English Premiership

Gunners must cope with pressure

2015-03-18 13:02
Olivier Giroud (AFP)

London - Arsenal's failure to assert themselves and win under pressure led to their exit from the Champions League at the first knockout stage for the fifth successive season.

The defensive frailties and overall poor showing in the home leg of their Round of 16 tie against AS Monaco, which they lost 3-1, proved too big a setback for the Gunners who played well and deserved the 2-0 win in the away fixture on Wednesday.

Their former striker Charlie Nicholas, had no doubt why they lost a tie most people thought they were going to win easily.

"When they have nothing to lose, they can go for it," said Nicholas, who spent four years at Arsenal in the 1980s.

"But they need to start turning up when the pressure is on them. That's why they don't win big football matches domestically. That's why they have been put out against Monaco.

"They have all the class and their ability is as good as anyone else. They are probably second only to Barcelona playing fluent football, but they only play when the pressure is off," he told Sky Sports.

The odds were stacked against Arsenal going into the game. The last team to overturn a two-goal deficit from a first leg home defeat and advance in UEFA's top competition was Ajax Amsterdam who overcame Benfica in 1969.

No team have done it in the Champions League era but Arsenal came close as goals from Olivier Giroud and substitute Aaron Ramsey took them close.

They out-played Monaco for long periods and although they ended as the moral victors it was a familiar tale of them falling just short again.

Angry Arsenal fans called a radio phone-in afterwards and blamed manager Arsene Wenger for the failure and many said the team would never win the Champions League or a major honour while he was in charge.

But the reality is somewhat different.

Arsenal are currently third in the Premier League after winning eight of their last nine league matches, and are favourites to retain the FA Cup with a semi-final next month against Championship side Reading.

Skipper Per Mertesacker attempted to keep things in perspective, saying: "We have a lot of confidence for the FA Cup and the League because we have done well in recent weeks.

"We were outstanding today and if we go on like that we have a great chance of qualifying again next season."

Read more on:    arsenal  |  champions league  |  soccer

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