Arsenal won’t go out with a whimper says Wenger
Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal are confident of completing a miraculous fightback in their Champions League last 16 second leg against Monaco on Tuesday.
Wenger’s side arrived in the millionaires’ playground, famous for its picturesque casino, knowing the odds are against them progressing to the quarter-finals after losing the first leg 3-1.
The Gunners need to rewrite the history books to become the first team to qualify when heading into the away leg having to score more than one goal to avoid elimination.
Wenger accepts his players were well below their best in the first leg and he knows Monaco are also a formidable defensive force at home, having not conceded at all during the group stages earlier this season.
Leonardo Jardim’s team extended their unbeaten record at the Stade Louis II Stadium to 16 games with a 3-0 win over Bastia on Friday.
But Arsenal have never lost away to a French team, and Wenger sees no reason why his side, who are in confident mood after Saturday’s 3-0 win over West Ham, cannot make a stunning fightback.
“Monaco is in a very strong position, but we have experience, the desire and belief we can do it,” said Wenger, who confirmed centre-back Gabriel Paulista had travelled after recovering from a hamstring injury.
“We want to give everything to have the greatest performance on the pitch. If we did not believe we could do it, we would not be here.
“The statistics are against us. The result in the first leg is against us. We are conscious about that.
“But no matter how big the percentage (chance) is, we have to give absolutely everything to make the stats lie, that is our desire and belief that we can do it.”
Wenger was manager at Monaco for seven years, guiding them to the French league title in 1988 and also the French Cup.
Despite the air of sentimentality around the tie, the 65-year-old, who moved to Japan after leaving Monaco before taking charge at Arsenal in September 1996, remains focused on the task at hand.
“For me, it is a very special moment. I was a young coach here at Monaco, and stayed here for seven years,” Wenger said.
“I have a lot of respect for Monaco and want to thank the whole club.
“However, the experience I have gained can help me to make the right decision tomorrow, so I am able to separate the emotion of coming back and the importance of the game.
“I am here for work and my job is for my club to win.”
Jardim warned that they would not be taking Arsenal lightly as they bid to follow fellow Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain past English opposition into the quarter-finals — PSG saw off Chelsea on the away goals rule last week after securing a 2-2 draw in London for a 3-3 aggregate score.
“I don’t think Arsenal underestimated us,” said Jardim. “Simply we had a dream match.”
“Arsenal is a super team who will certainly give us a lot of difficulty. It will certainly be the most complicated match for us this season.”
The Monaco coach hailed the fact that French football was finally competing on a par with the English big boys.
“Compared to previous years Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco are at another level,” said the 40-year-old Portuguese coach, who took over last summer.
“We’re showing the quality of work achieved and developed in France.
“Maybe it’s the year where French football beats English football.”