On the back of probably Arsene Wenger’s darkest European experience as manager of Arsenal, the Gunners now face a mountain to climb ahead of the away leg to Monaco in three weeks times, after losing 3-1 at the Emirates last night. More significantly, the result leaves Arsenal facing down the barrel of yet another last-16 exit for the 5th consecutive season.
So the question isn’t whether can Arsene Wenger win the Champions League for Arsenal this season, but whether he can win it with Arsenal at all?
Everyone associated with the club held their breath in anticipation, when the time came for Arsenal to discover their next opponents for the 2nd round. Of course, as a consequence for finishing group runners-up for the 3rd season running, which has cost Arsenal dearly to the likes Bayern Munich and Barcelona, the same possible opponents awaited them again at the same stage.
In the end, Arsenal were drawn with Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco. Without disrespect to the French side, this was a more favourable draw than the ones that could’ve been, but I must say, after THAT performance last night, we might as well have been facing Bayern or Barca.
It was the exact same story, but considerably worse under the circumstances. Many saw this tie as Arsenal’s opportunity to kick-start their bid to reach the quarter-finals, for the first time in five years. They were clear favourites to win last night’s home leg with a convincing display, but instead what the Arsenal faithful were left to watch, was a pathetic, lackluster and shameful performance.
The likes of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny all started that game, but as a whole team, the players were off the pace. Giroud missing undoubtably 3 of the game’s best chances – the open goal the worst of the bunch, which saw him taken off for Theo Walcott.
Eventually, Arsenal did grab a goal very late on through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who came on for Francis Coquelin, but not only did it take the entire match for the home side to find the net, they further tied the noose when they conceded the killer third 2 minutes later. That goal might just have settled the whole tie. What was it that Wenger told his players at half-time?
We could spend ages discussing last night’s theatrics, but make no mistake, this isn’t just about the loss to Monaco, this is about the future and how mistakes from the past STILL haven’t been learnt by Arsenal. Year after year it’s the same old story and to be honest we’re all tired of complaining about it, including the pundits. By now, Arsenal should already have a Champions League title to their trophy case, instead just one Champions league final in 2006.
With the calibre of players we have at our disposal now, and the stability the club has had with Wenger as manager for the last 19 years, how is it that this club still hasn’t written its name amongst Europe’s elite? Our English rivals Liverpool, Manchester United and more recently our London rivals Chelsea, have all lifted the trophy in the last 10 years. The barren years were of course filled with the club paying off debt for the new stadium, which Wenger has emphasised time after time, was the cause for the lack of stella transfer activity.
But when you look at the performance last night, it’s clear that buying player’s wasn’t completely the issue, it’s also down to the attitude of the players we already have and managerial decisions made. Arsenal clearly didn’t turn up last night and that alone could’ve been down to arrogance and complacency, including amongst the fans, who were left stunned by the final whistle.
Let’s not kid ourselves, no one expected Monaco to score a single goal last night, let alone win. Everyone including the players might have thought all they had to do was pass the ball about, and eventually find the net, because our name is Arsenal. It’s that complacency which cost us the match and probably the contest as a whole.
But there might be light at the end of the tunnel, when you think back to March 2013 in Munich. The term, ‘Yes We Can’ springs to mind on this occasion, but it’s not ideal. Arsenal have left themselves with a big task yet again to advance in this competition. The manner in which we lost that match is not how Championships are won, so is the manner in which we perform against the bigger clubs domestically and internationally. So even if we do, by the hand of God, make it past Monaco in three weeks time, bottom line – Arsenal won’t win the Champions League under Arsene Wenger, because Arsenal never learn.