Why Arsenal need to respect Monaco or face elimination in February

Wenger Statue

Arsenal fans would have been happy to draw Monaco on Monday, but the French side are just the type of opponent to cause the London club trouble.

As soon as the Champions League draw was made on Monday, the narrative was set. Arsenal being drawn against AS Monaco was perfect for Arsene Wenger.

The legendary French boss was in charge of the Monegasque side for seven years between 1987 and 1994, winning the league title in 1998 and the Coupe de France in 1991.

From the Monaco squad in Wenger’s last season, there were plenty of names that Arsenal fans would recognise: Christopher Wreh, Jurgen Klinsmann, Lilian Thuram, Emmanuel Petit and top-scorer Youri Djorkaeff the star names.

That season, Monaco was eliminated in the semi-finals 3-0 by AC Milan. Against the likes of Dejan Savicevic, Marcel Desailly and Franco Baresi, Monaco were undoubtedly the underdogs, the same as they will be, come February.

However, this is perfect for Monaco and current boss Leandro Jardim, and gives them the best chance to progress.

Although in the league, Monaco has still been expected to dominate games and beat most of their opposition. In the Champions League this has not case.

Monaco’s success has come from staying defensive, soaking up pressure and looking to hit on the break with the pace of their forwards and wingers.

In the group stage, Monaco only scored four goals, but they only conceded twice in the six games.

Wenger will have to be wary of going all-out attack on the Monegasque side, because it will be playing into the strengths of their opponents.

This is not to say Monaco stands more of a 50/50 chance of progressing, but it puts them in a very dangerous position. With the first leg being played at the Emirates, the away side will be happy to soak up the pressure and look to attack on the break.

Monaco may not have James Rodriguez or Radamel Falcao from the team that finished second last season, but they do have pace down the wings and certain toughness through the middle.

Arsenal fans may have been delighted with Monday’s draw result, but the way that Monaco has played in the Champions League, is just the type of team that can cause Arsenal problems.

If Arsenal is not clinical in front of goal, the door will open slightly for Wenger’s old club to cause a huge upset in the last 16. To avoid the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich is obviously a positive, but Monaco are dangerous and plucky underdogs, not to be underestimated.

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