50-year-old was shown the door just over a year and a half into the job at Stamford Bridge following a poor start to the 2022-23 season.

To compound matters, despite leading Bayern to a dramatic title victory on the final day of last season’s Bundesliga, Tuchel was informed in February of this year that he would be replaced at the end of the current campaign due to the club’s wishes to undertake a “sporting realignment.”

Reaching the Champions League semifinals though is likely to go some way towards rebuilding Tuchel’s brand among football’s elite clubs. The result is even more impressive when viewed within the context of Arsenal’s current run of form – Arteta’s team had won 10 of its last 12 Premier League fixtures.

Despite its early territorial dominance, Arsenal never really landed a punch on Bayern. Even the balletic brilliance of Gunners skipper Martin Ødegaard was unable to threaten Tuchel’s fluid and resolute 4-1-4-1 formation.

Bayern players celebrate making their way to the semifinal, where Real Madrid awaits. - Alex Grimm/Getty Images
Bayern players celebrate making their way to the semifinal, where Real Madrid awaits. - Alex Grimm/Getty Images

‘Unbelievable win’

Bayern’s victory over Arsenal also means Harry Kane could end up winning the Champions League.

Having notched a remarkable 39 goals in 40 games this season for Bayern, Kane’s move from Tottenham Hotspur to Munich has been a resounding success in terms of pure numbers, but the team’s fortunes have marred his performances.

The England captain has been the subject of much ridicule on social media in recent weeks as it became apparent that the Bavarians would fail to claw back Leverkusen’s unassailable domestic lead.

Moving from his boyhood club in North London last summer, where he had failed to claim a single trophy in over a decade at Spurs, Kane’s opting for Bayern over many other would-be suitors was seemingly a no-brainer given the club’s domination of the Bundesliga.

However, following an embarrassing defeat to third-tier FC Saarbrücken in the German Cup and the aforementioned league failings, it became a real possibility that Kane was set to go yet another season scooping the game’s most coveted individual awards, rather than the collective titles every player dreams of securing.

With seven goals and three assists in the Champions League this season, there is now a distinct possibility that Harry Kane returns to London on June 1 to compete in this year’s final at Wembley.

Arsenal's exit from the Champions League came after a defeat to Aston Villa on Sunday which damaged the club's chances of winning the Premier League for the first time since 2004. - Michaela Stache/AFP/Getty Images

Kane described getting the better of Arsenal as an “unbelievable win.”

“It’s been a tough season for us,” the 30-year-old Kane told TNT Sports. “We’ve had to fight and grind it out at times. We knew we could make the difference with our fans at home. It was a tough game, a tight game. It was a great goal from Josh [Kimmich]. To reach the semifinals is a great achievement for us and we can enjoy it.

“I think in these types of games the first half is always a bit cagey,” added Kane. “We said at half-time we wanted to up the tempo, be aggressive. We had a couple off the post and could have made it easier for ourselves, but these games are always tough and you just have to get through them.

“The expectation here is to try and win the Champions League. We won the league for 11 years in a row, so maybe there was a bit of tempo missing. That can’t happen. Now, we have to enjoy the Champions League and try to get ready for Saturday.”

Sport very rarely throws up such well-written narrative arcs. But if there is one man who can help Kane stick to script, it might just be Tuchel.

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