Win over Bayern is Arsenal's master plan to conquering EPL
Arsenal can rightfully celebrate this great victory over the masters of Munich
(Olivier Giroud 77, Mesut Oezil 90+4)
BAYERN MUNICH 0
A belated recovery in one tournament may offer redemption in another.
If they can repeat this performance against Bayern Munich week in week out, Arsenal can win the English Premier League this season.
The seeds were quietly being sown throughout the calendar year, but the Gunners truly bloomed against the German giants yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Short bursts of sexiness were enough to see off Manchester United and Watford, but the Emirates witnessed a sustained performance of intelligent defending and sly counter-attacking.
It was a study in concentration and a master plan for the future.
Arsene Wenger finally heard that booming voice that issues a stern warning to every commuter at London Underground stations across north London.
Mind the gap.
Wenger listened and Arsenal profited. They won a game they would've almost certainly lost in the past.
Bayern are an intoxicating mix of Pep Guardiola's graceful finesse and Germanic belligerence. The dominance is beastly, but the football never less than beautiful.
In previous visits to the Emirates, that was more than enough.
The German champions had prevailed on their last two trips, even without the terrifying presence of Robert Lewandowski.
But Arsenal would not yield this time. Despite their endless passes, the German side could not pass. This was Gandalf's Gunners, a notable upgrade on the fragile fumblers of previous campaigns.
Wenger's template finally comes with a backbone.
He handed the keys to the Emirates to Bayern's most efficient burglars, only to lull them into a false sense of security.
Douglas Costa and Thiago Alcântara danced with the stars in the early exchanges, threatening to run away with both the game and Hector Bellerin's dignity.
But alarm bells never rang. Arsenal conceded possession, but not the initiative.
In their previous Champions League games, brief flurries of attacking excellence were sandwiched between unfocused periods where the Gunners drifted towards defensive mistakes and unexpected defeats.
But the lopsided (and pointless) possession stats didn't give way to blind panic. Bayern could have the ball as long as they were mostly kept at bay.
The recalibrated game plan was obviously tested - this was Bayern Munich, not Watford - and Petr Cech's saves reiterated the old adage about there being no place for loyalty in the workplace (unless he's the match mascot, David Ospina shouldn't be handed an Arsenal jersey again).
But Bayern rarely penetrated. The new Arsenal had essentially turned their opponents into the old Arsenal, while bearing remarkable similarities to the clinical German side.
When the ball reached the home side's final third, it stuck, first to Theo Walcott, in his most successful audition yet for a central role, and then to Olivier Giroud, who came on for an outstanding, goal-scoring cameo.
Both forwards dispensed with their characteristic flakiness and displayed a real grittiness. From front to back, Arsenal put up fortresses rather than excuses.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny went where so few have gone before. They shut down Lewandowski, allowing Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin to close those nagging gaps.
As Bayern's possession reached PlayStation levels of absurdity, the two men dashed between the lines of fire, screaming at the men to hold their positions.
And they did. Somehow, they did, allowing Mesut Oezil to come to the fore.
But this was often the other Oezil, the twinkle-toed alien from another planet.
With each push, pass and pirouette, he played flashbacks of that German kid who killed off the English clowns at the 2010 World Cup, the maverick who should have ruled at Real Madrid, the man who can bring the title back to the Emirates.
In truth, Oezil has been leading to this creative epiphany for some time, with sneak peeks in the Premier League hinting at an impending blockbuster. Hopefully, his time is now.
It needs to be, if Aaron Ramsey's hamstring injury proves to be as serious as it looked when he limped off.
But that was an off-key sick note on a night when the Gunners produced a bombastic blast of counter-attacking intent. Wenger's men often finish games of this magnitude as basket cases, but they were a band of brothers against Bayern.
A single, redemptive act neatly encapsulated their newfound maturity.
In the first half, Bellerin was given the runaround by Costa. In the dying seconds, the fullback was running rampant past Bayern's backline to set up Arsenal's killer second goal.
The moment felt like a mission statement delivered on behalf of his teammates.
Rather than be pretty in patches, the Gunners promise to persevere.
Whether this resilience can resurrect the European campaign remains to be seen.
But the domestic crown is there for the taking.