TIME TO SCRAP AWAY GOAL RULE
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.
Monaco 0 Arsenal 2 player ratings
Monaco 0 Arsenal 2 player ratings
1/24 MONACO Danijel Subasic
Looked suspect as Arsenal started to pepper his goal. Giroud made sure he got in the keeper’s face a number of times to distract him. Did enough in the end. 7/10
A quite poor display from the Brazilian. He struggled to contain Welbeck in the first half and Walcott in the second. 6
He was left to deal with Ozil and he did that job with relative ease. 6
4/24 Aymen Abdennour
An assured performance up against Giroud. Strong and positioned himself well 7
5/24 Layvin Kurzawa
Similar to the first leg, he never stopped charging forward. He was quick enough to track back and defend too. Didn’t close down Ramsey for Arsenal’s second goal. 6
6/24 Nabil Dirar
On the counter-attack he was very dangerous for Monaco but should have taken advantages of his chances better than he did. 6
7/24 Jeremy Toulalan
Back from injury and Monaco’s captain organised his midfield well. He won the majority of his battles with Cazorla. 7
8/24 Geoffrey Kondogbia
He was strong and intelligent but after he was booked early in the second half he lacked intensity. 6
9/24 Anthony Martial
Subbed after 58 minutes and didn’t play anywhere near as good as he did in the first leg. 5
10/24 Joao Moutinho
The creative midfielder showed again why Tottenham should have taken a chance when they were interested. 7
11/24 Dimitar Berbatov
Held the ball up well and tried to get a shot off whenever possible. Replaced by Silva on 68 minutes. 6
12/24 From the bench: Yannick Ferreira Carrasco
Showed a lot of energy when he came on. 7
13/24 ARSENAL: David Ospina
Colombian had precious little to do as the vast majority of the match took place in Monaco’s half. His poor display in first leg ultimately proved costly. 6/10
14/24 Hector Bellerin
Spaniard has impressed in recent weeks and put in a steady performance. Accomplished in defence and got forward to provide crosses from flank. 8
15/24 Per Mertesacker
Has not enjoyed his best season but marshalled backline well - not that that kept him overly busy. Slow to push up as Driar was harshly given offside. 6
16/24 Laurent Koscielny
Volleyed against bar when called offside and offered imposing threat at set-pieces. Made vital last ditch challenge on Ferreira-Carrasco. 7
17/24 Nacho Monreal
Offers more defensively than Gibbs and did not lack for effort as Monaco reorganised. His cross ultimately led to Ramsey’s goal but he tired near the end. 7
18/24 Francis Coquelin
Fortunate to escape booking after sliding in on Moutinho. Broke up attacks with ease to initiate Arsenal attacks. Sacrificed for Ramsey. 7
19/24 Santi Cazorla
Volleyed effort blocked by Wallace but unable to greatly influence from deeper role. Rarely ceded possession and but to no overall result. 6
20/24 Alexis Sanchez
Has shown signs of returning to form and shone in touches. Harshly booked for going to ground in area. Spent a lot of time on the ground. 6
21/24 Mesut Ozil
Did not impress with final ball and swapped shirts at half-time. Freshly attired, forced Subasic to tip free-kick over bar. Shot wide when well placed. 7
22/24 Danny Welbeck
Struggled with touch early on but fine ball for opener. Almost added an instant second and forraged to good effect. Replaced by Walcott. 7
23/24 Olivier Giroud
Strong challenge on Abdennour. Headed over bar and struggled with decision making before thrashing rebound for first. Missed late chances. 7
24/24 From the bench: Aaron Ramsey
Came on for Coquelin halfway through second half as Arsenal chased their second - something the Welshman duly provided within 15 minutes. 7
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.
RAMSEY'S ENCOURAGING SIGNS
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.
WIDE OF THE MARK TACTICALLY
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.
FRUSTRATION AND OLD FAILINGS
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.
MONACO NO WORLD-BEATERS
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.
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