Yes, we played well in Monaco.
Yes, we could have scored at least one more goal.
Yes, we showed character and desire.
Yes, we gave the qualification away in the home leg.
Yes, we fell short.
The win in Monaco is very difficult to take, especially when you see the authority, command and maturity showed by the Gunners at the Louis II stadium; it’s impossible to believe that the performance we witnessed last night was from the same team that served us up such a horror show three weeks ago at the Emirates.
How in Earth could players like Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla – among others – put in such a childish performance?
How wasn’t the manager able to correct it during the game?
I don’t know, no one knows and I don’t even want to launch the umpteenth debate about players & manager in-game management.
What left me fuming last night was the way we pushed for a third, decisive goal after Aaron Ramsey’s low drive to the far corner.
It was minute 79 if I’m not mistaken, we had 11 minutes plus injury time to find another goal and fulfill the miracle of Monaco; anyone who played football knows how long sixteen minutes as it turned out to be are on a pitch but our players started to throw long balls towards the penalty box and hope for something to happen.
We were facing arguably the best defensive line in Europe, a unit that had conceded only THREE goals from set-pieces or crosses in all competitions this season, of which two came on round two of Ligue 1 back in September, and we fed them with long ball after long ball!!!
At that time we had Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil on the pitch, did we really expect any of them to win headers in the box?
I had a quick look at goals conceded by Monaco this season and the majority of them came from a low ball squared backwards in the box straight after an overlap from a full-back or a winger’s burst: how hasn’t anyone spotted this trend? We had speed, skills and intelligence in abundance on the pitch but instead we went for long balls.
Hector Bellerín, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil were all kicking the ball towards the box – not even trying to aim for one of our players.
I understand it is very difficult to keep your cool when you are running out of time and you are desperate for a goal, however I expected better from our players; our best chances came when we combined around the box, passing the ball swiftly in search for the good opening – why have we changed it?
Olivier Giroud goal came from a nice combination between Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck and the Frenchman – surely not from a long ball; the second came from a ball squared backwards by Nacho Monreal – SURPRISE! – collected by Aaron Ramsey after Theo Walcott’s first attempt.
But we decided to go long, instead…
Before you say it, I know we almost scored from a set-piece but that one chance wasn’t worth squandering those precious minutes in-between Alexis Sanchez header, to me.
Instead of sticking to a strategy that seemed to work, we crumbled under pressure and decided to play Sunday league football during the most important minutes of our European campaign.
Dare I say it is this tactic not the one that LVG employed against us at Old Trafford only 8 days previously? A tactic that we as Arsenal fans universally mocked him for?
No, we didn’t try our best in Monaco.
We were supposed to go to Monte Carlo and create our own miracle, not hope for one to happen like we did during those final minutes.