The familiar phrase of “glorious failure” rang round the minds of Arsenal fans on Tuesday night as a spirited performance saw the Gunners knocked out of the Champions League on away goals (ever heard that before?).
Arsene Wenger knew that his side had a mountain of a task ahead of them on Tuesday, and so decided to put out an attacking line up with what turned into a 4-4-2 midway through the first half. Giroud’s hold up play coupled with Welbeck’s threatening runs caused trouble for Monaco, and Arsenal got the breakthrough in the 35th minute when Welbeck played in Giroud, whose initial effort was saved by the keeper but as the ball bounced back, the French striker hammered it into the roof of the net with his right foot.
The goal injected confidence into Arsenal’s game, and they continued to press with Danny Welbeck almost making it two nil two minutes later, but was denied by a fortunate (to say the least) block from Abdennour. As the commentary box put it, Arsenal were so far on the front foot that they “wouldn’t want this half to end”.
The team in blue continued to look aggressive in the second half, with Özil testing the keeper with a free kick heading for the top corner. Monaco had a brief spell of possession subsequent to this.
Arsenal responded dangerously by sending on Aaron Ramsey for Francis Coquelin, a move that seemed to have worked as Ramsey influenced more energy in Arsenal’s attacks. Walcott then came on for Welbeck as the tie became end-to-end.
In the 79th minute, Özil found Monreal whose cross came to Walcott who hit the post, until Ramsey fired the rebound in.
Gibbs came on for the left back for pace but Arsenal couldn’t find the winner. Giroud and Alexis came close after a free kick in the 84th minute but it was Monaco who progress to the next round of the Champions League.
Davis Ospina: 7 – made some good kicks but in a game where we had 71% possession, he wasn’t involved as much.
Hector Bellerin: 7 – good runs forward, made up for defensive errors but improving by the minute.
Per Mertesacker: 8 – 97% pass completion, did everything necessary on the rare occasions he came forward.
Laurent Koscielny: 8.5 – covered well, 96% pass completion and did well in the box.
Nacho Monreal: 7.5 – apt defensively and involved in the goal.
Francis Coquelin: 8 – played very well, provided cover for the defence and was only taken off for goals.
Santi Cazorla: 7.5 – lost the ball unnecessarily a few times but made incisive passes and whipped in some good free kicks.
Mesut Özil: 7.5 – tough first half but thoroughly involved in many attacks. Good ball retention too.
Danny Welbeck: 7.5 – good but not great. Played as a second striker for most of his game and unlucky not to score.
Alexis Sanchez: 6 – not his best game, fouled all night but fatigue could be catching up with him.
Olivier Giroud: 7.5 – missed a few half chances but grabbed a goal neatly. Should have scored late on.