Arsenal were stunned last night by a side that are fourth in Ligue One as they suffered a 3-1 defeat at home against AS Monaco. This means that in the second leg they have to go to Monaco and win by three goals. They have given themselves an incredibly difficult job to do and in truth it was a pathetic display at home against a side who were the weakest of the top seeds.
Per Mertesacker was lambasted for his role in the defeat. The German defender was made a scapegoat as Arsenal fans looked around for someone to blame for a poor performance. Kondogbia’s shot deflected off of him for the opener and he looked culpable in the second goal. The lack of mobility and pace that hinders Mertesacker was obviously clear to see when Monaco countered at pace, but blaming Mertesacker alone seems harsh.
Mertesacker can’t help his lack of pace. That’s something that is clear whenever he plays. Arsene Wenger knows this so to set his side up in a way where Monaco could run at him is purely and exclusively the fault of the manager. He is responsible for setting the side up to be strong defensively. Monaco had injuries and were missing crucial defensive players but the way in which they were set up still made them compact at the back. The tactical set-up in defence is more important than individual talent or shortcomings. Arsenal and more importantly Arsene Wenger, left Mertesacker exposed in this system and subsequently deserves much of the blame for the poor defeat.
It was tactically naive from a manager who has competed in the knock out phases so many times. There is simply no excuse. The result was so bad in the context that by finishing second Arsenal were given a relative life line by being handed Monaco rather than a European big gun.