MUNICH (Reuters) – Bayern Munich’s 5-1 demolition of Arsenal on Wednesday placed the Germans in the driving seat in Champions League Group F and coach Pep Guardiola put their success down to competition among his players for a starting spot in the team.
With a depth of squad that is the envy of most of Europe, Guardiola had the luxury of leaving Dutchman Arjen Robben on the bench for the first 55 minutes with wingers Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa, both new signings, riding rough-shod over Arsenal.
Robben then came on to score with his first touch in his first Champions League game of the season.
The Bavarians had already fired three goals past hapless Arsenal in a superb first-half display.
“I have no doubts about Arjen. Everyone wants to play,” Guardiola told reporters.
“They need to fight for a starting spot. At this moment they do it well because every player knows they have to play well because there is someone else waiting to play.
“It was a good first half. We were better after the first goal and played with high intensity. This team, this club always has to play full throttle,” said the Spaniard, whose team raced to a 10-game league winning start before a goalless draw at Eintracht Frankfurt last week.
With central defender Medhi Benatia also making a substitute appearance in his comeback from injury and fellow defender Holger Badstuber in the squad for the first time since last season, competition will only increase.
Tight defences are what Bayern have had to get used to in recent weeks and Guardiola said the German champions always had to change.
“I have said ‘boys we always have to adapt to how the opponents play’,” Guardiola added. “If our opponents are defensive like Frankfurt then that is correct for their coach. It is us who have to adapt.”
The Bavarians, however, found little resistance from Arsenal in the first half with the English club’s coach Arsene Wenger admitting their defensive performance was below par.
“We played very bad defensively and Bayern had the better team. We did not win a single one-on-one in the first half and gave them far too much space,” Wenger said.
“We were a bit unlucky but Bayern were clearly the better team. Defensively we were just not present, we were not there. We had many players who performed below-par tonight.”
Bayern can seal a spot in the knockout stage with victory in their next game but Arsenal must win both remaining matches against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos to have a chance of advancing.
“It is not getting very tight for us,” Wenger said. “We still have a small chance to qualify for the knockout stage, but now we have to concentrate on the Premier League.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)