Bayern Munich enjoy the London life and Serge Gnabry in particular enjoys a trip to his old home. Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski got the goals against Chelsea but this was a complete performance from the German champions.
For some visitors to London, it's a plastic model of Big Ben, a teddy bear dressed as a Buckingham Palace guard or a Union Jack t-shirt that’s flung in the suitcase on departure. But when Serge Gnabry leaves England's capital, he takes only goals, wins and defenders' dignity.
After scoring four in the group stage humiliation of Tottenham, Gnabry twice sliced through Chelsea to help Bayern to a richly-deserved 3-0 away win. The Bavarians have one foot in the quarterfinals and a measure of revenge for a certain night in Munich eight years ago.
That same year, Gnabry left Germany for London. Though Arsenal fans must now rue the fact he never quite made it here, they won’t hold too much against him given how he’s slayed two of their city rivals this season.
"I have a lot of friends here in London, perhaps they gave me a bit of power," he said after the game, although he refused to reveal whether he'd be showing his teammates any of his favorite London haunts.
'Our city, our stadium, our trophy'
Before Wednesday's match, Chelsea set off fireworks from the stadium roof as commentary from their win over Bayern in the 2012 final played over the PA. As the teams came out, the home fans unfurled a huge banner mocking Bayern's "Our city, our stadium, our trophy" display from that night, and belted out a chant about the time they "won it at yours."
They could talk the talk, but it was Bayern who walked the walk. By the time Gnabry collected a return pass from Robert Lewandowski and guided his second in three minutes past Willy Caballero early in the second half, it was the traveling fans who were making all the noise, adopting "Football’s Coming Home" and another song in English that was far from complimentary about their hosts.
While Chelsea's limitations were laid bare, this was an exceptional away performance by the Bundesliga champions, with Gnabry the cutting edge of a machine that Hansi Flick was smart enough to re-oil rather than attempt to rebuild.
As if stung by the reminders of that traumatic night all those years ago, Thomas Müller, one of three Bayern survivors from that game, ran the show before the interval in London's west end.
He set the Bayern band a furious early pace, dealing largely in first time passes – flicks, cushions, layoffs and through balls – the last of which, perfectly weighted, sent Kingsley Coman haring through in the 11th minute. The Frenchman screwed his shot wide.
Next it was Lewandowski who was teed up, only to be denied by Caballero. Then Müller took center stage, slipping a ball out wide before flicking an innovative backwards header onto the bar.
The killer blow
Though the opponent was softened up, Bayern had to wait for their kill. Almost from nowhere, the men in red shirts sprang back to life in the 51st minute. Gnabry, quiet until that point, exchanged passes with Lewandowski down the left before crashing home from close range. It was more than a warning but still the Premier League side failed to heed it.
The trick was repeated moments later for the second, with Gnabry making a difficult finish look easy before Alphonso Davies, again outstanding, rocketed down the left and pulled back for Lewandowski to extract his pound of flesh. Just as he did at Spurs. And in Freiburg. And on several other occasions.
"The lad is blessed with a rapid sprint, the sort we've not had at Bayern for a long time," Müller said of Davies, who was rightfully singled out by the traveling support at full-time. "He's learnt a lot tactically since he's been here, too. It was a world-class performance."
Though the two goalscorers and Müller will hog the headlines, this was a near-flawless team performance from the Bavarians. The front three combined sensationally, David Alaba and Davies already look like seasoned veterans in positions they'd rarely played until this season, and Thiago and Joshua Kimmich won a physical battle in midfield.
"Those who have watched us climb back to the top of the Bundesliga recently know that you can never write us off," said Müller, looking ahead. "We feel good, but we know we have the necessary humility to keep working hard. We’re not perfect."
They weren't far from it on Wednesday. Bayern's dominance meant Flick had the luxury of removing Gnabry late on. He won’t get another match ball to pack in that suitcase, but if his team can produce a few more displays like this, he might be carrying a trophy or two before too long.