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article imageToni Kroos guides Bayern Munich past Arsenal at the Emirates

By Tyrrell Meertins     Feb 19, 2014 in Sports
Although Bayern Munich convincingly steamrolled through Europe’s best clubs last season, Pep Guardiola’s appointment has instilled high-expectations to become the first team to successfully defend world football’s most prestigious prize.
Bayern Munich combined power, pragmatism and tactical flexibility to avenge their 2012 defeat to Chelsea on home-soil. Toni Kroos, however was forced to watch his side defeat Borussia Dortmund at Wembley, due to a groin injury he sustained against Juventus in the quarter-finals.
Though, the 24-year-old produced a master-class performance against Real Madrid in the 2012 semi-final, Bayern fell short when it mattered – and missing the Bavarians road to European glory was another blow the German endured. Nonetheless, despite Guardiola’s new system, along with the arrival of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara, Kroos remains the key man in Bayern’s midfield.
Kroos’ display in Bayern Munich’s victory at the Emirates showcased the German’s undeniable talent, as he passed his way through Arsenal’s midfield. Arsenal flustered Guardiola’s men in the opening minutes, pressing the European champions in their half, while using pace and intricate passes to bypass Bayern’s high-line. Bayern couldn’t cope with Arsenal’s high-octane start to the match, and were fortunate to be leveled courtesy of Manuel Neuer’s saves, composure, and Mesut Ozil’s poor penalty.
"We made big mistakes, but the spirit was absolutely fantastic. The penalty we missed killed the crowd. We were down to ten men and we suffered physically. It is a night when the team showed some quality, but at the end of the day we lost the game," Wenger said.
Throughout the Gunners’ electric opening 15 minutes of the match, Kroos dropped into pockets of space throughout the pitch to receive the ball and settle the tempo. Not many players in the world can match the German’s appreciation of space – in Jupp Heynckes’ system, Kroos’ tactical intelligence enabled him to drop deep to form a midfield three, move towards the flanks to create overloads, or stay closer to the striker to provide guile in the final third.
Kroos’ role in a midfield trio has changed though, as Guardiola encourages his players to retain possession, and in the first half the 24-year-old fulfilled the Spaniard’s wishes. The German epitomizes the perfect modern-day creative midfielder. While being a reliable passer is key, Kroos possesses a sturdy build, along with the required creativity, dynamism, and guile to thrive against the world’s best.
In the buildup to Wojciech Szczesny’s sending off, Kroos displayed his ability to play subtle incisive passes in the opposition’s third. Kroos’ ball over the top of Arsenal’s back-line forced Szczesny to commit a reckless challenge on Arjen Robben, thus resulting in the Polish goalkeeper’s dismissal.
The German covered every blade of grass in a nonchalant manner to link and create plays, and it was fitting to see the 24-year-old dynamo open the scoring at the Emirates for the second consecutive season. Both goals stemmed from Phillip Lahm at the right side of the box, as Kroos curled a venomous shot past Lukasz Fabianski.
With Arsenal down to 10-men, Bayern dominated every aspect of the game – more so the right side with Robben, Lahm and Rafinha isolating Nacho Monreal. Guardiola’s men played 456 more passes than the home side, and Kroos embodied their approach.
The German’s distribution was precise, yet lethal, as he completed 147 passes, maintaining a 97 per-cent passing rate. Arsenal’s midfielders chased shadows for large portions of the match, and Kroos inflicted damage when Wenger’s defenders became weary in the latter stages.
The German’s long diagonal ball towards Robben mesmerized those in attendance at the Emirates, but the Dutch winger’s cross was pushed away by Fabianski. Afterwards, Kroos slid a delicate through ball into the advancing Rafinha, yet his delivery evaded several onrushing Bayern players.
Bayern comfortably closed out the final quarter of the match, and Thomas Muller nodded Lahm’s sensational cross past Fabianski to double Bayern’s lead. Kroos casually switched the route of Bayern’s attack for the remainder of the match, and nearly won the tie in injury-time, but his well-placed shot rebounded off the post.
"I really like players that want the ball. Players that want to play and play and play – Toni Kroos is one of these and his goal was great. It was a fantastic performance," Guardiola said.
Kroos’ consistent performances on Europe’s biggest stage indicate that he’s one of, if not, the best creative midfielder in the world. Kroos may not be flashy as a Mesut Ozil or David Silva, but efficient, reliable passing, combined with positional and tactical intelligence reiterates the German’s role as Bayern's key player.
More about Toni Kroos, Bayern munich, Arsenal, wenger, Emirates
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