March, 17th We are all going to be in front of the TV, expecting the obvious but hoping for the unexpected.
In the tiny Louis II stadium, our boys will try to do something none have done before, progressing in the Champions League despite a two goals deficit to be recovered away from home.
As players have to build momentum to approach the game with the required focus, confidence and belief, so should we; for this reason, here are my five reasons why we are definitely going to succeed in our impossible task.
1. PRESSURE IS ALL ON THE HOSTS.
The scenario was ideal for Monaco at the Emirates: playing away from home against a much superior team, with no expectations whatsoever and the reassuring feeling that even a close defeat would be perceived as a good result. There’s no way you can fail unless you get battered in the process; well, that has changed a lot since Monaco stunning win at the Emirates Stadium.
They virtually can’t fail to qualify this time, as said before none has ever thrown away a two-goal lead going into the second leg of the home.
Monaco, not the Arsenal, will be the undisputed favorite this time and will just have to protect their lead to be sure, they will go through and keep the European dream alive; they are no longer a bunch of little Davids fighting the scary Goliaths, but they will be those who have everything to lose.
Will they handle it?
Also, being known for their rock-solid defense will add some pressure because they are arguably the best in Europe when it is down to defend. Hence everyone will be expecting another flawless display from Subasic, Abdennour & Co.
They let in two goals or more only five times this season, they surely won’t be doing that against the Arsenal.
2. COMEBACK SPECIALISTS
No other Club is more likely to launch a comeback than the Arsenal: Bayern Munich away. AC Milan at home and Reading away is some of the brightest examples of what the Gunners can do when they have their backs against the wall.
Of course, we didn’t progress in Europe the last time we had to come back from negative results but this time we are not facing the likes of Robben, Ribéry, Zlatan or Thiago Silva – with all the respect due to Monaco.
Especially in Munich, we went into the game with the same result we got against Monaco, and we were surprisingly close to complete an astonishing comeback.
Shall we repeat the same kind of performance, anything could happen.
As we all know, we have plenty of goals in our team and scoring three in the same game shouldn’t be the central issue; we must beware naivety, rashness or disorganization but not inability to create chances.
Even during what has been our worst performance of the season, we managed to score one and create four clear-cut chances against the solidest defensive line of the entire Champions League – that tells something. Start converting chances and another comeback could be on.
3. INEXPERIENCE COULD BE COSTLY
Monaco will go into the second leg with much pressure, as we saw before. They can’t afford to crash out of the Champions League after the result they got the last week.
The question is: will they handle these expectations?
Bar the trio of Berbatov, Moutinho, and Toulalan, none of the players expected to play against us has any relevant experience in the Champions League – that could have an impact on the game. Also given that they usually play 451 at home v big sides as they did v PSG at the weekend the ex Spurs and United striker may well not start.
Players with most games played in the Champions League behind those veterans are Alderson and Lacina Traoré with eight games played throughout their careers; to compare, that is the same amount of games played by Joel Campbell and Francis Coquelin.
What will happen if – for some reasons – we struck in an early goal? How will these inexperienced players handle the increasing anxiety? Can you exclude they won’t bottle it?
Many of them are very young, which could be either a real thing or an awful one: at the Emirates we saw the positive side of it, with players literally flying after what looked like the performance of a lifetime for them; will we see the wrong side at the Louis II? Will we witness the panicking, the fear and the crumbling after an unexpected twist of events?
4. OUR ONLY WAY IS UP
As said, we possibly played our worst game of the season against Monaco: we were slow, we were naïve and we deservedly paid the price for that.
None of our players offered an acceptable performance, and some were dreadful, like Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud – so it is fair to say Monaco didn’t see the real Arsenal in the first leg.
Our only way is up after such a poor performance.
Our passing game was as wasteful as it has ever been which was totally out of character and we got caught so many times I couldn’t really understand why the players and the manager didn’t adjust their game. Perhaps it was, due to excessive desire and if we can sort our game plan out, then Monaco would find it very hard to create chances against us. If you don’t offer spaces for their counter attacks, there’s not much Monaco could do to test our defensive unit.
They don’t need to, I reckon, but if we close them down in their half and keep the pressure high, mistakes will be made, and openings will start to appear nearby the box.
As good as you can be, it is very hard to prevent our players from creating chances if you decide to sit deep and soak pressure up.
5. GUNNERS LOVE GETTING UNLIKELY RESULTS
Do you remember the night we went to Dortmund last season? Many expected us to be kicked out by Klopp’s incredible team, but we won, instead.
Do you remember when we went to Milan, on the verge of being eliminated at the group stage? We didn’t stand a chance, and we came back with a marvelous 5-1 win.
Do you remember when we went to Milan (again) to face the best team in Europe, whose stars were Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Nesta, Filippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf and Kakà? We fired blank at the Emirates, and not many expected us to go through. We won 2-0 that night.
What about that night in Madrid, when we silenced the Santiago Bernabéu? Who could really expect us not only to qualify but also winning on that impregnable pitch? We did, playing with Emmanuel Eboué at right-back, Mathieu Flamini at left-back and Philippe Senderos at centre-back.
More recently, do you remember how we won at the Etihad Stadium – keeping a clean sheet in the process – while everyone was expecting another battering away from home.You can’t rule Arsenal out when you hope for the unexpected, and there’s nothing more surprising than Monaco being eliminated while having a two-goal cushion under their…feet.
WE CAN DREAM AND WE MUST BELIEVE!