at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted his side had been outclassed in their 3-1 loss to Bayern Munich and said it seemed “impossible” to turn the Champions League last 16 tie around.
Eliminated from both domestic cup competitions and 21 points off the pace in the Premier League, Arsenal know the Champions League represents their only chance of picking up a first piece of silverware since 2005.
However, with Bayern in form that has seen them assemble a 15-point lead in the Bundesliga, it always seemed likely to prove a forlorn hope, and so it proved on a chastening Tuesday evening at the Emirates Stadium.
“Let's not hide the truth: it will be very difficult and we will try to make the impossible possible,” Wenger told ITV.
“We will try to play like we do at home and try to change the score. The third goal makes it very difficult, but we will try.”
Goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller put the visitors 2-0 up by the 21st minute and although Lukas Podolski replied early in the second period, Mario Mandzukic galvanised Bayern's grip on the tie with 13 minutes to play.
Wenger admitted that his team had been “a bit nervous”, but said there was no shame in losing to a team who have reached the Champions League final in two of the previous three seasons.
“You have to give them credit for their class,” he said. “In patches in the first half, Bayern's play was of a different quality to ours.
“In the second half we were getting close and becoming dangerous, but then they changed and began to play more defensively, so it was difficult to create chances.”
He added: “In these moments, you have to insist very hard and try to persuade the players that success will come through our play.
“I still have confidence in my players and my team. Results like tonight show there's work to do.”
Wenger also returned to the theme of Monday's pre-match press conference, when he had angrily lashed out at British journalists over newspaper reports that he was close to agreeing a new contract.
“You (journalists) have two missions - to give opinions and to inform people,” he said.
“When you give wrong information, you cheat people who buy newspapers. You can check (stories) with me, check with the club.
But if you read something in the paper, you expect it to be true.”
At the final whistle, Wenger disappeared down the tunnel without shaking hands with his opposite number, Jupp Heynckes, but the Bayern manager played down the incident.
“I haven't met him (Wenger) yet, but we met before the game and we know each other very well,” he said.
“I've known him for many, many years and we have a very good relationship.”
Heynckes singled out Mandzukic for praise, saying he “fought really hard”, but warned that the tie was far from over.
“You can't afford to underestimate an opponent,” he said.
“On the contrary, we have to approach the second leg as seriously as we did today (Tuesday) so we can reach the quarter-finals.”
Bayern will be without German international Bastian Schweinsteiger for the March 13 second leg, after he picked up a yellow card for a foul on German international team-mate Podolski that means he will incur a suspension.
“Of course, it's a shame to miss the return leg. I didn't want to commit the foul and give away the yellow,” the midfielder told German television channel Sky.
Schweinsteiger also accepted responsibility for the headed goal by Podolski in the 55th minute that gave Arsenal a foothold in the tie.
“I was marking Podolski for the goal, so the blame is on my shoulders,” he said.
“I let him out of sight. It's my fault, but he's a mate of mine, so I guess it's OK. We still need to finish the job.”