Arsenal faced Monaco at Stade Louis II in the 2nd leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 game and won 2-0. However, that wasna t enough for the Gunners to go through to the Quarterfinals as they tragically got knocked out thanks to Monaco having superior away goals.
Arsenal started the first half very brightly, knowing full well that they needed a minimum of 3 goals for them to ensure that this wouldna t be the 4th season in a row where they get knocked out in the Round of 16. Arsene went with a front 3 of Giroud, Welbeck and Alexis, with Ozil playing in the hole and Cazorla playing further back, alongside Coquelin. Monaco, as was expected, werena t venturing too forward and were content to sit back and soak up the pressure. However, that may have been a plan that could have backfired if Arsenal were more clinical or had a little more luck as they bombarded the French sidea s defence throughout the first half.
Fans were increasingly getting agitated as it felt like it was yet again going to be another night where Arsenal would do everything but score. The breakthrough finally came in the 36th minute when Olivier Giroud was slipped through on goal by Welbeck. Giroud almost fluffed his lines as Subasic came out to stop his initial shot, but he turned around and put the rebound into the net over the heads of the defenders trying to block his shot. Arsenal continued to find intricate ways to beat Monacoa s defence, but the all important second goal did not materialize in the first half.
Hopes were high among the Arsenal contingent as the performance so far pointed to a much more spirited fight than what they saw in the second legs of games against Bayern Munich and Barcelona. This was an Arsenal team that was dominating the opposition, and one felt that the goals had to come. Sadly, however, Arsenal could not continue with the momentum long into the second half, and the game play dulled down a bit. Monaco seemed to see more of the ball, and they even tried to venture out themselves and see if they could nick a goal of their own. As the clock ticked down, the lack of urgency among the Arsenal players was certainly a cause for concern, and Arsene ringed in the changes to try and gee up his team.
The first change was predictable in that he took out the defensive minded Coquelin at the hour mark and threw in Aaron Ramsey, with the manager ready to throw caution to the wind. A few minutes later saw the introduction of Theo Walcott for an impressive Welbeck, with the manager intending to use Theoa s pace for a more direct channel to the goal. However, the second goal did not come until the 79th minute, when Aaron Ramsey fired the rebound off a Walcott shot into the bottom corner. After that, it was all hands on deck for Monaco as they had to fend off wave after wave of Arsenal attacks but the goal had come too late for the gunners and even 5 minutes of injury time wasna t sufficient for them to find the all important 3rd goal.
- Arsenal had 71% possession in the match, as the completely dominated the game play, with Monaco content to sit back and defend
- Arsenal created an average of 9 chances and had an average of 15 shots on goal over both legs, numbers that were a lot higher than what they could muster in similar situations against teams like Bayern Munich and AC Milan
Arsenal will once again rue the fact that a late goal in the first leg hurt their chances of progressing in Europea s premier competition while Monaco would count their lucky stars they managed to weather the onslaught and go through to the quarterfinals. However, both teams will look at this game in a positive light with Arsenal taking encouragement from the fact they produced a brilliant performance on the night while Monaco will have gained more confidence of surviving another big European team over two legs.