Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
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Friday, 27 February 2015

Arsenal suffer first leg defeat to Monaco

It’s almost impossible to begin to think of what to start with when writing this. To put it simply though, it was the worst Arsenal performance I have seen in a very long time. To make matters worse, I was in the ground for this game and from the very beginning we didn't even look like a side that wanted to win the game. The whole match was littered with errors but we must give credit to Monaco who played very well. Arsene Wenger was tactically outdone by his ex-club who showed exactly why they've been in such solid form this season. We only breached their defence late on in a game that saw our defence more naive than I've ever seen them be.
Arsenal players stand dejected after another poor performance in the last 16 of the Champions League
Monaco came to the Emirates and set up brilliantly well, their midfield out did ours, they were sharp on the break and resilient at the back. If this sort of result had happened once you could forgive them but this error stricken game is something that has happened for numerous seasons now. We’re on the verge of crashing out of the Champions League last 16 for the fifth year running. Arsenal’s lack of progression is quite staggering, as is their inability to turn up in the big games. At the moment the victory over Manchester City seems a freak result, we played well but Manchester City didn't really trouble us. Something at the club desperately needs to change.

We went into this game being given the easiest draw we could've hoped for. We’d finally dodged the Barcelona and Bayern bullet that has so often seen us falter. AS Monaco would offer a different proposition but it was a challenge we fell desperately short of. None of our big players turned up and no one looked as though they believed they could win the tie, you could see it on the players faces. It was a desperate performance from a side that has actually been in pretty good form of late. The performance was as frustrating as it was disappointing and it was the naivety of the defence that cost us the game, not to mention Olivier Giroud’s shocking finishing.

I mentioned at the weekend how Giroud’s conversion rate had become higher this season, and how he was in good form. After the Monaco game on Wednesday night I have nothing but criticism for him. He missed a great chance in the first half before skying an open goal into the stands in the second. His night was summed up by being brought off on the hour mark to a chorus of boos. It’s hard to work out why the belief wasn't there, but you have to look to one man in the equation and that is Arsene Wenger. Until he goes I can’t see this club progressing much further than the FA Cup victory last season. A triumph that seems years back now. After the Man City game I thought the defence had learnt, and I know you have to be attacking at home but the amount of space we continuously gave Monaco's wide-men and central midfielders was ridiculous. Their midfield completely overran us and Kondogbia was at the heart of that. He scored a deflected effort to open the scoring and it was all downhill from then on.

The line-up Wenger played has worked to some degree in the past but it’s far too attacking and that was seen on Wednesday night. Coquelin seemed to get dragged into going towards the man too often and as a result their midfield players found pockets of space on regular occasions and were able to dictate the tempo. At the end of the day Coquelin does all the simple things right, but on a big Champions League night can he do it? From the looks of it the answer is no. The worrying thing to me is the lack of World Class players that were non-existent. Mesut Ozil was rarely in the game whilst Sanchez showed glimpses but on too rare occasions. I had genuinely forgotten they were even playing at points. Santi Cazorla was also poor in the middle of the park whilst Danny Welbeck offered little. 

It wasn't until Oxlade-Chamberlain came on that we had some urgency in attack. Up to that point there was nothing; no drive, no urgency, no impetus and most of the players looked disinterested. Chamberlain brought Arsenal back into the tie with a brilliant effort from outside the box but then gave the ball away as Arsenal conceded a farcical third in the dying moments. There was no defence and the substitute Carrasco ran in on goal and found the net via the far post. If you're looking for even more to moan about then Ospina's attempt at saving the ball was a pretty poor one. He seemed rooted to the spot rather than being ready for the shot to come in.

We were products of our downfall, and the defensive display was very alarming. Hector Bellerin had continued to give pacey winger Martial space down the left throughout most of the game and he was where the second goal came from. It was similar to Monaco’s third. Laurent Koscielny was the only defender back and they countered leaving Berbatov to fire home comfortably. Santi Cazorla’s reaction summed it up. He had raced back and was effectively last man as he tried to put the Bulgarian striker under pressure. As the ball rippled the net Cazorla proceeded to lean on the advertising hoarding with a face of frustration and dejection. It was an extremely sorry sight.

The incompetency of the defence was beyond belief. Why on earth where we chucking everyone forward in the first leg? It was beyond ridiculous and it’s hard to describe exactly how I felt as I walked out the ground. That third goal has all but put the game to bed. We’ll have to go to Monaco and score three to go through. That’s three against a team that rarely concede. I had an ounce of belief after the Ox’s goal but that third from Carrasco destroyed the fans, and will also have destroyed the player’s morale.

Dimitar Berbatov said after the game that Monaco wanted it more, and he couldn't have been more right. No Arsenal player looked in the game. Everton is at the weekend and I’m expecting a huge response. These are the months where our season has been known to slip. Please don't let it happen again Arsenal!

The team’s line-ups:

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin(68), Cazorla(81), Welbeck, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud(60).
Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel, Chambers, Monreal, Rosicky(81), Oxlade-Chamberlain(68), Walcott(60).

Monaco: Subasic, Toure, Tavares, Abdennour, Echiejile, Santos, Kondogbia, Moutinho, Dirar(81), Martial(84), Berbatov(75).
Subs: Stekelenburg, Kurzawa(81), Diallo, Carvalho, Silva, Carrasco(75), Traore.

Referee: Deniz Aytekin (GER)

Attendance: 59,868

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