Last night was quite the numbing experience. I said to a friend at the time of the draw, you almost want a big team to keep Arsenal on their toes. I still have horrible memories of losing to teams like PSV when it’s almost inconceivable to do so. Arsenal have traditionally suffered in the Champions League because we don’t take care of ourselves. If it’s a big team, we don’t go with a game plan to nullify talent (aka, ‘we have no special plan for Messi’) or last night, when it appeared we had no plan to take care of a very unambitious Monaco side with a terrific defensive record.
It’s hard not to be torn about the result in a way, and look, I’m no excuse maker, but you can’t not look at the chances we had and not wistfully imagine what could have been.
But then, if your aunty had bollocks… she’d be your transgender uncle.
Simple fact is we were utterly complacent and arrogant yesterday. The players looked at the injuries and the position Monaco hold in the Ligue 1 and they made a poor assumption we’d roll them. Well, turns out Jardim had other plan. I mean, it didn’t even feel like much of a plan. He played two banks of four and didn’t even really bother to press us. I think he had a right midfielder at right back. His outlet was Berbatov, a 20 a day smoker. They were there for the taking in my opinion.
The starting line up was more than enough to take them. I think it could have been more ambitious if I’m honest. A lot of people calling for the inclusion of Theo. He was dropped for #WELBZ who proved pretty ineffectual again despite putting in a workman like shift.
Despite have most of the early pressure, we didn’t really create much. The team didn’t seem to flow with much energy and considering we had Ozil and Cazorla on the pitch we created limited chance and the movement was pretty non-existent. I know it’s the first leg of the Champions League, but I kind of hoped for a bit of urgency. Play for the first goal, put them off their game plan then demolish them in the second half.
Well, it didn’t happen and our laissez faire approach was punished when Welbeck lost a challenge on the half way line, the ball was played to Moutinho who found Kondogbia, the Frenchman had all the time and space to gear up a shot… Coquelin not there, Per didn’t move in on the midfielder, the shot was ripped, it took a deflection and flat footed the keeper.
Now… I personally thought the keeper was slow to react considering how far out the shot came from. He was rooted to the ground, which would suggest he wasn’t properly on his toes. Others around me disagreed. For me, he should have made a better attempt there. Disappointing. Still, the focus of that cock up has to sit with our defensive unit falling asleep.
The first half played out to a few jeers. I’m never sure who’s doing it. It’s like some sort of weird secret speaker system hidden in the ground that Ivan controls. Anyway, key points were that Monaco did a great job tactically of killing our energy. A two man operation on Sanchez, two banks of four coupled with a total lack of interest by most of our team.
The second half started off with a bit more zip, sadly, our outlet was Giroud and he didn’t have a good day in front of goal. Sanchez fed him in after some tricksy work out wide, Giroud shinned it right back at him (Alex screamed great shot at that point and took pelters from the guys in front). His next chance came from a free header, he showed all the technique of a Seaworld sealion playing football with his mates in the tank, then his final chance came from a parried shot, the ball sat up for him to slot into a free net, he flew it over the bar like he’d seen a disrespectful pigeon on The Emirates roof he was trying to hit.
Total car crash strikerism. Really poor. But kind of expected. Giroud is a very good striker, but he’s not the sort of guy you can rely on at the highest level. I kind of cringed in the week when I saw articles pinging around about how Giroud is indispensable, because it’s just Arsenal fans being too smart for their own good. Giroud isn’t good enough to lead the line of a club that has serious ambitions.
Things went from bad to worse when Sanchez lost the ball which led to Fabinho breaking, pulling our whole defense over to his side of the pitch, he threaded Berbatov through allowed the Bulgarian to steal the second goal of the night. You know you’ve fucked up somewhere when the slowest man on the pitch is getting in behind you.
Arsene made relatively early changes. He brought on Theo for the hapless Giroud which gave us a bit of pace through the middle. Chamberlain made a difference, he’s driven whatever the occasion. He was on hand to curl an absolute undeserved peach of a goal into the top corner. At 2-1, you felt we could live to fight another day… Arsenal had other plans…we totally switched off, we allowed Currassco (the player I scouted for you the other month) in on our defence, he powered through on our goal and fired a shot that Ospina could only tip onto the inside post.
3-1 at home, to the easiest team left in the draw. Really disappointing.
Fans: Just a minor point to the large guy with the hipster beard screaming at a fan for standing up. Pressumably, because he wanted to sit down. I absolutely hate that this sort of behaviour can creep into the ground on a Champions League night. Stand up, get involved and add to the atmosphere. Utterly embarrassing carry on that led to a whole section not standing up because a grown man in his thirties bullied the section into sitting down. Pathetic. Watch it at home if you’re so tied to your seat.
Gibbs: Knew the writing was on the wall for last night when I caught glimpse of the back page of The Standard and you read Gibbs quote ‘We want to win it for the boss’. Nice one Gibbo. What about for the fans? What about not saying stuff like that at all?
Sanchez: He’s like our pressure release valve. When things get hot in the kitchen, give it to Sanchez. It becomes all about him and he tries too hard. He almost stops being a team player. It’s not his fault, we panic and give it to him in every instance. Kind of felt he killed a lot of moves last night because he was trying to be too cute. Still, my gripe isn’t with him, it’s with the rest of the team for putting that pressure on him. No accountability last night.
Adebennour: What a player. Interesting that the last time a centre back was that imposing in a Euro game, I was thinking about Alex of PSV who dominated us. He had so much heart. He put something on everything. Really, really impressed. Loads of communication.
Game Plan: Arsenal walked into that game without thinking. We had no answers for a team we knew would be all about defending and hitting us on the break. When I was in Lisbon this summer, I was told Jardim was a good coach. Very intelligent and tactically astute. He apparently identified that we detoriate in the second half and are suseptable to the counter. We played right into his hands and the collective mentality of his team outshined our offering. That’s the difference at the highest level, you can’t get away with not thinking. You can’t underestimate anyone. We did yesterday and paid, like we always do.
Ozil: Sorry, but once again, he showed he’s not up to it in the big games. He was largely anonymous and he offered nothing. He might be the dream player that only people that are super football nerds can understand… but he doesn’t cut it for me. He should have been yanked at halftime. How he didn’t get taken off is almost as amazing as it was against Spurs. Not sure he has the stomach for it.
Change it up: Wenger really does have a weakness to identify what teams are doing during a game and making changes. We didn’t really have much going on during the first half, yet no changes were made. The players don’t have the collective intelligence to see what’s going on around them. So you get these weaks performances where the only way to change the game is through a sub, not a different way of approaching the actual game from a structure stand point.
Conclusion: Come on, we all know what’ll happen… we’ll win 2-0 away from home and we’ll all be talking about what could have been.
‘Yeah. But at the end of the day, Giroud hits that shot 60 yards lower and we’d be in the semi finals of the CL, mate’
People focus on the wrong thing when they talk about Arsenal in the Champions League. It’s not about consistently qualifying for it that’s interesting, it’s consistently failing in it that is. 17 attempts and we consistently disappoint. Thing is, Wenger isn’t good enough to win it. He’s not getting any better. He’s not learning from year to year. We try the same thing every year, and fail.
We’re simply not a smart enough team under Wenger.
Still, as Hot Chocolate once said, I believe in miracles.