UEFA Champions League: Can Arsenal pull off what looks like an improbable proposition against AS Monaco? by SE
Arsenal have an uphill task on their hands to qualify for the quarterfinals of this season’s UEFA Champions League, as they need to score at least 3 goals to have any smidgen chance of overcoming an AS Monaco side that won by a huge margin of 3-1 in the first leg at the Emirates last month.
The Gunners were the second-most in-form side in the Barclays Premier League and were expected to better the Ligue 1 side when the round of 16 draw was made in December, 2014. However, as a result of a few defensive lapses in the first leg, Arsene Wenger’s men conceded 3 away goals that have put Monaco in pole position to win the tie. Can the North Londoners, however, pull off an unimaginable result?
At a similar stage in this competition a couple of years ago, Bayern Munich won 3-1 in the first leg at the Emirates and Arsenal were given zero chance of qualifying. Whether it was complacency from the Bavarians or pure brilliance from Arsenal, the Gunners managed to keep a clean sheet and level the tie by scoring 2 goals at the Allianz Arena. However, having conceded 3 goals at their own den, Wenger’s wizards needed to score again on the night, which was always going to be tough. Going into tonight’s return leg at the Stade Louis ll stadium, Arsenal need a similar performance but have got to go one better and score that third goal this time around.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s absence due to his hamstring injury is a huge blow to the North Londoners, whose only goal in the first leg was scored by the Englishman. However, Wenger has got a good squad that is sitting pretty in 3rd place on the Barclays Premier League table, and the likes of Mesut Ozil, Santiago Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud, to name a few, have to turn up on the night and produce their best performances.
Arsenal have been good while playing away in the Premier League this season, except for their derby defeats to Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. Wenger’s side has won at both the Manchester Clubs, in different competitions, and both those victories were built on the back of good defensive displays.
Defending has been Arsenal’s Achilles heel in recent seasons, and the Mertesacker-led backline hasn’t played to potential whenever they have been asked to perform under pressure. If the North Londoners are to have a chance of qualifying for the last 8 from the position they are in against Leonardo Jardim’s side, their rearguard simply has got to come good. They scored 3 goals against West Ham United at the Emirates last weekend, and their attack force was at its incisive best. They would have to produce a similar or better offensive performance against Monaco, who could also emphasize on defending and hitting the Gunners on the break.
Wenger’s men, however, have to guard against any naivety that they have exhibited on a fair few occasions this season, when they have over-attacked and committed too many men forward while trailing at home to Manchester United in the league and in the first leg of this champions league tie. 90 minutes is an awful lot of time to score 3 goals and, as long as Arsenal do the basics right, they are capable of putting tonight’s hosts under pressure and feed off whatever little panic that might set in as, if and when tonight’s visitors score that first goal.
Nobody is giving Arsenal a chance of qualifying after their horror defensive show in the first leg of this R-16 tie, However, if the Gunners can play with vitality and translate their domestic form from Saturday, there is no reason why they still cannot give themselves a chance of qualifying from what looks an improbable position.