Arsenal Fall Short Yet Again in Champion’s League


Deja Vu?  Not quite, just Arsenal falling one goal short of a record breaking Champions League comeback yet again. This time though it came as a surprise. I am certainly not the only one who was pleased when we were drawn against Monaco in December.  Oh well, here we go again.

Arsenal went to Monaco on Tuesday knowing they needed

a miracle

an outstanding performance to see themselves through to the quarter-finals, needing at least 3 goals against a team which has conceded only 2 in the entire competition this year, neither of which were a home.

Unsurprisingly, Santi Cazorla and Hector Bellerin were slipped back into the starting team, but I was a bit shocked not to see Aaron Ramsey on the sheet.  Danny Welbeck was instead preferred with Cazorla once again in the deeper role.  I hope this was a choice of the manager and not forced by any form, however small it may be, or another injury (even though the Welshman was on the bench).

More from Pain in the Arsenal

The French side actually started the match on the attack.  They had most of the ball in our third and Joao Moutinho saw a curling effort not far off only minutes from the whistle.  This run of play would only last five minutes or so and from then it was nearly all Arsenal.

Around the 15th Arsenal almost opened the scoring with an Olivier Giroud header.  Bellerin sent in a fine cross which connected with the Frenchman, but the shot was sent just wide of the post.

The next ten or fifteen minutes, Monaco looked eerily like an Arsenal side clutching to a 1-0 win at the end of the game.  They were content to let Arsenal keep the ball and sling in cross after cross, which is exactly what they did, until the 36th minute that is.

In the 36th Giroud was played in the on the left flank of the Monaco box and had his shot blocked by the Monaco keeper Danijel Subasic. The rebound went straight up in the air and Giroud found the ball and gathered.  He then had to push his shot high up in the tope corner from a tight angle to get it past two Monaco defenders, which he did beautifully.  It was a class goal. Giroud did very well to find the deflection from the first shot and then find the composure and finish to score the goal.

View image |

Just two minutes later Arsenal almost had their second from Welbeck.  Welbeck had the ball just outside the box and let it fly at goal.  He had the keeper beat with the shot, but Aymen Abdennour, who was on the ground after having dealt with Giroud, blocked the shot with his groin and the ball went out for an Arsenal corner.

In maybe the most important moment of the match (hindsight being 20/20), Alexis was given a yellow card for simulation in the 42nd minute.  The Chilean was taken down in the Monaco box, but the referee, who was rather dreadful as a whole on the day, decided that there was no contact.  After seeing the replay it was a clear penalty and a moment of injustice and “what if.”

Arsenal had two more chances from Giroud and Welbeck right before halftime.  Both chances fell fortunately for Subasic and the halftime score was still only 1-0.

The second half was more of the same as Monaco were still content with neutralizing the Arsenal attack. The next two Arsenal chances came from the feet of Mesut Ozil.  The German very nearly scored from a free kick around the fiftieth minute and sent a volley about a yard wide about fifteen minutes later.

More from Arsenal Match Reports

The time continued to pass and looked as though Arsenal would slump out of the match.  A good bit of fortune saw the Gunners get their second, and deservedly so, in the 79th minute.  A Theo Walcott shot, which struck the right post. bounced back to the Monaco defense.  The center back made a huge mistake and passed the ball directly to Aaron Ramsey.  From about 15 yards out, Ramsey slotted it home on the far post, doubling Arsenal’s lead.  Game on.

Arsenal seemed to have found their second wind. Legs which had previously been lead were now light as a feather and the team did their all to get the elusive third goal.

The five or ten minutes before the end of regulation saw chance after chance squandered for the Gunners.  Alexis and Giroud could decide who should go for the ball on am incoming free kick and their head/foot couldn’t quite get the job done as the ball was quite literally saved by Subasic only inches from crossing the line.

On multiple occasions Arsenal got the ball into dangerous areas of the Monaco box, but it was just too incredibly congested for anything to happen.  Monaco had been playing with 11 men behind the ball for quite some time and with all the Arsenal players getting forward it was absolute chaos.

View image |

In the end the Monaco defense was just too much for Arsenal and the game finished 2-0.  Let’s add this to a distressing list of recent near misses in Europe (none of them past the round of 16…).  Barcelona in 2011, Milan in 2012, Bayern in 2013 and 2014, and now add Monaco 2015 to the list.  All but Bayern last year were shortcomings of just one goal and the 2nd leg last year was hotly contested at that.

“We have played Bayern Munich and Barcelona [in recent years] and no disrespect to Monaco, but we felt we would have a really good chance of qualifying,”-Aaron Ramsey

The team clearly gave it their all though and it was an admirable performance.  You could tell how much effort and emotion the players had put forth after the final whistle.  It was very reminiscent of the 2nd leg against Milan.  The team played very well as a whole and it is hard to pick anyone player out negatively or positively. If I had to single out a few top performers it would probably be Welbeck, Ramsey, Alexis, and Ozil.  The Arsenal attack almost exclusively went through those players and this at least is something encouraging. These are all players which we would benefit greatly from being in form and would be key to our run in in the league.

It does make me wonder why Ramsey did not start.  He didn’t seem to have any sort of injury and was once again excellent.  Also Welbeck was subbed off late on in favor of Theo Walcott.  Walcott did not underwhelm, but taking off a player who had been great all day certainly raised my eyebrows.

"“We had to come back from a massive deficit and we played well in this game, but it wasn’t enough.  We came here and tried to forget everything and when you look at the game, we could have scored more than two goals. After the first leg, it was already over and we tried to come back. We didn’t do enough.”- Per Mertesacker"

In the end the result is all that matters and today it went against us.  I do hope and think that we played well enough that the result will not negatively affect our league form.  There were definitely positives to take away from the game and we have no choice but to see if we continue our form in the  league and FA cup. Until next time, #COYG

For more up-to-date news, follow Pain in the Arsenal on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

Next: Who is Arsenal's Next Captain?