Had Daniel Levy given Andre Villas-Boas the striker and midfielder he needed last summer, then Spurs would surely have finished above Arsenal. This was a predictable collapse...
The events of the past week have set up an exciting summer in the Premier League, but first, will Spurs leave it late on the final day? And Benitez deserves lots of credit...
It may seem a hoary stereotype, but there is no better word to describe Bayern's performance against Arsenal on Tuesday than 'efficient'. They targeted the Gunners' weaknesses - particularly the left side where Thomas Vermaelen looked vulnerable - were clinical with their chances and rarely look ruffled despite the hosts' fightback at the start of the second half.
"Arsenal allowed us a few things in their defence but we are in astonishing form and can punish even the smallest mistakes of the opponent," said a beaming Jupp Heynckes after a routine victory.
The worry and the woe for Arsenal is that it was clear Bayern had one or two extra gears they can use if required while the Gunners, sadly, remain in reverse. "See you tomorrow," was Arsene Wenger's defiant farewell from his tense press conference ahead of the game, and see him we did, as his team were thoroughly outclassed by a far superior opponent.
To Bayern's credit, it was a rare night of predictability in the Champions League knock-out stage, with the Bundesliga leaders striding to success in the manner one would expect. Although Borussia Dortmund have been the darlings of this year's competition, there is a reason why Bayern have a 15-point lead at the top of the table in Germany, have lost only twice all season, conceded just once away from home in the Bundesliga and last failed to score in a competitive match in April 2012.
This is a well-oiled, sophisticated machine, with each player having an acute understanding of his role and buoyed by the disappointment of the last two years. Bayern were clearly aware of their superiority on Tuesday, and approached the match with the patronising authority Manchester United often show against Arsenal, by sitting back, soaking up pressure and then destroying them on the break. Indeed, there were many similarities with United's 3-1 victory at the Emirates in 2009, when two early goals also did the damage.
While Bayern are second only to Barcelona in possession and pass completion stats in Europe's top five leagues this season, they fired a warning shot to their Champions League rivals by showing they can adapt when required. Arsenal were allowed to enjoy sterile domination as Bayern enjoyed the victory, despite recording their lowest amount of possession in any game this year (42%) and a pass completion rate of just 79% - significantly below their average.
With first-choice centre-back Jerome Boateng, who was suspended for the first leg, set to return to strengthen the defence, it's unlikely Arsenal will even manage a goal at the Allianz Arena on March 13, let alone the three that are needed to progress. Meanwhile Bayern should be considered among the favourites for the competition and an opponent everyone will want to avoid in the draw for the quarter-finals.
This was not a repeat of Chelsea's success against Barcelona last season (the like of which I doubt we'll ever see again) where luck had a significant part to play as the Blues progressed to the final. While Milan were similarly organised, resilient and hardworking - with Stephan El Shaarawy performing the standard forward-cum-left-back role against Barca - they have also learned from their own experience of facing the Catalan club in last year's knock-out stage and created the better chances on an eventful evening.
Alan Parry's claim that the result marked a "famous famous night for Italian football" was more than a little far-fetched - it was AC Milan after all, not some pub team from Bologna - but the Rossoneri's victory certainly came as a surprise following their struggles this season and the pressure on coach Massimiliano Allegri.
After qualifying from Group C behind Malaga with a measly total of eight points, Milan could not have drawn a more unwanted opponent in the second round. However, they succeeded where Arsenal failed in the first leg, by approaching the tie with the requisite caution and acceptance of their underdog status.
Allegri has faced relentless criticism and uncertainty over his future over the past six months but after improving the team's form in Serie A, the coach's superb preparation for Wednesday - which was acknowledged by Sulley Muntari after the game - laid the foundations for a result that gives Milan hope of reaching the quarter-finals.
By convincing players such as the exciting El Shaarawy to forego their natural instincts in order to 'do a job' in midfield, Allegri oversaw the sacrifice that was necessary to achieve such a performance. It wasn't luck that we saw at the San Siro on Wednesday, but the product of meticulous planning against a superior adversary.
That Barcelona were restricted to just two attempts inside the penalty area - and only one on target all night - reveals the extent to which Milan defended the final third and pressed their opponents into shooting from long range. As Barcelona struggled to penetrate the Milan defence, the hosts grew more and more confident on the break, with Muntari's sweet strike for the second goal just rewards for their efforts.
