Simply the worst. Like Wenger’s 1000th Arsenal game at Chelsea, like his 65th birthday at Dortmund, Wenger’s team have managed to conjure another stinker on a day when the majority of the build-up has been about their manager. That would not be something we learnt of recent, but there were other good reminders for us all from this latest installment of “Arsene’s gate-crashed party”.
1. Defence in tatters
A stroke of luck gave Monaco the lead, but the lead up to the concession of the second was simply unforgivable. Mertesacker betrayed every quality that has seen him wear the captain’s armband for much of this season, the shocking decision not to hold his ground on the build-up to the second goal. Questions will be raised why Monreal was dropped for this game as he has clearly been a better defender this year than Gibbs. Terrible attempts between both center backs to exchange passes dangerously; it’s a litany of disaster.
2. You don’t save your worst for best
This performance was worse than Dortmund, Stoke and Southampton combined. It was the draw that was supposed to take the Gunners into the last 8 of the competition after the agony of the ‘tougher’ fixtures of the past four years. Confidence was high, perhaps too high, and the consequence was there for all to see.
3. Walcott can always offer more
Giroud will have his chance to recover and repair but going beyond this, Wenger has to bring Walcott back into the main circle of his plans. For all his work, Welbeck does not pose as much threat in front of goal as Theo does, not to mention the always viable option of using his keen ability to run in behind defenders.
4. A fine face does not land a fine day
Olivier Giroud. The man in form, three in his last two. He should have got a hat-trick in this game, but some days, it just does not happen for you and after his first open miss that should have at least cut the deficit, it could have got worse if Wenger did not take him off before the hour mark. Maybe it was the Champions League song still in his head when those chances came but Giroud would be desperate to never have any memories from this game.
5. Someone has to get Kondogbia, Wenger?
It was clear, even before the goal, that he would be the one the Arsenal attack would have to overcome to get anything meaningful from this game. We’ve all been raving about the rise of a certain young Frenchman in the Arsenal team but even Coquelin succumbed to the prowess of his younger countryman. The lad looks far more matured than 22 and it’s easy to see why that French Under-20 team won the World Cup, with him playing alongside Paul Pogba in midfield. Pogba has had different bidders lining up for a swoop, with Arsenal linked as well. But if there is any more talk of a replacement/competition for Coquelin come the summer, it has to be Kondogbia.
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