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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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Arsenal bow out on away goals

For the fifth season in a row Arsenal have failed to qualify for the last eight of the Champions League. Time and time again it's been so close yet so far and it doesn't seem to matter who the opponents are. I was very angry after the final whistle went, simply because of the naivety of the performance in the first leg. We went into this tie full of positivity; at last we had dodged the bullet of a Barcelona or Bayern Munich but because of our first leg performance we were left ruing what could have been after beating Monaco 2-0 in the second leg last night. Yes it was a very good display last night but I was struggling to find words when people were claiming it was a spirited performance.
Santi Cazorla tried to work his magic on a night Arsenal crashed out of Europe
Of course Arsenal did well to score two goals against a side that rarely concede this season but how long is it until we do actually advance beyond the last 16? For me that's the main concern here. We consistently do well in the league to reach this competition but at the end of the day what's it been for? To be knocked out in the last 16 for five years in a row? That shouldn't be the case at all. This team are a lot better than that and we should expect a lot more.

It remains to be said that there were plenty of positives to take though. I can't say I'm proud because at the end of the day the tie was over two legs and in my opinion the right team deserved to go through on the balance of 180 minutes of football. I perhaps overreacted at the final whistle, after all we have the FA Cup semi-final to look forward to whilst we're in great form in the Premier League. We have set ourselves up very well for the back end of the season so to go out at this stage in the Champions League is hugely frustrating.

Arsene Wenger's tactics in the first leg were questionable. At 2-1 down we were fine in terms of leaving something for us get at it the second leg. However, had we not conceded a simply ludicrous third then we'd be in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. In the return leg yesterday we were of course a lot better. Not that he had much choice though as we attacked from the off. We were perhaps a little timid in our approach in the opening 20 minutes or so but once we got going Monaco found us very hard to deal with. Danny Welbeck once again proved his selection and he was very lively down the right, he set up Giroud for the first goal and showed good pace to beat Kurzawa at left back on a few occasions. Aaron Ramsey's exclusion was the only doubt as only one change was made from the first leg; Monreal in for Gibbs.

Olivier Giroud certainly atoned for his first leg performance to some extent. Since his awful night in front of goal that night at the Emirates he's been in great form and he added to his tally for the season with an emphatic finish last night. It was his first and only Champions League goal of the season after being injured earlier in the campaign. Welbeck sent him through and after Giroud saw his shot saved he fired home the rebound into the roof of the net.

This Arsenal performance was exemplarly of us under Arsene Wenger in the last couple of years and was almost predictable. Score a goal at a vital time, go for it in the second half, score with little time remaining to give us hope and then fail to score the most crucial goal that would've taken us through. Because of that it remains hugely frustrating as it's an all too similar feeling. Aaron Ramsey's introduction in the second half gave us a bigger impetus from which to perform from. He completely changed the game when he came on and gave us an extra drive from midfield. He scored at the weekend and added the second in this game, comfortably slotting home after a lapse in defence from Kurzawa. The return of the Welshman from injury who looks to be firing on all cylinders is a huge positive and he will produce a real selection dilemma going into Newcastle on Saturday.

The most disappointing aspect of the second leg last night was the performances of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil; neither really offered a considerable goal threat throughout the tie. Sanchez was trying his best but on too many occasions he tried to overplay and instead of passing the ball ran into the man and wasted possession. It's harsh to lay into him but for me he didn't have a good game and when you pay that sort of money for a player you expect them to be able to play a bigger role in the tie than he did. Sanchez has looked to be tiring recently and he is due a rest. On his day he's an exceptional talent but in the last few matches, excluding QPR, he's looked off the boil.

A similar sort of thing can be said for Mesut Ozil who didn't come alive until the final quarter of the game. Some begged to differ over the German's performance and said he played well. It wasn't his worst game but he repetitively gave the ball away in certain situations when an easy ball was on. He did however offer something we haven't seen from him in the past, and that is why many are saying he had a good game. Instead of petering off in the latter stages of the game he was willing to track back and work hard for the team. His body language for a change was a very positive one and you can tell he loves this competition. Lets hope he can now transfer that into Arsenal's domestic games.

The defence were improved from the first leg, but they didn't have much to do. Mertesacker against the pace of Martial and Carrasco still seemed to struggle whilst Monreal wasn't always as solid as we've come to expect of him in recent months. Laurent Koscielny however was outstanding again and he played a similar role to the one against West Ham.

As said, it is very annoying to go out at this stage but there's plenty to remain positive about. We're in the semi-final of the FA Cup whilst we remain just a point of second placed Manchester City in the Premier League.

The team's line-ups:

Monaco: Subasic, Fabinho, Abdennour, Wallace, Kurzawa, Toulalan, Kondogbia, Moutinho, Dirar(86), Martial(59), Berbatov(69).
Subs: Stekelenburg, R.Carvalho, M.Carvalho, Silva(69), Ferreira-Carrasco(59), Elderson(86), Toure.

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal(83), Coquelin(63), Cazorla, Welbeck(71), Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud.
Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel, Chambers, Gibbs(83), Flamini, Ramsey(63), Walcott(71).

My man of the match: Laurent Koscielny.

Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR).
Attendance: 17,263.

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