Experience almost beat naive exuberance - but have Bayern Munich missed their shot?

For a tie that leaves everything in the balance, and a result that mostly seemed fair from the flow of the game, Thomas Tuchel was anything but calm.

He was furious, specifically with referee Glenn Nyberg. That was over the explanation for a decision in the 66th minute, when Gabriel picked the ball up in the area after it seemed like David Raya had taken a goal-kick. The nature of modern kick-outs probably made something like this inevitable at some point, but it’s still incredible to actually see it. The incident has naturally created a lot of talk about the interpretation about when the goal-kick was actually taken, but that is irrelevant if you go by the explanation that Tuchel claimed Nyberg gave to them.

Going by that account, the referee implied that he did accept it was indeed a handball, but told the Bayern Munich manager he wouldn’t give it because it was a “kid’s mistake” and that shouldn’t happen in a Champions League.

If so, it’s an absurd explanation. It’s also easier to understand why Tuchel was furious. The wonder is still whether there was a bit more to it.

Was this Bayern’s big chance?

That might sound an even more remarkable statement than Nyberg’s apparent explanation, especially given this is a team full of Champions League stars who had just claimed a 2-2 draw at Arsenal.

The point is that it’s in the context of what has been a dismal season. There are no guarantees they can raise it again, especially when you consider how this match went. It often felt like Bayern were almost entirely leaning on their much greater Champions League experience. Tuchel’s side admirably exploited Arsenal’s naive early exuberance before keeping them at bay with management of the back line and the game.

It’s the sort of quality that nights like this can draw back out, and had been Bayern’s great advantage over Arteta’s side.

Had the German champions carried that through, and managed to win the game in the way that looked possible with so many dangerous counters, we would have been talking about that greater canniness.

Harry Kane scored but Bayern Munich might rue letting their lead slip (Getty Images)
Harry Kane scored but Bayern Munich might rue letting their lead slip (Getty Images)

We’d have been talking about eternal qualities that you can only develop, you can’t buy. It was really the one virtue that Bayern had and Arsenal didn’t. And Arteta’s side, for their part, overcame it. They evolved with the game.

The Basque had even spoken about how such differences affected them earlier on.

“We started really well. We were dominant, we played in the opponents half, generated the momentum and scored the first goal,” Arteta began. “Then it’s a critical moment in the match - Ben White is in front of the goalkeeper and we have to put that in the net and make it 2-0. Then in the Champions League you cannot give anything to the opponent, we have given two goals today.

“When you have these situations they are going to punish you. That’s the biggest lesson. The margins are very small in this competition. It’s very difficult to penetrate the opponents and generate chances against this level of opposition. You have to make sure as well that you don’t give anything.”

Arsenal did take the lesson, though. This was where Arteta was very complimentary of his side.

“I think the team showed a lot of composure especially after 2-1. You can throw your toys away and generate a lot of spaces for the opponent and lose the tie in 20 minutes. We haven’t done that. I think the subs made a huge impact. The way they came on the pitch, their attitude, their initiative to make things happen made a big difference for the team.”

Arteta himself showed a nous. His substitutions were much more effective than Tuchel’s, and turned the game. While Bayern suddenly lost their pace up front, Arsenal gained the invention of Leandro Trossard.

What a signing the Belgian has been, and for that price. He is such a good option for Arteta, giving them something different, while also making the difference at key moments.

Trossard scored off the bench (Getty Images)
Trossard scored off the bench (Getty Images)

His neat goal, from Gabriel Jesus’ brilliant work, has changed the entire emotion of this tie.

It might have changed further had Bukayo Saka been awarded a penalty, but Tuchel’s complaint reflected how Bayern had more to be aggrieved about in that regard.

The wonder now is whether they can raise it again. It doesn’t quite feel like they can use the same tricks for the second leg. Arsenal are now wise to them. Bayern are going to have to raise it, especially in front of a raucous Munich crowd, but that could finally leave that usually porous back line susceptible to Arsenal’s searing attacks.

It is of course the strange glory of European football, as used to be said around Sir Matt Busby. You can have the better team, as Arsenal surely do, but that doesn’t mean you will win.

Such nights have an effect. It’s why they often require sides to go deeper. Arteta spoke along these lines afterwards.

“Now I sense the belief that we’re going to go to Munich and we’re going to have the chance to win it and we’re going to be better in certain areas. That’s how we’re going to prepare it.”