Manchester City were expected to outscore the Ligue 1 leaders. Even as they reinforced their defensive outlook, the Blues were bound to arrive at the Principality ready for an attacking battle.
They were not able to unsettle Monaco in the early stages of the game and seemed deflated as the hosts built a 2-0 lead.
Although the second half proved much more worthy of City’s desired style of play, they couldn’t create appropriate openings and were eventually forced to watch Monaco celebrate victory and qualification to the quarter-finals.
As we mourn the end of City’s Champions League campaign in 2017, here are three things we learned:
1 - Finding Space
Kylian Mbappé was advertised as one of the key figures of this round of 16 match-up. He made his mark in both fixtures but his manipulation of the City defense in the second leg made it clear that the Blues have room to grow.
The young French phenom symbolized Monaco’s highly energetic, confident approach that gave Pep Guardiola’s side very little room to develop their attack.
The Blues couldn’t complete transitional passes. They couldn’t progress up the pitch as Monaco forced turnovers that pushed the team back toward Willy Caballero’s goal.
Although the second half saw the Sky Blues make a valiant attempt to recover, the French side inflicted fatal wounds in the first 45 minutes and then sealed the deal on a set-piece.
2 - Erroneous Fixtures
They managed to rebound their Premier League standing and fight through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, but failing to play the first half against Monaco like a final proved fatal.
On Wednesday night, a flat-footed first period set the Blues back too far for redemption. Learning to consistently manage the initial stages of a match in order to truly control game after game will be high on the priorities of the team's coaches as they head into the future.
3 - Solid Defenders
Gëel Clichy and Bacary Sagna were brought in to reinforce City’s defense and they handled their responsibilities relatively well. John Stones put in more than enough effort on most challenges to validate his regular place at the center of City's back line.
Mistakes were minimal as Monaco pressured City in the first half, but two glances were enough to give the French side an advantage.
In the end, this will be a valuable learning experience for the team, but nagging issues need to be resolved. Many will point to the formation selected by Guardiola as a symptom of City’s downfall. Others will say that the team lacked vital energy.
Either way, the remaining Premier League fixtures and the FA Cup semi-final will demand much more from the Sky Blues