Monaco were superb on Wednesday night, but as well as getting their tactics down to perfection, Monaco did benefit from a huge slice of fortune.
Arsenal fans will have woken up this morning trying to make sense of what happened at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.
On a very simplistic level, Arsene Wenger fell into Monaco's trap. The Ligue 1 side were always going to sit back and defend in numbers; it's what they have built their success on this season. In the first five minutes of the game, Monaco had no intention of chasing the ball, no plans to attack in the early stages of the match. They sat back and let Arsenal get into their stride, but without giving away any space.
The course of the game could have been so different if Danny Welbeck had troubled Danijel Subasic with his early effort, but the angle was tight. After that, Monaco grew in confidence and stature.
Leonardo Jardim had done his homework and revealed after the game, quoted by the Telegraph, that he knew they would have chances in the second half:
“We analysed Arsenal’s games beforehand and we knew they were stronger in the first half of games than after the break,” he said. “We know they struggled a bit after the interval. We were very organised in the first 45 minutes and that enabled us to take advantage of the space we were given in the second half on the counter-attack. Football is an art. You need to know how to attack and defend.”
With Layvin Kurzawa injured and Jeremy Toulalan suspended, Jardim made some bold decisions. 18-year-old Almany Toure played at right-back, allowing Fabinho to play as the midfield anchor, and with, captain for the night, Nabil Dirar on the wing, Monaco had two players able to play at full-back protecting the youngster.
It wasn't until the introduction of Theo Walcott in the second half that Arsenal threatened to get in behind the Monaco defence, when this should have been more prevalent throughout the entire match.
As soon as the winger made his entrance, Arsenal created a couple of great chances, but by that stage you could see that it wasn't going to be Arsenal's night.
Luck will always be a factor in the Champions League. Anyone who has regularly watched Monaco this season will admit that this was a phenomenal performance from the away side. Every man was at 100% capacity, there were no stragglers and they will struggle to better that performance this season. But if you can't give your all for the knock-out stages of the Champions League, you should perhaps question your desire to play at the highest level.
Even Dimitar Berbatov decided that this game was worthy of his effort. The Bulgarian showed desire, determination and willingness to move for his team. Wednesday's performance saw him collect the ball more than in any of his three previous Ligue 1 games; the goal was the icing on the cake.
Monaco got the breakthrough when Geoffrey Kondogbia's shot took a wicked deflection off Per Mertesacker, but his ambition to try his luck from distance and ability to drive forward and create the space need to be praised. On another night that shot wouldn't whistle past Ospina, Welbeck's shot wouldn't cannon off Walcott's derriere and Arsenal wouldn't face a near impossible task when they travel to the Stade Louis II in three weeks’ time.
Monaco and Jardim executed their game plan perfectly, but Arsenal will rue their luck, and the chances they failed to take. Sometimes football is not about what you do wrong, but what the other team does to punish your mistakes.