Arsenal's Champions League round-of-16 story: Lambs in the first leg, Lions in the second!
Can Arsenal prevent their sixth consecutive elimination from the Champions League round-of-16 stage?
Tuesday night saw defending champions Barcelona beating Arsenal 2-0 on their own backyard when the two sides met in their Champions League round-of-16 clash. Although Arsenal looked good in the first half, their defence started looking shaky in the second half and Barca’s talisman Lionel Messi scored a brace in the final 20 minutes to seal the deal for the Catalan side.
The win was vital for Barcelona as they will play the second leg at their home ground. As far as Arsenal are concerned, they are on the brink of another Round-of-16 exit in the Champions League.
The last time Arsene Wenger’s side made it past the round of 16 was in the 2009-10 edition. Since then, Arsenal have been continuously struggling in the last 16 and in most cases they have squandered the first leg before winning the second leg. However, by that time, it’s either too little too late or their opponents prevail on away goals. This is gradually beginning to look like another one of those moments.
These struggles first began in the 2010-11 Champions League when Arsenal had to face Barcelona in the round of 16. Arsenal did not begin very well in the first leg at home as Barcelona took the lead in the 26th-minute. However, Arsenal came back strong and scored two goals in five minutes to win in the first leg 2-1.
In the second leg at the Camp Nou, Barcelona once again took the lead but an own goal early in the second half put Arsenal back on track for a quarter-final berth and until the 70th minute it looked like Barcelona were going out. However, the Catalans scored two goals in as many minutes to knock out Arsenal from the Champions League.
AC Milan (2011-12)
In the following season, Arsenal had a decent showing in the group stages as they topped their group and lost only one match against Olympiacos with qualification already confirmed. In the round of 16, they were drawn to face AC Milan. In the first leg at the San Siro, the Rossoneri completely outplayed Arsenal, winning the match 4-0 thus handing Arsenal their heaviest ever European defeat.
In order to stand a chance of making it to the quarter-finals, the Gunners had to beat them by five goals in the second leg. Looking on their first leg showing, the possibility of a comeback in the second leg was not entertained by many.
However, Arsenal fought back in the second leg and by halftime, they were already 3-0 up. They had a great opportunity to level the aggregate scores on the hour mark but Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati saved a deflected shot from Gervinho before blocking the follow-up from Robin van Persie. Milan clung on and didn’t concede another goal, thus ending Arsenal’s hopes.
Bayern Munich (2012-13 and 2013-14)
In the 2012-13 season, Arsenal were up against a strong Bayern Munich side. For the second successive time, Arsenal squandered the first leg which again was on their home ground, losing 3-1. The Gunners now had to beat Bayern by three goals to qualify for the quarter-finals.
This time, it was a daunting task because throughout the Champions League that season, Bayern had won all their home games. However, Arsenal went on to win the match 2-0, but Bayern qualified by virtue of away goals.
Arsenal were once again up against Bayern Munich in the round of 16 in the 2013-14 season. For the third consecutive time, Arsenal lost their home leg; this time 2-0. In the second leg, Arsenal weren’t as convincing as the previous two seasons as they drew the match 1-1 and were subsequently eliminated.
AS Monaco (2014-15)
In the 2014-15 season, Arsenal had a good showing in the group stages. They were group runners-up on goal difference and had been really strong in the attack, scoring 15 goals. In the round of 16, Arsenal’s opponents would be French side AS Monaco, who had scored only four goals in the group stages.
Arsenal were favourites to make it to the quarter-finals this time. However, once again they lost the first leg with Monaco winning 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium. However, based on their previous showings in the second legs of the round of 16, the Gooners still had some hope.
Arsenal once again put up a strong fight in the second leg but couldn’t save themselves from elimination, they won the match 2-0 but Monaco advanced on away goals.
Since the past five seasons, this has been Arsenal’s story in the round of 16 in the Champions League and this season is probably going to be no different. The Gunners have once again lost the first leg but based on past performances, the possibility of an upset in the second leg cannot be ruled out completely.
Although Barcelona have been in terrific form at home, if there is any team capable of recuperating from a 2-0 first leg defeat at home against them, it has to be the Gunners.