Former Arsenal forward Charlie Nicholas has told Sky Sports that Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil must step up in the big games ahead of the side’s Champions League last-16 tie with Monaco.
The Gunners have fallen at the first hurdle of the knockout stages for four successive seasons, but are considered firm favourites to progress past the French side going into tomorrow night’s first-leg at the Emirates Stadium.
Nevertheless, Leonardo Jardim’s men are on a good run of form, sitting fourth in Ligue 1 with one defeat in their last 17 matches in all competitions, and picked up 11 points in the group stages after scoring four goals and conceding just one in their six fixtures.
With former Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur striker Dimitar Berbatov spearheading their attack, Nicholas is cautious of a potential upset, and has challenged Arsenal’s two most expensive signings to ensure that there will be no chance of another premature exit.
“I’m fed up saying this about Arsenal players on big European nights, but it’s time to start delivering on the biggest stage,” he said. “Ozil is a player who has had plenty of big nights in his career with Real Madrid and, of course, he’s a World Cup winner.
“But, so far, the only player who has come up trumps in the big games this season has been Santi Cazorla. As good as he has been, Sanchez has been pretty quiet in all the big games.
“And so has Ozil. He doesn’t touch the ball as often as I’d like, but he’s undoubtedly a class act. He’s got good vision, a great touch and surprisingly good pace.
“You expect him to turn up on the big occasions and do the business for you. So for me, it’s time for Ozil and Sanchez to perform in the Champions League.
Like Monaco, Arsenal are on a good run of form themselves, winning eight of their past nine games, while the club have also lost just twice to French teams in 20 competitive fixtures.
Nicholas is still expecting a close match, but believes Wenger’s side will do enough on Wednesday night to see off their rivals 2-0 and effectively put the tie to bed.
“This game, for me, hinges on the first goal. If Arsenal are to lose it, it becomes a frustrating night,” he added. “But if they score first I think the whole crowd will galvanise them and help them keep that momentum. A 2-0 win would be a very, very positive result for Arsenal.”