Arsenal determined to defy all the statistics in Monaco

History shows no team has managed to overturn a two-goal home first-leg defeat

Arsenal’s head coach Arsene Wenger: “The statistics are all against us. We have to give everything to make the statistics lie.” Photo: Sebastien Nogier/EPA

Arsenal’s head coach Arsene Wenger: “The statistics are all against us. We have to give everything to make the statistics lie.” Photo: Sebastien Nogier/EPA

 

To put it into context, the cold, harsh reality for Arsenal is that no team have ever qualified in the Champion League era after losing the home first leg of a knockout tie by more than one goal and needing to score at least twice, never mind the three or more that Arsene Wenger’s men will need to stand any chance of turning their tie against Monaco upside down.

They will also have to contend with a Monaco side unbeaten in 16 matches, who have a better defensive record than Paris-Saint Germain and everyone else in Ligue 1 and did not concede a single goal in their three group games at Stade Louis II.

Arsenal have kept only three clean sheets in their last 31 foreign excursions in this competition and when their delayed flight finally got Wenger into his old workplace he was reminded that Monaco had won 75 per cent of their Champions League assignments at this ground. Only Real Madrid have a better win percentage at home.

“The statistics are all against us,” Wenger said. “We have to give everything to make the statistics lie.”

Awkward moment

If Arsenal’s players could not rouse themselves for a Champions League night, under the floodlights at the Emirates, with a quarter-final place as the prize, it does raise legitimate questions as to why not.

Mertesacker talked of needing a miracle after the first leg and three weeks later his best attempts to sound positive simply confirmed the impression Arsenal still have a soft centre.

“At times, we could feel there was a bit of a pressure and we couldn’t cope,” he said. In fairness, he did go on to say Arsenal had shaken it out of their system, winning every game since.

Monaco’s win in London was described by L’Equipe as “one of the greatest Champions League performances by a French club”. Their coach, Leonardo Jardim, followed that up here by describing it “a dream game, the perfect performance” and on the plus side for Arsenal that does leave the suspicion that les Monegasques might struggle to play so well again.

Greatest performance

Olivier Giroud

He pointed out Arsenal had more chances than people might remember in the opening game. More worryingly for Arsenal, Jardim had noted Wenger’s side do not usually excel over a full game, often deteriorating in the second half.

The onus on Arsenal is to be ambitious from the start but they also have to make sure the structure of the team is not lost and Mertesacker, as the senior defender, needs to help restore the organisation so badly missing in that first-leg capitulation.

“We want to do better, we must make better decisions. We did things wrong, obviously. Can we learn from that and put in another performance? That is not going to be easy but we would like to show a different face of Arsenal,” added Mertesacker.

Wenger looked and sounded confident on his return to Monaco, wishing everyone a good night in the casino before accepting a framed photograph from the club’s directors. Yet the story of his team chasing first-leg deficits has become a recurring theme in the Champions League. So far it has ended every time with them leaving the competition. Maybe that’s why they are 80-1 to win the competition. Guardian Service

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