Arsenal's key players fail the fans, and they should have expected it

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Arsenal 1-3 Monaco

GiveMeSport at Emirates Stadium

Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez. All players of some repute and those Arsenal fans should expect to propel them to victory when it really matters.

But, alas, this is Arsenal where what is expected so rarely transpires, as was once again demonstrated in their Champions League humbling against a severely weakened Monaco side. It is a result that will likely prove terminal to their European ambitions this season.

It is on occasions like these that Arsenal require at least one of their most inventive or potent players to leave a lasting mark on proceedings. However, none came to the fore against Monaco, and it felt almost inevitable.

Clear favourites

Arsenal have reached the last 16 of this competition for 15 consecutive seasons but have not progressed past it in four. A mighty performance will be required at the Stade Louis II for this now to be rectified, but it should not have been this way.

Facing a Monaco side ripped of James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao in the summer transfer window appeared to be a plumb draw for the Gunners, even if the Ligue 1 club could boast the most resolute defence of the group phase.

Indeed, this XI hardly resembled Leanardo Jardim's strongest outfit, so beset are Monaco by injuries, and Arsenal's status as clear favourites was reinforced once the team sheets had been handed out.

Monaco in this state were really nothing more than a top-half Premier League side, yet Arsenal were unable to really appear commanding at any point, with not one of their go-to-guys able to influence the outcome.

No leaders

This is what really sets Arsenal apart from their contemporaries and this evening's performance was made all the more disappointing after their defeat of Manchester City appeared to suggest they had turned a corner when it came to these fixtures deemed most important.

Yes, on this occasion Arsenal encountered a side content to defend for almost the duration, as eight consecutive clean sheets in the league had indicated. But the hosts have more than enough in their armoury to overcome such stoic defending.

Arsenal have been notable by their ever slower build-up play this season, but it would never work tonight - that was clear. So where were the balls into the feet of Olivier Giroud?

Mikel Arteta, the captain, had said in his programme notes that Arsenal excel when exploiting the space that Giroud creates. There was, however, no evidence of this.

If Giroud plays then Arsenal must use him or, at the very least, expect the combination of Cazorla, Ozil and Sanchez to find passes in behind the back four or to run at the opposition with real intent. They were bereft of invention and, perhaps, haunted by ghosts from big game failures of old.

Collective calamity

Giroud was actually presented with the two best opportunities Arsenal had - before the goal - once from a set-piece and another from a slice of fortune, and he was the fall guy for a collective calamitous failure from those Arsene Wenger should rely on to produce the goods.

Ultimately it will be the tactics that come under scrutiny as Arsenal were undone on the counter once more. It was Manchester United this season. It was Chelsea and Liverpool last term. It was United in the 2009 semi-final. It was deja-vu all over again for the Gunners.

But where was the reaction, the rallying, the resolve to overcome? It was non-existent, and Arsenal will continue to falter unless their key players produce when the situation requires.

Pathetic, embarrassing, outrageous - it was all of the above. Arsenal fans deserve more, but nights like this will resign them to the belief that more shall never be forthcoming.

Was this Arsenal's worst Champions League performance you can remember?

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Danny Welbeck
Arsene Wenger
Alexis Sanchez
UEFA Champions League

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