Wenger acknowledges Bayern class

Dejected Arsenal players return to the centre circle following a Bayern goal

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepted his team had been handed a European masterclass by Bayern Munich after a 3-1 home defeat left the Gunners' Champions League hopes in tatters for another season.

Wenger had hit out at critics of him and his side following their FA Cup exit at home to Blackburn, but there was to be no redemption as the Germans were superior in every department.

An early strike from midfielder Toni Kroos handed the Bundesliga leaders a crucial away goal, which was doubled when Thomas Muller stabbed home from close range.

Arsenal, with England forward Theo Walcott initially deployed as central striker, rallied briefly in the second half after they reduced the arrears with a header from Lukas Podolski against his former club.

However, after substitute Olivier Giroud fired a great chance straight at Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer from point-blank range, the Germans cut through the home side again on 77 minutes as Mario Mandzukic scrambled in a third to effectively end the contest, and almost certainly Arsenal's last faint hope of ending an eight-season trophy drought.

"You have to give them credit for their class. In patches in the first half, it was a difference of quality in their display to ours," Wenger said.

"Bayern were fully confident and we paid for it.

"At 2-0 it became very difficult, but we put in a good battle in the second half. It looked like we might come back to 2-2, but unfortunately conceded another goal, which was a big blow.

"From that moment on, you could see we might concede one more because we didn't keep our structure."

Wenger accepted it would be an almost impossible task to overall such a deficit.

"We will have two battles, but maybe the easier battle will be to be back in the Champions League" - Arsene Wenger

"Let's not hide the truth: it will be extremely difficult against a team of that quality, they didn't play two finals in the last three years for nothing," he said.

"We have to give our best and hope we have built our confidence up a bit more, because that belief will be needed."

Wenger added: "The quality of my players is there, but they are not getting reward for their efforts.

"I still have confidence in my players and in my team, but, on tonight's evidence, there is clearly work to be done."

Wenger must now lift his beleaguered players for the Barclays Premier League run-in, where they face crucial games against Tottenham and Everton in their bid to salvage something from the campaign with a top-four finish to again play among Europe's elite clubs next season.

The Arsenal manager said: "We will have two battles, but maybe the easier battle will be to be back in the Champions League.

"But we have to give everything to try and change things in the second leg."

Wenger re-iterated his disappointment at yesterday's headlines which claimed the club had already opened talks over a new contract, despite all of the current on-field problems.

"For me you [the media] have two missions: to give your opinion and to inform people. When you give wrong information without checking with us, I am angry because I feel that is disrespectful. When you give your opinion, I will always accept it," he said.

"If I read some information in your newspaper, I expect it to be true. When you give wrong information, you cheat the guy who buys your newspaper, that is why I was angry."

Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes, meanwhile, hailed the "astonishing" form of his side following another imperious display.

He said: "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.

"At times it was quite difficult for us, we had to work hard, but even when they were putting pressure on us, we coped well."

Heynckes' side finished as runners-up to Chelsea last season, and despite their advantage in this tie, he is not taking anything for granted.

"You cannot afford to underestimate an opponent because in football, we have seen everything," he said.

"But in this season it is very difficult against us, you can see that with our position in the league, conceding just seven gaols, that is amazing.

"We are also in a position to score, so we have a good chance to progress.

"But if we were to progress Arsenal can still have options in the Premier League to make the Champions League, the team has potential and class."