Arsenal Wins the Battle but Loses the War. Typical!
Monaco 0 – Arsenal 2 (Giroud 35′, Ramsey 79′)
It’s times like this you wake up in the morning and ask yourself, ‘how the hell do you score two away goals and fail to qualify for the next round of a competition. Reality check – it’s because of a shitty first leg. The record books say that Arsenal has exited the Champions League in the Round of 16 for five consecutive seasons. Do all the departures have something in common? Yes, a pathetic feeling of what might have been. Following Arsenal’s disappointing semifinal exit to Manchester United in the 2008/09 season, the Gunners locked horns with Barcelona in the next campaign and were destroyed by Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp. Messi was the scourge of Arsenal in the following season then there was the case of AC Milan, and of course, Bayern Munich.
Losing to Monaco is very hard to take bearing in mind that they were ‘easier’ opponents than the likes of Barcelona and Bayern. This sentiment has also been shared by Aaron Ramsey,
“We’ve always played teams like Bayern Munich and Barcelona. “No disrespect to Monaco, but I thought we’d have a really good chance of qualifying. We were given a tough test from the first game. It’s not an easy place to come and their record has shown that. We’ve been full of confidence recently and we knew we could come here and give it a real go to maybe qualify, but we came a bit short in the end.
“We’re obviously disappointed that we didn’t qualify. We won 2-0 and gave them a good go. On another night we may have got three or four but it wasn’t to be. We have to learn to keep ourselves in the game in the first leg. That’s what we’ve been punished for again this year. We need to be a lot more wise in the first game then go to places like this and win. That’s the main thing that we need to put right as quickly as possible.”
More talk of how we need to learn. Same sh*t I’ve heard over and over again. Over the course of the two legs, Monaco didn’t really offer much of a threat. Arsenal had this, and Arsenal bottled it. So typical.
The game itself offered its frustrations mixed up with hope that the Gunners could actually do it. The first chance arrived when Hector Bellerin swung in a cross that was headed wide by Olivier Giroud. Many wondered if the spirits of the first leg were back again. The Frenchman has been in hot form in the league but sadly he couldn’t replicate that in the first leg as he was culpable for missing six chances in the first. Laurent Koscielny reacted quickly to a loose ball and was wrongly ruled offside as the replays showed that the ball came off Aymen Abdennour but his effort rattled the cross bar.
Arsenal broke the deadlock through some sheer determination from Giroud. After firing a shot that was blocked by Subasic, the Frenchman attacked the ball again and smashed the roof of the net with two defenders waiting on the line.
Danny Welbeck had a glorious chance to make it two but his lashed volley was blocked magnificently by Abdennour. Giroud was lurking for the follow up but the ball crept out for a corner. Welbeck then fired a dangerous cross that deflected off Giroud but the goalie was on hand to make an easy save. In the second, Arsenal continued to pile the pressure and Mesut Ozil had a free kick that was tipped over by Subasic. Ramsey and Theo Walcott came on to add some fire power but Monaco was very compact and managed to quell any threat Arsenal posed.
Their feathers were ruffled when Ramsey fired in late on but it was a case of holding out the Gunners as the home side employed some time wasting tactics, just like what Bayern did in the 2012/13 season. The final chance of the game arrived when a dead ball was swung in by Santi Cazorla with Alexis Sanchez and Giroud getting in each other’s way but the goal-bound effort was saved by Subasic.
In the end, it was a case of what could have been. What if’s became the order of the day as the fans kept on asking themselves questions that couldn’t be answered. Why didn’t we top our group? Why did we allow ourselves to be in such an untenable position? How can a win feel so painful as the trend has always been for Arsenal in the Champions League.
Despite this disappointment, there’s still a lot to play for this season. The Gunners have a FA Cup to defend and the battle for qualification for the Champions League has intensified with Manchester City dropping more points.
Arsenal won the battle last night, but they lost the war against Monaco.
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