Arsene Wenger insisted Arsenal are capable of competing with the likes of Bayern Munich after watching the German champions rip through his side once more.
A second 5-1 defeat was Arsenal’s biggest home defeat since November 1998 and saw them eliminated from the Champions League at the round of 16 stage for the seventh successive year, this time with a humiliating 10-2 on aggregate that ranks as the second greatest margin of defeat in Champions League history.
Theo Walcott had briefly raised hopes that Arsenal could emerge from the second leg with at least some credit, the hosts leading 1-0 at the interval after one of their most impressive 45 minutes of the season.
However Laurent Koscielny’s exit – this time for a contentious red card – precipitated a second collapse. Robert Lewandowski converted the resulting penalty before Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa and an Arturo Vidal brace added lustre to the scoreline in the final 22 minutes.
It was the fourth time since 2005 that the Bavarians had eliminated Wenger’s side from the Champions League, a stark reminder that chief executive Ivan Gazidis’ promise in the summer of 2013 that Arsenal could compete with Bayern is nowhere fulfilled.
“We can compete with Bayern, we showed that in the first half,” Wenger told Standard Sport when asked why Gazidis’ words had not turned to actions. “I believe the second half was a very difficult situation for us.
“Overall Bayern is a good team, they do what they want in Germany, what we cannot do in England. Nobody can compete with them. They take the players they want and they are a bit lonely on the market, which is not the case in England.”
The defeat will serve to heighten pressure on Arsene Wenger, who is yet to commit to the offer of a two-year contract extension with his current deal due to expire in the summer.
Several hundred Arsenal fans made their feelings clear before kick-off, calling for the offer to be withdrawn as they marched to the Emirates.
With Alexis Sanchez increasingly likely to leave in the summer there is a growing sense that Arsenal are in the greatest crisis of Wenger’s tenure, but the Frenchman was far from convinced.
“What needs to change at this club? What do you mean? This club is in a great shape, at the moment it’s going through a very difficult situation.
“So what needs to change is the result in the next game.
“It was difficult in the final 20 minutes when you have no hope anymore to qualify and Bayern bring fresh players on. It was very difficult.
“Look we play the quarter final of the FA Cup on Saturday. We want to focus on that and do our job properly and prepare well.”