When Arsenal drew Bayern Munich yet again the Champions League draw for the knockout stages, Arsene Wenger heralded it as a chance to "change history." Instead, his team proved yet again that they only know how to repeat it.
The 5-1 loss in Munich on Wednesday night felt all too familiar to Gunners fans who have watched Wenger's side self-destruct in six consecutive round-of-16 ties before this season. Barring a miracle at the Emirates, this will be the seventh season in a row that Arsenal fail to reach the quarterfinals. And, except for 2011, their knockout ties have all basically been over after the first leg.
One of the most frequent accusations hurled at Wenger and his players is that they never learn from previous mistakes, and Wednesday's drubbing was the latest case in point. In fact, when it comes to Arsenal's performances in Europe, they only seem to be getting worse.
2011: LOST TO BARCELONA, 4-3 ON AGGREGATE
Arsenal stunned Barcelona 2-1 at home in the first leg as Andrey Arshavin's late winner completed a stirring comeback at the Emirates. But with the scores 1-1 at the Camp Nou, Robin van Persie was harshly sent off after a second yellow card for kicking the ball away and things quickly unravelled for the Gunners as Barcelona netted two quick goals to seize control of the tie. Still, this was an honourable defeat that turned on a questionable refereeing decision, and seemed to suggest that Wenger's young team was getting closer to Europe's best.
2012: LOST TO AC MILAN, 4-3 ON AGGREGATE
Arsenal fell to their heaviest European defeat by losing 4-0 in the first leg at the San Siro on a night when they were torn apart by the Italian giants. It was the first real embarrassment for Wenger's side in Europe, but was somewhat mitigated by the fact they nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback in the return leg. Arsenal were 3-0 up at half-time at the Emirates but couldn't complete an unlikely miracle. Those types of meaningless second-leg victories would soon become all too familiar to the Gunners.
2013: LOST TO BAYERN MUNICH, ON AWAY GOALS 3-3 ON AGGREGATE
Arsenal all but surrendered this tie in the opening 20 minutes as they quickly went 2-0 down at the Emirates, and when Mario Mandzukic made it 3-1 in the 76th it was basically over for Wenger's men. Another near-comeback followed with an impressive 2-0 victory in Munich that allowed them to exit with their heads held relatively high, but ultimately they came up just short again.
2014: LOST TO BAYERN MUNICH, 3-1 ON AGGREGATE
At this stage, the storyline was becoming eerily familiar as Arsenal dug themselves too big a hole to climb out of in the first leg. This time it was the sending off of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny that decided the tie as Bayern strolled to a comfortable 2-0 win at the Emirates, with Mesut Ozil having missed an early penalty that could have put the Gunners in control. They never even came close to a comeback, settling for a 1-1 draw in Munich after Bastian Schweinsteiger had put the result beyond doubt by putting Bayern ahead in the second half.
2015: LOST TO MONACO, ON AWAY GOALS 3-3 ON AGGREGATE
This was perhaps the most disappointing of Arsenal's recent exits as they finally drew a side they were favourites against but self-destructed at the Emirates and lost 3-1. The third goal came in the final minutes after Arsenal had just pulled a goal back and surged forward in search of an equaliser only to expose themselves completely on the counterattack, a naïve decision that proved decisive. Another near-comeback followed, but a 2-0 victory at Monaco only served as a reminder of the opportunity missed.
2016: LOST TO BARCELONA, 5-1 ON AGGREGATE
No one gave Arsenal much of a chance in this one, and the 2-0 loss in the first leg seemed more inevitable than disappointing. It made the return match at the Camp Nou a mere formality, and even a 3-1 loss (with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez on the scoresheet) seemed far from embarrassing that time.
2017: LOST TO BAYERN, FIRST LEG ENDED 5-1
Things were supposed to be different. A more mature and experienced Arsenal side would surely go to Munich and give themselves a real chance to knock out the Germans on home soil in the second leg. Instead, after going into the break at 1-1, Arsenal's second-half capitulation only reinforced the idea that they can't shake off their mental jitters on Europe's big stage and that Wenger has taken this team as far as he can.
Short of an inconceivable miracle at the Emirates next month, this may have been the Frenchman's last chance to get things right in the Champions League. Sadly, though, history only seems to be repeating itself.