Arsene Wenger’s side face a very familiar scenario as they head into their away leg of their UEFA Champions league tie with AS Monaco. It was a complete show of shame from the North London side who were the clear outright favourites playing against the French team depleted by injuries. Their disappointment in the first leg brought back memories of previous Round of 16 encounters which have played out in the same way in the past.
Losing the first leg and coming so close in the second leg has been the order of the day in times gone by. In previous matches, The Gooners have not been favourites to qualify and it had not come as a surprise when they crashed out of the competition. Arsenal finished second in the group stage behind German side Borussia Dortmund after an underperformance at The Emirates against Anderlecht and a horrifying display against the German side at the Signal Iduna Park ultimately cost them their place at the top of the table.
Initially the draw for the Champions League Round of 16 came with a “blessing” as Arsenal were drawn against French side AS Monaco with group leaders Borussia Dortmund handed a tough visit to Italy, to face Serie A champions Juventus. Therefore Arsene Wenger’s famous quote about visiting church, coinciding with his hope for a better draw ultimately seemed to go as planned. It was a dream for the North London team and the fans alike – I mean who wants to finish the group on top and then be faced with a tough tie against the reigning Serie A title holders from Turin?
Yet despite AS Monaco’s average performance, it was still enough to give the French side a vital three away goals, while Arsenal displayed nothing short of school boy errors and equally as bad defending. An Alex Oxlade Chamberlin goal proved to be the only consolation they got from their most disappointing performance of the year. But if you remember rightly, Arsenal are no strangers to disappointing performances like this and conceding over three goals has become something the fans have grown accustomed to in recent times. The Gooners simply never do things the easy way when it comes to cup games, such as conceding three goals against Reading in the first half of a Capital One Cup tie, their tie with Wigan Athletic going down to the wire with a penalty shootout and of course, conceding two in twenty minutes in the 2014 FA Cup Final. Yet surprisingly in all these previous situations, Arsenal have somehow come out of on top. And their 5-1 win against Internazionale in the Champions League at the San Siro must sit firmly in the memory of many Arsenal fans at and proves that even in Europe, Arsenal can always defy the odds and who knows – Will Arsenal be able to overturn the deficit in Monaco?
For me it will take a miracle for Arsenal to qualify to next round considering the impressive defensive record of the French team not just in the Champions League but on all fronts. Arsene Wenger’s side have probably gained a wealth of experience over the years and have always come really close in the past. Let’s not forget that after conceding four goals to AC Milan in the first leg of a Champions League tie several seasons ago, a 3-0 win in the Second Leg proved to be close but inevitably no cigar. However, such a result against the odds show Arsenal are capable of a comeback, albeit without anything to show for it in the past. AS Monaco were not spectacular in the game at The Emirates and Arsenal have faced tougher tasks on a cold Tuesday night against Stoke, which many would agree is equally as tough of a tie.
Simply to win in Monaco, will be enough but in the manner Arsenal do so will impact on progression in the biggest competition in European football. Arsenal will need to score three goals, if they are to stand a chance of qualifying and with players such as Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, amongst their ranks, you would think scoring three goals will not be such an impossible feat to attain. Arsenal’s approach to the game and their performance on the pitch will bow down to a number of factors, none more so than the ability of Arsene Wenger to put his best side out on the pitch and for his trusted players to give it their best shot. A mental toughness in believing such a victory is possible is also important and the return of Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey should also boost the team. Alongside both a personal individual effort and collective team effort, players will have to produce their best form to help overturn Monaco’s advantage should Arsenal progress in the competition. David Ospina and the Arsenal defence will inevitably have to have a great deal of attention on the game, concentrating on Monaco’s willingness to counter-attack which is an aspect of their game the French team often use to their advantage. Inevitably, all these definitely are the ingredients needed for a miracle. As we all know in ninety minutes, anything can happen and for one, it cannot get any worse for The Gooners. The Second leg is not just a chance for a much needed miracle but for the players to make amends for their poor display in the first leg and build momentum to finish the season in a strong position.
(Please Note: Article was written prior to Arsenal’s second-leg elimination against AS Monaco in the UEFA Champions League)
Article written by: @onengs_dok