Thomas Tuchel ‘Masterpiece’ Sees Bayern Munich Beat Arsenal 1-0

“It was a tactical masterpiece by Thomas Tuchel,” Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer said moments after his club had beaten Arsenal to advance to the Champions League semifinals. There are no two ways about it: Hainer is right; Tuchel’s setup over an Arsenal side much applauded as the best team in England over the entire 180 minutes was a masterpiece.

Indeed, if Tuchel was the master putting together the masterpiece to first secure a 2-2 draw in London and a 1-0 win in Munich then Joshua Kimmich was the final brush stroke. Moved aside from midfield to right-back earlier this season by Tuchel, it was Kimmich swooping in from the right to put a Leroy Sané cross past Arsenal keeper David Raya (64’).

“It’s an amazing feeling to score such an important goal in front of our fans on a night like tonight,” Kimmich said after the game to German broadcaster DAZN. “These are the moments you work for, and we’ve worked hard for it. Today, I got the reward, so I’m happy about it.”

Kimmich’s goal was a single moment of brilliance in which, visually, Arsenal seemed to be on the forefoot. But when looking at the underlying numbers a different picture appears. Bayern had 51% possession, and in the form of Noussair Mazraoui (24’), Leon Goretzka, and Raphaël Guerreiro (both 47’), the biggest chances of the game.

The final xG tally also speaks for itself. While Bayern had an xG of 1.33, Arsenal would finish the game with an xG of 0.47. Perhaps the only criticism about this game is that Bayern’s victory wasn’t more emphatic.

Nonetheless, Tuchel deserves the praise. Even though the 50-year-old is leaving at the end of the season, Tuchel rallied the troops to kick out a highly praised Mikel Arteta side. Not surprisingly, Tuchel was ecstatic after the match.

“This win means a lot to me,” Tuchel said. “The first half was like a game of chess. Who makes the first mistake? Who makes the first move? Nobody wanted to. The second half was significantly better. We showed courage and deserved to win in the end I’m proud of the team’s performance. I’m especially proud of [Konrad Laimer], who was glued to [Martin] Ødegaard. Mazraoui also did very well on the left. But it was clear that we would only do it as a team effort.”

That team effort now sees Bayern advance to the semifinals of the Champions League, where they will face old rivals Real Madrid. It also means Bayern can still hope to avoid the first title-less season since 2012 when the club lost to Chelsea in the Champions League final. The club not only finished second behind Dortmund in the Bundesliga but also lost the final of the DFB Pokal to the Black and Yellows.

The same Black and Yellows advanced to the semifinals in the Champions League yesterday, where they will face PSG. Of course, we have seen this before, in 2013, when both Dortmund and Bayern also reached the semifinals and then faced one another at Wembley, the location of this year’s final.

“A German final would be a dream,” Kimmich said after the game in the mixed zone. “But we have two very difficult games ahead. The dream of Wembley is big.”

Dortmund and Bayern in the final at Wembley would be an interesting parallel to 2013. But there are some significant differences. Because even though Bayern and Dortmund are Germany’s biggest clubs, they are not the two best clubs in German football.

The Bavarian giants are currently second, and a strong argument can be made that third-place Stuttgart has been a better team than Bayern this season. Dortmund is fifth in the Bundesliga standings. Today’s result likely means that thanks to the co-efficient standings, that will be enough for Champions League football next season, but at the same time, what does it say about German football when the third and fifth-best teams reach the latter stages of Europe’s premier competition?

Bayern’s and Dortmund’s domestic difficulties might indeed be an indication of a new era in German football. An era in which, despite the big clubs struggling, they are still good enough to compete and beat the very best in Europe. And that on the eve of Germany hosting Euro 2024 is good news for German football.

Manuel Veth is the host of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing Podcast and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth and on Threads: @manuveth

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