The second leg on March 12 presents another formidable challenge for Milan and they must be careful not to sit back and invite pressure as they did in their 3-1 defeat at Camp Nou last season. They are more than capable of scoring again, and a single goal could be enough to see them progress.
The striker rejoined Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the goalscoring chart with his seventh strike in this year's competition. Yilmaz has now scored seven of Galatasaray's eight goals in the Champions League as well as notching a phenomenal total of 60 strikes in his last 70 games. Remind me again why they need Didier Drogba?
There is little flair about Müller as he diligently performs his duties on the right of Bayern's attack, but the forward's goal and assist against Arsenal ensured he has now contributed to 29 goals in 30 appearances this season.
Heynckes' decision to retire at the end of the season prompted Bayern's move for Pep Guardiola, but there are now rumours linking the 67-year-old coach with a deal to take over at Schalke in the summer. If he is looking for a new role, Bayern's success this season will surely do his chances - and appetite to continue - no harm.
A narrow victory that should have been more against a lacklustre Malaga team. Still, Porto and AC Milan were the only teams to gain an advantage playing at home in the first leg, and with Jackson Martinez, who has scored 23 goals in 26 games since his £7.5million in the summer, Porto are certainly capable of grabbing a vital away goal.
A terrible run of just two wins in their last 13 Bundesliga matches has left Schalke in a difficult position to qualify for next year's competition, so they'll want to make the most of the current campaign.
They deserved their 1-1 draw against Galatasaray, but will regret not grabbing a second away goal in the second half as the hosts struggled to find their rhythm. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has scored only five goals since he fired the opener in Schalke's 2-0 victory over Arsenal on October 24 and the striker managed only a single shot on Tuesday as just two of the German club's 15 attempts hit the target.
We're unlikely to see Schalke repeat their achievement of 2010/11 when they reached the semi-finals only to be spanked by Manchester United, and even if they do sneak past Galatasaray they are bound to struggle against stronger opposition in the quarters.
Can we count Milan's success as Pompey's first win in 22 matches?
Malaga will perhaps consider themselves fortunate to lose 1-0 after allowing Porto 18 attempts at goal and having only two shots of their own. The surprise package of the tournament will need to be vastly improved in the second leg if they are to stand any chance of progression.
Considering the money Galatasaray spent to bring in Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba in January, they will be hugely disappointed after wasting home advantage against Schalke.
'Welcome to Hell' proclaim the banners at the Turk Telekom Arena, but Schalke were unperturbed by a rather meek Gala side that gifted their opponents an equaliser and presented several more chances throughout the game.
The triumvirate of Sneijder, Drogba and Yilmaz are certainly capable of hauling the Turkish champions into the quarter-finals against a Schalke side currently struggling with their own problems. But unless the trio perform, along with Felipe Melo in midfield, it's unlikely Gala will pose much of a threat in the second leg on March 12.
We're beginning to see why Cazorla was never snapped up by the big two in Spain despite winning the Don Balón Award in 2007. The 28-year-old is just too inconsistent, both over the course of the season and in individual matches as he often flits in and out of games. There is no doubt Cazorla is an excellent player, but can he make the difference between Arsenal battling to stay in the top four and challenging the top two? Of course not. We have already seen that. Why am I even asking that question?
What's clear now is that the Gunners should have agreed to Juan Mata's demands in 2011 before allowing Chelsea to sneak in and snap up the playmaker for £23million. Not only is Mata four years Cazorla's junior - having that precious re-sale value so important to Arsenal - but he is also a better player and more capable of helping the club escape mediocrity.
It was another difficult night for Vermaelen, with Bayern clearly targeting the defender as he deputised at left-back. Fourteen of the visitors' 18 crosses in open play came from Vermaelen's flank, including the deliveries for the first and third goals.
We may expect Barcelona to win every game, but their defeat to Milan revealed the startling stat that they have won only three of their last 14 knock-out matches away from home.
After being out-fought and out-thought at the San Siro, it's clear that Tito Vilanova's unfortunate absence through illness has left Barcelona somewhat rudderless. They have now conceded in their last ten games - the longest run since 1998/99 - and Tuesday's display saw them in 'near-perfect away performance' territory with an insipid 90 minutes.
