By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Aaron Ramsey did not start for Arsenal against Monaco as they crashed out of the Champions League on Tuesday night due to concerns over the hamstring problem that has hampered him all season.
Football Insider sources have learned that the talismanic midfielder was affected by a tight hamstring before the match, which the Gunners won 2-0.
Ramsey scored Arsenal’s second goal at the 79-minute mark just 16 minutes after coming off the substitutes’ bench to give his team hope of overturning the 3-1 first-leg deficit.
Arsene Wenger has been criticised for not starting with the midfielder, whose goal at Monaco was his eighth of what has been a truncated season, a haul bettered at the club in this campaign only by Alexis Sanchez (19) and Olivier Giroud (15).
But it is understood that a contributory factor in the manager’s decision was concerns about Ramsey’s hamstring problem flaring again.
The Welshman had played the full 90 minutes as he scored in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over West Ham last Saturday, but that was his first start since recovering from his third hamstring injury of the season.
He first injured the muscle on September 27 to miss three weeks, and when it went again at Galatasaray on December 9, he was out for almost six weeks. The third hamstring injury was sustained against Leicester City on February 10 and kept him out for three weeks until he returned as a substitute against QPR on March 4.
Wenger took no risks against Monaco and Francis Coquelin was partnered in central midfield in the second leg at Stade Louis II by Santi Cazorla, with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez flanking front pair Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck.
Ramsey replaced Welbeck when he came off the bench and his driving runs from midfield immediately gave Arsenal an increased scoring threat. He scored his fourth Champions League goal of the season with a clinical finish after Theo Walcott’s shot had rebounded off the post and was directed by a Monaco defender straight into his path.
But Arsenal were unable to score the third goal that would have prevented them limping out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage for a fifth consecutive season.