Another first-leg horror show came back to haunt us against Monaco as despite a quite brilliant performance that saw us beat the Ligue 1 side 2-0, we were knocked out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage for the fifth year running.
The hurt felt after last night’s defeat isn’t reflective of just what a wonderful Arsenal performance it was at the Stade Louis II but more the frustration at another missed opportunity in Europe and the team paying the price for such a lackadaisical approach at the Emirates.
Quite frankly the squad gave everything, with some even falling to their knees on the final whistle as Arsenal suffered yet another so called ‘glorious’ defeat.
And whilst you can fault them for needing to win by such a ridiculous margin because of a terrible performance three weeks ago, last night the Arsenal squad did us proud – here are our player ratings for another night of frustration:
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GK: David Ospina – 6
Had little to do as Monaco failed to get a single shot on target and was always alert and trying to set potential counter attacks or passing moves off from the back.
RB: Hector Bellerin – 7
There were a few heart in mouths moments when the youngster lingered on the ball a little too long and was forced into desperate recovery.
But compare this to his Arsenal first-team debut against Borussia Dortmund in the group stages and it’s been a miraculous journey for Bellerin who has become a key part of the squad.
CB: Per Mertesakcer – 7
Did everything to keep Arsenal moving from the back and learnt his lessons from the first league ensuring the Arsenal offside trap was employed to exact precision.
CB: Laurent Koscielny – 8
Simply dominant against the Monaco strikers who weren’t given a sniff on goal as Koscielny used his strength, guile and control to marshal the defence.
Had a shot in the first half that cannoned off the bar but luckily for him he was adjudged offside so no “what could have been” today for the Frenchman
LB: Nacho Monreal – 7
Gave Arsenal some much needed width against a tight and compact Monaco but not always employed by his teammates. Was key to the second goal but his performance reaffirmed that Kieran Gibbs certainly has his work cut out if he wants a starting role back.
CM: Francis Coquelin – 7
As with every performance, Coquelin was on the edge with some of his tackles but broke up the Monaco play very effectively and the only reason he was taken off for Ramsey so early in the second half was because of our need for goals.
CM: Santi Cazorla – 8
Was the hard-grafting engineer for Arsenal, always trying to make things happen from deep and drive his teammates on. His close control and ability to work his way out of tight situations was again an incredible sight to behold.
RW: Danny Welbeck – 7
A quite brilliant first half performance where he not only set up Giroud for the opener but was surely denied a goal himself when a thunderous shot blocked on the line that trickled agonisingly wide.
LW: Alexis Sanchez – 6
Not his best game by a long stretch, there were a number of times when his desire to hold onto the ball and dribble his way out of danger could have hurt Arsenal at the back when he eventually conceded possession.
Would it be blasphemous to suggest such an important player at the start of the season needs a bit of a rest before we head into the season ending run-in?
CAM: Mesut Ozil – 8
He swapped his shirt at half time which gave the media everything they needed to have their usual go at Ozil as they could barely fault his game. Although that wasn’t for want of trying in some cases.
The fact is Ozil quite literally controlled the game; he drove us on from deep, played his teammates in when he could and had the occasional drive himself – and probably should have scored early in the second half. Everything good we did came through Ozil.
His desire and passion for the cause was demonstrated so earnestly in the 94th minute when he was sprinting back to make a tackle as Monaco tried to breakaway just so Arsenal could have one more chance in the dying seconds.
ST: Olivier Giroud – 7
Will feel at least slightly redeemed for this performance, finally getting his goal against Monaco but it always felt like he was trying too hard to make amends.
There seemed to be a number of times when he could have hit a one-two with a teammate of laid off a cross but Giroud elected for the shot in an attempt to show that he can score against Monaco. He could definitely have had more on another night.
Sub: Aaron Ramsey – 7
Lovely goal to set up a maddening ten minutes where Monaco tried every trick in the book to run down the clock.
Perhaps his performance again proved just what a strong partnership and understanding he and Mesut Ozil have in midfield and hints at a great end to the season for both.