Glorious failure a familiar tale for Gunners in Champions League
Two down, one Premier League side facing Champions League elimination to go. For a fifth successive year in Europe’s elite club competition, Arsenal left themselves with too much to do in a last 16 second leg, and inevitably came up short against Arsene Wenger’s old side Monaco.
If the Gunners could avoid being their own worst enemy, then they might clear this first knockout hurdle. Prior to their trip to the Principality, Leonardo Jardim’s defensive discipline had ensured Monaco conceded just two goals in Champions League games.
Letting in as many on one night, with Olivier Giroud and Arsenal sub Aaron Ramsey both on target, was still not enough to stop them at the Stade Louis II. The Gunners needed one more, but once again fell foul of the away goals rule.
Wenger’s side knocked on their hosts’ door, but had little clear cut openings in Monaco before Giroud opened proceedings 10 minutes before half time. A Danny Welbeck through-ball found the France striker and, although Danijel Subasic saved his initial effort, Arsenal’s frontman fired the rebound high into the net.
A goal before the break buoyed the Gunners, and Welbeck almost scored himself, but his shot struck the prone body of Tunisia centre back Aymen Abdennour, linked with north London neighbours Spurs after the first leg. Alexis Sanchez was harshly booked for diving thereafter.
Subasic tipped over a Mesut Ozil free kick after the interval, yet this was the only flash of attacking intent from the German during an industrious, but ineffective performance. That too is a familiar tale for Arsenal fans.
Throwing homegrown duo Ramsey and Theo Walcott on from the bench, Wenger continued to search for a way back into the tie. England forward Walcott hit the post, Monaco failed to clear their lines and Wales midfielder Ramsey tucked in the loose ball with 10 minutes of normal time remaining.
The Gunners needed just one more goal to do something no side had done in the Champions League era; win an away second leg having lost at home by two goals. Subasic clawed away Giroud’s header from a free kick, and desperate Monaco defending saw them sneak through.
Once again, Arsenal paid a huge price for a really poor initial showing in the last 16, and now just have the FA Cup to try and retain. Wenger is an odds-on 4/5 favourite to do that, and such silverware may be the only shield to save him from fans who want more than to just be perennial qualifiers in Europe.