Arsenal and Monaco: So alike and yet totally alien

Arsenal Emirates 3

Arsenal host AS Monaco in the Champions League, a side in some ways very similar to the Gunners, but in others the opposite.

Their playing styles and transfer philosophies couldn’t be more different, but the meeting of Arsenal and Monaco on Wednesday will evoke plenty of shared history.

For the French outfit, there’s a strong sense of ‘what if?’ – after leaving Stade Louis II, both Thierry Henry and Arsene Wenger went on to become all-time greats at Arsenal.

Certainly, the Gunners have much to thank their Champions League opponents for. Wenger left Monaco under a cloud, after the board played hardball over his desire to interview for the Bayern Munich job, releasing him after that vacancy had been filled.

Had he stayed, Wenger was well on track to building up the kind of legacy he is assured of at the Emirates, leading Monaco to a league title, two Coupe de France victories, and blooding a succession of future superstar youngsters.

It was the promise of this stint that persuaded Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev to pump hundreds of millions into the club to make them world-beaters, including a £50million deal for Radamel Falcao.

Last summer, though, the money dried up, and most of the stars shipped out.

The Galactico project terminated, at around about the same time as Arsenal finally started spending big, along with Claudio Ranieri’s contract, a new Monaco has emerged this term. Conservative on and off the pitch.

For a side that, just a year ago, boasted the attacking exploits of Falcao and James Rodriguez, the Red and Whites will offer limited adventure going forward.

Domestically, they are the joint-fifth lowest scorers in Ligue 1.

And, at home, their threat is lesser – averaging just a goal a game, the second-worst record in the division.

This new generation of Monaco is instead built on defensive fortitude, boasting the joint-best tally of goals conceded, giving up a miserly 0.76 goals per game.

On their home turf, they ship a goal every two games on average.

Typically, Monaco play on the break – even though their spearhead, the mercurial Dimitar Berbatov, lacks the pace to fully fit their counter attacking set-up.

Fellow Premier League veteran Ricardo Carvalho will provide further experience to a squad heavily laden with youth and loanees.

Play is dictated by Portuguese midfielder Joao Moutinho – who is almost certain to leave the club this summer – while marauding full back Layvin Kurzawa has plenty of Premier League admirers, including Arsenal according to the Daily Mail.

But if the Gunners can shoot down their opponents in the first leg at the Emirates, it'll surely be tie over.

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