BERLIN, February 16 (Reuters) – Treble-chasing Bayern Munich silenced their critics in spectacular fashion on Wednesday, dishing out a humiliating 5-1 Champions League triumph over Arsenal with their most complete performance yet under Carlo Ancelotti.
The Bavarians may be seven points clear at the top of the Bundesliga but their position of strength has been built more on a recent dip in form by second-placed RB Leipzig than their own performances.
Low-scoring and underwhelming, Bayern appeared to have shed their long-standing air of domestic invincibility with sections of fans growing increasingly frustrated with the side’s lacklustre displays.
Suddenly accustomed to narrow victories or disappointing draws in recent weeks, Ancelotti was forced to repeatedly call for patience by saying the team needed to peak when the big games arrived and not any earlier.
The Italian could not have wished for a more perfect example of showing up when it mattered on Wednesday as Bayern swatted aside a hapless Arsenal in their round-of-16 first leg encounter to all but ensure a quarter-finals berth.
“If that was no answer (to our current form), then I don’t know what is,” Arjen Robben, who opened the scoring, told reporters.
“I am a bit surprised but it is the Bayern mentality. When it matters we are always there… despite not having necessarily played well this year so far,” the Dutch winger said.
Bayern, aiming to reach the last eight for a sixth successive season, produced a near flawless second half, scoring three times in a devastating 10-minute spell as they delivered a performance worthy of the five-time European champions.
Their offensive efficiency was coupled with a solid backline and attacking midfielder Thiago Alcantara excelled in his playmaking role.
“I think this was probably our best game this season,” a beaming Ancelotti said. “We played really well and this result gives us a lot of confidence.”
The Bavarians are looking to win a record-extending fifth consecutive Bundesliga title but Ancelotti’s main goal remains the Champions League after three consecutive semi-final exits under former coach Pep Guardiola.
Wednesday’s victory could not have come at a better time with substitute Thomas Mueller also contributing with a welcome rare strike in an otherwise barren campaign.
The talismanic midfielder, a crowd favourite in Munich who netted 20 league goals last season, has scored just once in the league and three times in Europe’s elite club competition.
“That was just the start for Thomas,” Ancelotti said. “I think that was the breakthrough for him. He deserved it. Now we can look into the future with optimism. He will be very important for us in the coming games.”