Arsenal may be facing Monaco for the first time in UEFA Champions League but for home manager, Arsene Wenger, the visitors will need no introduction having been in the Principality dugout between 1987- 1994 as Head Coach.
Arsenal will start out favorites and for them; a chance to get to the last eight of Europe’s Premier Competition for the first time in five years will not get any bigger than this. For the French side, they will point to the fact that they have the best defensive record in the competition and the last time they got to the quarters, they went all the way to the Final in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League Competition.
Come along as we preview the battle between a side that scored 15 goals in the group stage and another that conceded just 1.
CRYSTAL PALACE 1 V ARSENAL 2
NICE 0 V MONACO 1: It was Jardim’s side first win since late January and the clean sheet was their ninth in their last ten Ligue 1 games.
Arsenal: 3rd with 48 points
Monaco: 4th with 43 points
Aaron Ramsey- Hamstring
Suspended: Jeremy Toulalan
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE STATS
||SHOTS PER GAME
Do you know that Arsenal had a total of 69 shots on target in the Group Stage while Monaco had just 56?
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Arsenal finished runners up in Group D behind Borussia Dortmund on goal difference. The Gunners won two of their home games in the Group Stage: a 2-0 win over Dortmund and 4-1 success over Galatasaray. They drew the last one against Belgian side Anderlecht in an “Istanbul” manner, squandering a 3-0 lead with 30 minutes left to eventually draw 3-3 with the Belgian Giants.
Monaco reached the round of sixteen as winners of Group C although their point haul of 11 was actually two shy of Arsenal’s. Monaco scored four goals in total with only two teams- Roma in 2002/03 and Villarreal 2005/06 progressing with poorer goal-scoring records. Leonardo Jardim side took 4 points on their travels in the group stage which included a 1-0 success at the Bay Arena.
FORM LAST SIX MATCHES
CRYSTAL PALACE 1 V ARSENAL 2
ARSENAL 2 V MIDDLESBROUGH 0
ARSENAL 2 V LEICESTER CITY 1
TOTTENHAM 2 V ARSENAL 1
ARSENAL 5 V ASTON VILLA 0
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION 2 V ARSENAL 3
AS MONACO: WDLDWW
NICE 0 V AS MONACO 1
AS MONACO 0 V MONTPELLIER HERAULT 0 (POSP)
GUINGAMP 1 V AS MONACO 0
AS MONACO 0 V LYONNAIS 0
LILLE OSC 0 V AS MONACO 1
AS MONACO 1 V NANTES 0
Though, this is the first time both sides will face off in a competitive encounter, they did meet in North London in the Emirates Cup on the 3rd of August. Monaco won that day 1-0 thanks to a header from Radamel Falcao.
- This is Arsenal’s 15th consecutive appearance in the last 16. Unfortunately, Wenger’s men have lost at this stage in each of the last four seasons. Arsenal’s last victory in the round of 16 was against FC Porto (6-2 aggregate) in the 2009/10 season. Since then, they have suffered elimination at the hands of Barcelona (2010/11), A.C. Milan (2011/12) and Bayern Munchen (2012/13 and 2013/14).
- Arsenal’s home record against French Teams reads – W 5 D 3 L 2
- Wenger has never lost a match in France with Arsenal. His overall record against clubs from his home country with the Gunners is – W 10 D 4 L2
- Monaco are eyeing their first appearance in the quarter final since 2003/04, the season they went all the way to the final before losing 3-0 to a Mourinho inspired Porto side.
- Monaco has lost once in their five previous visits to England. That sole defeat was to Liverpool in the 2004/05 group stage of the UEFA Champions League. In their only trip to London, they drew 2-2 with Chelsea to book their place in the 2004 Final.
- Flamini and Nacho Monreal are both a booking away from suspension.
- Yannick Ferreria-Carrasco and Layvin Kuzawa will both incur a suspension should they pick up a booking at the Emirates Stadium.
- There have been under 2.5 goals scored in Monaco’s last 6 games in the Champions League (including qualifiers).
- Monaco has kept a clean sheet in 5 of their last 6 matches in the Champions League (including qualifiers).
- Arsenal has scored at least 2 goals in their last 5 matches in the Champions League (including qualifiers).
- Arsenal is undefeated in their last 5 matches in the Champions League (including qualifiers).
- Stat credit: www.whoscored.com
COACH AND PLAYER LINKS per www.uefa.com
- AS Monaco Coach, Wenger (now Arsenal Coach) won the French League Title in 1988 and the French Cup in 1991. He also led the Principality Club to the 1992 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final, losing 2-0 to SV Werder Bremen.
- Leonardo Jardim (now Monaco Coach) faced Arsenal as Olympiakos FC Coach in the 2012/12 group stage losing 3-1 in London but winning 2-1 in Greece.
- Ricardo Carvalho (now Monaco Player) did not lose any of his eight games played for Chelsea against Arsenal between 2004 and 2010.
- None of Mikel Arteta (Paris Saint Germain), Oliver Giroud (Montpellier Herault SC) and Laurent Koscielny (FC Lorient), now Arsenal players, managed to beat Monaco in Ligue 1.
- Arsenal’s record scorer, Thierry Henry played for Monaco between 1994 and 1999.
- Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) played against Joao Moutinho (Monaco) in Germany’s 4-0 win over Portugal at the 2014 FIFA World Cup
Arsenal, under Arsene Wenger, are famed for an attractive way of playing that has won a lot of admirers but unfortunately have very little to show for it in the trophy cabinet for the past ten years. Arsene Wenger’s emphasis has been to keep the ball, dominate possession and score “advertisement” goals. However, that approach has not always served the 65 year old in big games where his boys have been gunned down by the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and even the Post Ferguson Manchester United Team.
This poor record against his local rivals caused the Professor to borrow a leaf from the managerial books of his greatest adversary, Jose Mourinho, which is cede possession, maintain your shape and attack at full speed when you get the ball. Against Manchester City at the Etihad, Arsenal saw 35% of the ball (their lowest since 2002 when Opta started giving detailed statistics) but still came away from Manchester with a comfortable 2-0 win. Furthermore, against Aston Villa, despite seeing just 48% of the ball, Arsenal came out with a thumping 5-0 win.
Arsenal in recent weeks has also developed the knack for scoring early goals, taking the foot off the gas and then hanging on in the second half. In the Gunners’ last four games in all competitions, they have opened the scoring and all their goals have come in the first half. Crystal Palace, Boro, Leicester City and Tottenham all suffered from a high tempo Arsenal first half performance though the dangers of trying to win ugly was ruthlessly dealt with by Tottenham in the 2-1 North London Derby defeat at White Hart Lane. Change in philosophy? Safe to say that is the case.
WHAT SHOULD ARSENAL DO?
- Use the Champions League Experience to Your Advantage
Monaco might have the likes of Carvalho, Joao Moutinho and Berbatov in their ranks but apart from the trio, this team lacks Champions League experience. The fact the tax free area will be competing at this stage for the first time in a decade says it all. Jeremy Toulalan is also suspended and he’ll be a big miss in the midfield. Unlike Monaco, Wenger’s men are evergreen at this stage though it is actually five years since they last got past this stage.
For most of the Monaco players and Jardim, this should be one of the biggest matches in their careers and nerves could set in. If Arsenal can capitalize on this, get a few goals in, who knows…we could just be in to witness another Sam Smith show at the Grammys.
From their recent matches and goal statistics, I expect a flying out of the block start from Wenger’s men on Tuesday. The first goal in this tie will be very important and against a most likely defensive Monaco side, it is important Arsenal get that first goal not to only calm nerves but to also force the Monaco side to come out consequently creating space to exploit behind. Monaco might boast of the best defensive record in this season but with a forward line of Sanchez, Giroud, Welbeck and Walcott, Arsenal should have no problem breaking down Monaco’s defence.
Do you know Oliver Giroud reached half a century of goals for Arsenal in his 117th Arsenal appearance at the Selhurst Park on Saturday? The goal was also the Frenchman’s 8th in his last 10 games in all competitions for the Gunners. #Deadly
Okay, enough of the early goals! What if that doesn’t happen? Should Arsenal go gung-ho? I will not suggest that because that will obviously leave gaps at the back and stretch Mertesacker who has everything but pace.
Monaco’s domestic and European campaign has been founded on a strong defensive approach. Lyon are currently the only side to concede fewer in the French Ligue 1 and a run of nine clean sheets in the last ten matches highlights the strong resolve of Jardim’s side. However, while the Principality side has found it easy to shut out opposition attack, unlocking opposition defence has however been the Achilles heel of the French side. Fourteen teams have scored more than Monaco’s total of 26 goals in Ligue 1. Dimitar Berbatov, who is no stranger to Arsenal, is the French side’s top scorer this season with seven.
WHAT SHOULD MONACO DO?
- Strong Defensive Low Block Approach
I expect the French side to try soak up the pressure against Arsenal especially in the early stages, try to get that “precious” away goal through a set piece, individual brilliance of Berbatov or opposition mistake and then close shop. While playing a high line seems the best thing to do against Oliver Giroud, I do not think Monaco would adopt that because of a certain Alexis Sanchez and a returning Theo Walcott who would exploit such gaps between the defence and attack. Also the fact Carvalho is on the wrong side of his thirties means Jardim’s will use a low block of two lines.. Expect a compact Monaco side come Tuesday.
Monaco will look to winger Yannick Ferreira Carrasco to cause problems for Nacho Monreal who I suspect is the weak link in the Arsenal defence. Jardim must have seen the way Zaha skinned Monreal at Selhurst Park and will be hopeful the Belgian Under-21 can replicate such with pace, delivery and even goals. He has found the back of the net on five different occasions and has six assists to his name. The pace of the Belgian will unsettle the Spaniard who is a booking away from missing the second leg.
One of the ways Monaco will feel they can get an away goal is through the set pieces. In Carvalho, Berbatov and Lacina Traore, they boast one of the best headers of the ball and in Portuguese, Joao Moutinho, one of the best dead ball specialists. Though Arsenal has improved in this aspect in recent weeks, games against Liverpool, Manchester United, and Leicester City have shown that the Gunners are still vulnerable to the dead ball situation.
Arsenal will no doubt start out as favorites against Monaco. The likes of Sanchez, Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud, Welbeck and Walcott should be too much for Monaco‘s defense which has not really faced top tier opposition in the Champions League. However, you never know which Arsenal will turn up, as the timid side waiting to press the self-destruct button or the GUNNERS. Any form of complacency or poor showing and we could in for another Champions League upset. Well, that is why we live to see these games. All said and done, we expect Arsenal to progress over the two legs.
Who do you expect to advance?
Thanks for reading!!