The team lacked tempo in the final third, with Lionel Messi unusually subdued, and stand-in manager Jordi Roura struggled to gain a response from the players after Kevin-Prince Boateng gave Milan the lead shortly after half-time. It was a difficult evening for Barca at a difficult stage of their season, and with two forthcoming matches against Real Madrid, they won't be afforded the luxury of resting players ahead of the second leg on March 12.
Arsenal and Arsene Wenger
The defeat to Bayern is hugely disappointing, but the biggest concern is Arsene Wenger's approach to the game. After Arsenal's 4-0 defeat to AC Milan at this stage last season, Wenger said the result was his 'worst night in Europe'. Tuesday's loss should surpass that mortification, given the predictable nature in which Bayern marched to victory.
While we have seen other teams convincingly adapt to different challenges in the second round, Wenger still refuses to accept that there are simply opponents Arsenal cannot outplay. Manchester United were forced to adopt a cautious counter-attacking system away to Real Madrid (which Jose Mourinho had the temerity to criticise) and AC Milan acknowledged that they would barely see Barcelona's half on Wednesday night. Both teams came away with vital results, while Arsenal are again left with nothing.
"It is vital to keep a clean sheet," said Wenger ahead of the match, as he suggested Chelsea's achievement last season could provide an inspiration for the Gunners. But the manager clearly wasn't inspired by the Blues' success and nor did he learn the lesson from Saturday's FA Cup defeat to Blackburn that there are times when an underdog mentality is required to gain victory, however frustrating that may be and however much it goes against your principles.
In 'Lonely At The Top', Philippe Auclair's biography of Thierry Henry, the author refers to Wenger's irritation at the way in which 'victory' was achieved against United in the 2005 FA Cup final, Arsenal's last trophy. After recognising United's superiority, the manager accepted that if his team were to win, they would not be able to express themselves in the usual manner. They would have to dig deep and show the imperative mental strength. But not only that, Wenger also had to instruct his players to sacrifice the open, flowing football on which previous achievements had been gained.
According to Auclair: 'It is inconceivable that any Arsenal side of the previous nine years would have adopted the negative tactics that earned them - just - a 'victory' of sorts over Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup final, and which Wenger promised himself never to adopt again. Patrick Vieira's successful strike in the penalty shoot-out, his last ever touch for the club he had served close to nine years, added a trophy to Arsenal's honours list but gave little joy to his manager. It had been a confession of weakness.'
It's clear that Wenger has remained committed to his promise, but whether he confesses to Arsenal's weakness or not, it still remains, with the Gunners earning just a single point in five games against the top three this season.
"It is always difficult to take a distance with the recent emotional fact, but the most important aspect is that we have a way to play which everyone in the team knows," said Wenger before the Bayern tie.
"We must play with a positive mentality, it is important you believe you have a good chance and quality enough to win."
Arsenal may have had the quality to beat Bayern on the break, in the same way Milan defeated Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen left the Allianz Arena with three points earlier in the season, but attempting to take the initiative against a vastly superior opponent was a fool's errand. There are different ways and means of showing 'quality' and on Tuesday Wenger chose the wrong approach in his poor preparation of the team.
And where does the defeat leave the team? "The psychological aspect, especially with what happened on Saturday, is more important than nothing else," Wenger also said in his pre-match press conference. However, the manager's genuine but misguided belief that the players were capable of beating Bayern by playing their usual game only set them up for a hard fall.
Similar to the effect of Wenger's claim that Arsenal could win the Premier League this season, the players will feel as though they are underachieving, causing a vicious cycle that obviously impacted on the domestic cup defeats to both Bradford and Blackburn.
Wenger has defined entirely the wrong goals for this Arsenal team, demonstrated by his refusal to change his approach on Tuesday. And considering this evident concern, it's little wonder the Gunners' season has already ended in frustration.
Matthew Stanger - he's on the Twitter.
Maybe. But what bit did I get wrong. Did Chelsea and Arsenal enter a big bidding war where wages were consistently upped to the point that you were priced out of it by the big Chelsea brute? Or did Arsenal leave the bidding way before it reached your financial limits? It's not a criticism btw, Arsenal set their own value on the player and Chelsea set theirs. My issue is the excuses about how you simply lost out to the russian billionaire....again.- dryice