Gary Lim: Gunners lose the plot against Monaco
Arsenal players lose the plot and Wenger must shoulder the blame
ROUND OF 16, 1ST LEG
(Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 90+1)
(Geoffrey Kondogbia 38, Dimitar Berbatov 53, Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco 90+4)
They got a kind draw and the crucial home advantage.
In the end, they fluffed it so completely that there was little evidence of sympathy anywhere after the final whistle.
Arsenal fell headlong towards the Champions League exit door, following their 3-1 loss to Monaco in the Round-of-16, first-leg clash at the Emirates Stadium yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Only a miracle in the return fixture on March 17 can save them from elimination.
But this performance was so damaging that it could be a while before they pick themselves off the ground.
After the visitors took an unexpected first-half lead through Geoffrey Kondogbia's deflected shot, the Gunners threw everything forward like every minute was the last.
Whether it was a terrible tactical mistake or simply a case of the players not playing to instructions, manager Arsene Wenger must shoulder the blame.
Either way, he was at fault.
Monaco were never going to be easy meat but, by the same token, they don't belong to the band of elites either.
Shorn of Radamel Falcao (on loan at Manchester United) and James Rodriguez (joined Real Madrid), the French side looked one of the easier opponents to draw in the last 16.
Going by what Wenger said in the post-match conference, things probably didn't go according to plan.
Ill-disciplined, naive and reckless - that was his assessment of his players' performance.
Yet, it must be asked why he failed to get his charges to carry out his orders.
A post-mortem is necessary, simply because a team that included seasoned internationals and World Cup winners weren't supposed to implode just like that.
If their enterprise was pleasing to the eye, the defending was downright pathetic.
So engrossed were they in their search of the equaliser, that they seemed to forget that there is still the away leg to play.
They went hunting for the equaliser like a pack of hungry wolves which had left their pups behind in the den to fend for themselves.
When Monaco launched a 53rd-minute counter-attack, Laurent Koscielny was the only Arsenal outfield player left in his own half.
Fellow centre back Per Mertesacker deserted his position, went for a ball he had no chance of getting and, from the resulting space, Anthony Martial squared the ball for Dimitar Berbatov to score his team's second goal.
Then came the lifeline.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's goal a minute into injury time gave Arsenal a glimmer of hope to turn the tie around at the Stade Louis II.
At least they would have lived to fight another day.
But they simply went hog-wild and continued to pour forward.
Disaster struck as Oxlade-Chamberlain lost the ball and Monaco, again on the counter-attack, made it 3-1 through Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco with seconds remaining.
With the result, Arsenal's aptitude for the big occasion once again went under the microscope.
When Arsenal beat Manchester City 2-0 away last month, much was made of their disciplined performance.
At that point, it appeared the Gunners have finally developed the mental steel to go with the silk.
But they have taken one step forward and two backwards.
Against Monaco, the players lost the plot.
The only thing that looked more pitiful than that was Wenger not being able to do anything about it.
We have seen a lot of miracle nights in all competitions. European nights can be very frustrating, but they can also be wonderful. We need a wonderful night. We are capable of doing special things, even away from home.
— Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, hoping for a miracle in the second leg
'We used hearts more than brains'
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepts his side's "suicidal" defending has left them with a mountain to climb to avoid elimination from the Champions League, following a 3-1 home defeat by Monaco in their last-16, first-leg tie yesterday morning (Singapore time).
There was no happy reunion with the Principality club, whom Wenger guided to the Ligue 1 title in 1988, as the Gunners failed to fire and were punished as Olivier Giroud had a night to forget, missing several good chances.
A 25-metre deflected effort from Geoffrey Kondogbia put Monaco ahead on 38 minutes and, after Giroud had spurned another two great chances to get his side level, former Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov crashed in a second on the break.
Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, returning from a groin injury, grabbed Arsenal a lifeline in stoppage time, but as the Gunners went in search of an equaliser, they were dealt a hammer blow in the break again as Yannick Carrasco slotted past David Ospina, and the boos rang out around the Emirates Stadium at full time.
"We were not at the level defensively and we were a bit unlucky as well because the first goal is deflected. On the second and the third goal, we were suicidal," said Wenger.
"It looks like we have lost our nerve and our rationality on the pitch. The heart took over the head and, at that level, it doesn't work.
"Our weakness was more down to mentality. We rushed our game, we knew coming back at half-time, it was important not to concede a second goal and we were too impatient.
"Mentally, we were not ready or sharp enough to get into this game. We paid for it.
"Monaco are a team who are strong physically with a good physical density and we missed the chances.
"If you look at the number of chances we missed, at that level you cannot afford that. We used our hearts more than our brains.
"The players wanted to do well and come back when it was 2-1. They wanted to come back to 2-2 and forgot their elementary cautiousness."
Wenger had warned Arsenal against complacency ahead of a tie he insisted was still very much "50-50", despite his side's good form in the Premier League.
"I hope not (that there was complacency)," he said.
"(But) it looks like that when you don't have that kind of sharpness.
"Football is not down to paper, football is down to performance and, on the night, Monaco produced a performance and we didn't."
Arsenal must now score three goals at the Stade Louis II in Monte Carlo next month, against a team who before this tie had conceded just twice in some 17 matches.
Wenger said: "We have a smaller chance but, no matter how big the chance is, we will go for it.
"We need to recover from this disappointment and prepare for the next game (against Everton on Sunday)."
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim felt that his side were rewarded for sticking to their game plan.
"No one really thought that this result would have been possible, but we achieved it," he said.
"However, Arsenal are a great side and we are only halfway through this knockout tie." - PA Sport.