Monaco 0 Arsenal 2: Five things we learnt as the Gunners crashed out of the Champions League

Where did it all go wrong for Arsenal?

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This was yet another tie distorted by the anachronistic away-goals rule. If, as should be the case, each goal counted equally then a 2-0 win would have been enough for Arsenal to take the tie to extra-time. That, surely, ought to be how football works in 2015.

The away-goals rule was appropriate for the early days of European competition, when away ties were more exotic, pitches were variable and referees not entirely reliable. In the modern homogenised European game, none of that is the case.

There was little about this game that was alien to Arsenal, just as Monaco could comfortably play their own game at the Emirates. Had that rule been removed, this would have been a tenser, but fairer night.


As impressive as this was in spells, Arsenal did look like a team in need of their best goal-scoring midfielder. Aaron Ramsey has shown signs in the last weeks of returning to his best form of the first half of last season, having recovered from his third hamstring injury of an infuriating season.

Ramsey was close to starting tonight, but Arsène Wenger decided otherwise, and, while Arsenal’s tempo was good they did look, at times, as if they could do with someone with the penalty-box instincts of Ramsey. Now that he is back, he will be important as they push on in the FA Cup and Premier League.


It was clear from early on how Monaco wanted to defend: in a deep and narrow block, not far from their own penalty area. The onus, then, was on Arsenal to use the space in the wide areas as far possible to get round them.

With Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck through the middle, Arsenal had powerful aerial options, yet they did not get the ball out wide as much as they might have done, with Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs on the bench for too long, and too many players – Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla – trying to pick their way through the middle.

With a tweaked approach they might have scored their goals earlier.

Wenger's team left it too late to score their goals


This almost felt like the likeliest outcome, given Arsenal’s record in recent years of stirring but ultimately futile second leg wins. Two years ago, of course, they lost 3-1 at home to Bayern Munich before winning 2-0 in the Allianz Arena and going out. That Bayern side went on to win the treble that year and Monaco, frankly, are unlikely to do that.

The frustration for Arsenal, as in so many aspects, is that there is not as much concrete progress as they would like given their financial resources in recent years. Arsenal nearly reached the quarter-finals, but they did not. This was their best chance in a few years and they could not take it, merely replicating old failings.


Just as Arsenal panicked and fluffed their lines in the first leg, so did Monaco do the same last night. They defended too deep, could not build anything and with only Joao Moutinho and Dimitar Berbatov up front – neither of them exactly Diego Costa – the ball never stuck up front.

Arsenal, with a few luckier bounces, could have scored the third goal and gone through. Which goes to show the importance of psychology in these games – once Monaco started to panic they could not stop – but, alas, also the depth of the failure in the first leg. Arsenal did not only drop the ball, but they did so against a team whose modesty was revealed last night. They are unlikely to be in Berlin come June.