Arsenal face a mammoth task as they go to the Stade Louis II needing at least three goals to see off Monaco and make it through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Despite their fantastic form in the league, Arsenal’s domestic results over recent weeks have been somewhat overshadowed by a first leg performance that can only be described as disastrous. Below-par from the beginning, they misfired in attack and gave a patched-up Monaco side room to catch them on the break.
As the game wore on and the frustration increased, Monaco began to find more gaps to exploit as the Gunners backline lost its discipline. They still must be applauded for their ruthlessness, with Dimitar Berbatov coolly smashing in number two, but the cardinal sin for Arsenal was conceding the third just minutes after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pulled one back.
This is a significant test of Arsenal’s credentials, and it appears an even more difficult task when considering Monaco’s superb defensive record this season. The key is to be patient against opponents likely to be content with playing on the counter-attack, and not commit too many men forward.
One man who will feel he has something to prove is Olivier Giroud, who missed a hatful of chances in the first leg and was roundly criticised. But his league form has been superb, and he again proved an integral part of the team in Saturday’s 3-0 success over West Ham United.
There are no new injury problems for Arsenal, who are still without Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby.