Battling Arsenal out of Europe as Monaco cling on

Arsenal were a side transformed from the shambolic first-leg, but their skill and spirit fell just short

Arsenal's Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey celebrates
(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Monaco 0 Arsenal 2 [3-3 on aggregate, Monaco win on away goals] It was brave, it was plucky, it was tireless, but in the end all Arsenal's efforts were in vain as Monaco held on to their 3-1 advantage from the first-leg to progress to the last eight of the Champions League.

For Arsenal the plaudits, but also the stark, sobering realisation that for the fifth straight season they have been eliminated from Europe's showpiece tournament at the last 16 stage. Past setbacks have been easier to bear; losing to the likes of AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Barcelona is no disgrace for any team, but to go down to Monaco, with their modest stadium and modest position in the ranks of European football, is tough to accept for the Arsenal faithful. For the players, too, as Aaron Ramsey conceded. Asked if the Gunners had missed an opportunity to get into the last eight for the first time since 2010, the Welshman – one of the two goalscorers on the night – replied: "I think so. We've always gone out to Bayern Munich and Barcelona at this stage but no disrespect to Monaco, we thought we'd have a good opportunity to qualify but we gave ourselves a tough test from the first leg. It's nearly again, but it's not enough."Those sentiments were echoed by Arsene Wenger who, when asked if this was the hardest setback in Europe in recent seasons, replied: "Yes, I would take it separately from the other years. I am very disappointed to go out tonight."Arsenal were unrecognisable from the embarrassing shambles of last month's first leg, and the vocal band of travelling supporters were up out of their seats when Olivier Giroud blasted the ball into the back of net on 36 minutes as the hosts conceded their first Champions League goal this season in the Stade Louis II. For the next ten minutes Arsenal besieged the Monaco goal and Danny Welbeck went agonisingly close to doubling the lead when his fierce shot took a deflection of Monaco defender Aymen Abdennour and went inches wide of the post. There was also a penalty claim from Alexis Sanchez but instead the referee booked the Chilean for diving. TV replays suggested there had been contact between him and his marker.Monaco began to threaten the Arsenal goal in the final quarter but it was still Arsenal on top and the introduction of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott sharpened their attack and ultimately led to the second goal on 89 minutes. Walcott lashed the ball against the left-hand upright and Ramsey coolly collected the rebound and fired the ball into the corner to set up an excruciating finale. Five minutes of stoppage time increased the tension still further and Giroud almost got the all-important third goal but his header from a curling free-kick was palmed away by Danijel Subasic.Monaco celebrated the final whistle with gusto and rightly so. It's the first time since 2004 that they've reached the last eight of the Champions League and it's not often two French sides reach this stage of the tournament. It used to be the case that there were always at least two English sides in the quarter-final, but should Manchester City fail tonight to knock out Barcelona in their last 16 clash, it will be the second time in three seasons that the Premier League have had no representative in the Champions League quarter-final.

It may be the richest league in the world, but the Premier League is no longer the finest.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.