Arsene Wenger was in cautious mood ahead of Arsenal’s round of 16 Champions League clash AS Monaco on Wednesday night and revealed that he has banned the word “easy” when it comes to talking about Europe’s premier competition.
Speaking to reporters in the pre-match press conference on Tuesday, the Gunners boss insisted that his players were not about to get complacent for a match that many are tipping them to win comfortably.
But he rejected any notion that the visit of the Ligue 1 side to Emirates Stadium would be anything other than as tough as the many other Champions League matches he has had during his time in charge of Arsenal.
“We have been in the Champions League for 17 consecutive years and if we are complacent that means we would have not learned the lesson,” said the former manager of the principality club.
“Easy is a word that you have to ban in the Champions League. Every time we were in there it was hard-earned wins. It is always one-goal difference - you go out for one goal, you stay in for one goal and that means you have to work very hard.”
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Monaco are being seen as the ‘easy’ option merely by virtue of comparison by many fans of the Gunners, because the last 16 in the past few seasons has seen them drawn against some of the favourites to lift the trophy in May.
Bayern Munich, Barcelona and AC Milan have all been encountered and all have been insurmountable challenges, though it has been close on occasion. This is the first time in a number of years that Arsenal can be considered favourites.
Gunners Failures Seeded In Groups Stage
The real reason for the tough last 16 ties has been because of the Gunners finishing second in groups they had should really have been top of. Away games in Europe were usually an Achilles heel of Wenger’s sides in during the group stages.
It should have been top for them this time too, but an atrocious last half hour against Anderlecht, in which they gave up a 3-0- lead to draw the match, meant Borussia Dortmund tipped them to the top spot.
However, this familiar failing meant they ended up drawing group winners Monaco, who managed to do so despite only scoring four goals in six matches. Dortmund ended up getting the more difficult draw in the form of Serie A champions Juventus.
Arsenal Are Hot Favourites
Despite Wenger’s words, Arsenal are favourites to go through to the quarter-finals and should have more than enough to see off Ligue 1’s fourth-placed team. Yes, they won their group, but they went up against Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen and Zenit St Petersburg – not exactly a stellar field.
It is a different kind of pressure than that of recent seasons and if Wenger does not come through the tie then it will be one of his biggest failures of the last few years. Going out at this stage had always been met with the excuse that one of the favourites have been the opponents, but there’s no such excuse this time.
Do you think Arsenal will go through? Or can you see them being complacent and getting knocked out by a team they should really beat?