The cross is high and handsome, Olivier Giroud is squarely underneath it, the club is on the cusp of some small measure of redemption – all that’s left is for the net to bulge and we have ourselves some pride to take away from an awful few months.
Fast forward 30 minutes and we’re a man down, 5-1 down and facing the sort of annihilation that would embarrass the Arsenal Under 23 side, let alone a senior squad littered with major competition winners and international stars.
It’s inexplicable, isn’t it, to lurch from a polished and organised to an international laughing stock in so short a period of time? Not at Arsenal.
I understand that the players wanted to go and score some goals, I understand they felt obliged to carry on chasing the impossible dream, but there comes a point where you have to accept that the tie is long gone, beyond saving.
That moment came when Laurent Koscielny was given a straight red card as a result of a bizarre change of decision that, to be honest, warrants some form of inquiry. It was farcical and symptomatic of a referee who was a long way out of his depth.
While I believe that the decision to give the penalty was correct, the basis on which the Frenchman was given a straight red was laughable and resulted from the pressure put on the hapless referee by the Bayern players – the same players who had the audacity to accuse Theo Walcott of diving when he was brought down in the area in the first half.
With Koscielny trudging off, it was time for Arsenal to reorganise and shut up shop as best they could. They needed to get bodies behind the ball and play on the break. Instead, they continued to play as if they had all 11 men on the pitch and gifted Bayern goals at an alarming rate. It was truly incompetent stuff at times.
I never thought id see Arsenal given a hiding like the one they were handed in Munich. I thought their professional pride would prevent that sort of defeat occurring again. I was wrong. For the last half-hour, they were utterly rudderless and without any idea how to react. That is worrying.
Post match, a beleaguered Arsene Wenger had some strong words for the referee whilst praising the performance of his players and, up to a point, I agree with him.
For almost an hour of the match, Arsenal were good. They produced some clear-cut chances and had control of the match for long periods. The mistake they made was in not converting the key opportunities they did have, albeit they were not given a penalty when Xabi Alonso quite clearly tripped Walcott.
Had they taken the chances they earned, and shown the sort of quality that is absolutely required at this level, we would be talking about a performance that showed there is still life left in this team and that they can hold their heads a little higher going in to the closing stages of a difficult season.
In the end, though, all their hard work was undone by their fallibility and frailty and instead we are talking about a double-digit aggregate defeat – the type of defeat reserved only for Eastern European minnows who have scraped through to the last 16 by some extraordinary stroke of luck. That we have been reduced to the level of ‘easy draw’ is what hurts the most.
Where do we go from here? We limp on, wounded and confused, unsure where our next result is coming from or whether we’re about to get another hiding. How has it come to this?