It was a very familiar resignation for many Arsenal fans after Wednesday nights abysmal display as Arsene Wenger’s men once again flattered to deceive in a first leg last 16 Champions League clash, to say it was a low key performance would be a vast understatement as ex Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov all bust sealed Arsenal’s fate at the Emirates.
Everything was wrong with the performance and as many have echoed “you do wonder if most of the squad know what it is to wear the shirt, or what is required to play for Arsenal”. Wenger has stated that it had the feel of it being “one of those nights” he said similar things last season when sitting at the top of the league, in some quarters his side were viewed as possible title contenders however massive defeats at Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City soon brought that to an abrupt conclusion.
As per usual there are your occasional scapegoats after such a pathetic performance and pathetic was precisely what it was, it was not a case of systems as Wenger continued to play a 4-3-3 system which has been working well in recent weeks and along with Liverpool the gunners were top of the Premier league form guide. There was no intensity in the performance from the first to last whistle, there did seem to be much of a game plan. Taking nothing away from Leonardo Jardim’s side, Monaco did not have to work very hard at all for their 3-1 victory. The first goal started off the nightmare evening, Geoffrey Kondogbia was allowed the freedom of the emirates before unleashing a powerful long range effort which took a deflection off the helpless Per Mertesacker and Ospina had no answer. It was something the visitors deserved. Many on social media were blaming Ospina for not dealing with Kondogbia’s strike but when a keeper has set himself it is difficult for him to adjust after such a big deflection, the lack of pressure on the ball is the bigger problem and something we have seen plenty of this season.
Half time analysis from Thierry Henry was 100% accurate, the lack of support for Giroud was a telling factor, with Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck dropping too deep and central the lack of width was evident which saw the Monaco back four dealing with most Arsenal attacks with ease.
The poor performance continued into the second half, Kondogbia was once more the architect and light years ahead of anyone else on the pitch. Unbelievably Mertesacker got involved in Monaco’s half as he and three other players tried to close the french midfielder down. Monaco broke swiftly and before you knew it, it was 2 against 1 on Laurent Koscielny who was powerless and Dimitar Berbatov stunned the Emirates making it 2-0.
Changes were needed and with Theo Walcott introduced closely followed by Alex Oxlade Chamberlain Arsenal tried to rescue this almost embarrassing situation, Oxlade Chamberlain pulled one back with a great strike from just outside the Monaco 18 yard area as they approached stoppage time. The fightback was short lived, not for the first time Arsenal were caught up field allowing Yannick Ferreira Carrasco to race clear and beat Ospina who had very little protection all evening.
It was a performance that was difficult to take for Arsenal fans who had been convincing this was the time that they would finally get out of the last 16 of the Champions league, Arsenal have not progressed from the last 16 since 2010 with losses to Barcelona in 2011, AC Milan in 2012 followed by defeats to Bayern Munich in 2013 and 2014, there was a bit of arrogance surrounding Arsenal’s chances which appeared in the team’s performance.
Once again it will be a case of having to play a second leg last 16 match on the back foot and with a point to prove. Following the 3-1 defeat, 3 goals without a reply is needed however it would not be a surprise to see Monaco score at home which would leave Arsenal needing 4.
As with most disappointments at the Emirates this seems to be accompanied with some Mesut Ozil bashing, I have been an advocate of Ozil in recent months and he has performed well since returning from injury however his performance left a lot to be desired on Wednesday night. Truth be told he was not the only one. It was a catastrophic performance all over the pitch, the back four were exposed, Coquelin had no help from Santi Cazorla who was meant to be playing deep alongside the young Frenchman. Sanchez and Welbeck huffed and puffed without really contributing anything and Giroud missed so many sitters I lost count, that does not make him a bad Centre Forward though and the stick he received afterwards was nothing short of cowardly. It was a vast contrast towards Giroud who was lauded the previous Saturday when he scored his 50th goal for Arsenal in the 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.
Some people have decided to be critical over the players but many have once more failed to mention Arsene Wenger in all of this, yes it is true that he has changed his system and this was due to him cowering down to players within the squad which is not a bad thing. Any good manager should listen to his players but once more the 3-1 loss highlighted his lack of in game management and a lack of understanding of his opponents. One thing you don’t do if you are playing a team with pace in wide areas is start with a narrow shape, this allowed Monaco to stretch the Arsenal midfield and the result was a 3-1 home loss that could be a catalyst for a run of poor performances. The biggest problem would seem to be that Wenger has no plan B and in truth he never has really had one. In the years when he was winning League titles the players pretty much managed the games themselves and there was no need to tinker too much, he could send out the likes of Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires etc to do the business. The problem is that Arsenal’s most experienced players now are Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker and that should be a worry. Neither player has the experience of winning a league title, yes Mertesacker has won the World Cup but barely made an appearance in the Summer and much like Lukas Podolski they just had fun in the sun.
Arsenal entertain Everton on Sunday with nothing but 3 points a necessity, anything less and there will rightfully be more pressure on Arsene Wenger.
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