Before our trip to Old Trafford I said to myself that if we beat Manchester United and get back to playing our best football; we'll go to Monaco and pull off the unthinkable. Being a man of my word (to myself) I have to stick to this far fetched belief.
I know it is far fetched, I know that Monaco have not conceded 3 goals at home for a long, long time now. I know that history tells us that it is rare to turn around a 2 goal deficit at this stage of the competition. I know, I know, I know.
But I also know that nobody expected Monaco to beat us 3-1 in the first leg. I know that we had not beaten Manchester United since 2006 at Old Trafford. I know that Arsenal demolished the Italian giants Inter Milan 5-1 after losing the first game 3-0 at Highbury. I know that not many people gave us a hope against AC Milan back in 2008 after drawing the first game 0-0 at Highbury. We became the first English club to beat the Rossoneri in their own back yard. We didn't stop there though, Arsenal were also the first club to beat Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. Not just win but outplay our opponents just as we did in Milan.
But what does those results have to do with the present squad you might ask? Good question, and the answer is nothing at all. Different matches, different teams and different times. But if that is the correct answer then logic suggests that history is also redundant. Just as history was redundant when we traveled to Old Trafford last Monday.
That all said, I am not totally crazy. We are playing an organised team who don't give up many goals, even against the best teams in Ligue 1. If we were playing this second leg at the Emirates then it would be a different game altogether but we are not. The chances of going through are not in our favour. More than likely we will come away at full time disappointed but nobody can tell me that this cannot happen should we play at our maximum.
Arsène Wenger's teams of the past have often performed when we were not the favourites, when we were the underdogs and I think that suits the way we play.
Our need to score three goals means that hopefully the handbrake will have been ripped up and left in the changing room. The only way we can score three goals is if we play in their half and overwhelm them with a desire to win the ball back quickly when we lose it, and attack then in waves of quick passes.
Monaco are likely to defend deep and in numbers so we will have to move the ball quickly if we are to fashion any chances.
Our first goal against West Ham was the perfect example of what we have to do to break them down.
Ozil tells Mertesacker exactly where and when to pass, leading to Giroud's goal vs West Ham. pic.twitter.com/iaPaebtken— Alexis's Left Thigh. (@SreeSince91) March 16, 2015
When you pass and move as quickly as that, it becomes very difficult to stop, so the understanding of Özil, Cazorla, Giroud and Ramsey will be very important tonight.
The issue I have with our team is that we are not very clinical and this is a game where we simply cannot afford to miss chances because unlike the first game, we are unlikely to have enough chances to waste.
So what team will Arsène go for tonight? Aaron Ramsey came back into the team against West Ham and delivered a man of the match performance so I fully expect him to start once more. His runs into the box will be important as will his defensive work when we don't have it. I don't expect our creative talents to be left out either so Arsène has the choice of reverting back to a 4-1-4-1 moving Özil out wide and Cazorla alongside Ramsey with Francis Coquelin behind them.
Even though Gabriel has only just returned to training, I do wonder if Arsène will take a gamble on him. Mertesacker has done excellently in recent matches, especially at Old Trafford but this is a very different game, a game that does not particularly suit him. As I mentioned above, we need to take the game to Monaco from the off, we need to compress them in their own half. Having Mertesacker half way in our own half does not help him or the team. For this same reason I wouldn't be surprised to see Gibbs come in for Monreal, although I think that is less likely as the form of the Spaniard has been top class for a number of months now.
While we need goals and preferably early, I think it makes sense to send out a team that is able to pull Monaco around and hopefully still find a breakthrough. He can have Walcott and Welbeck on the bench to throw on when Monaco's legs are tiring. I think that will be the game plan, I think Arsène would like Arsenal to be within a shout at 70 minutes. Walcott's searing pace and Welbeck's power and determination to help get the goals towards the end of the game.
That is why leading at the break will be vital. If we don't manage that then the improbable will be heading towards impossible territory.
Scoring first and early could affect both teams from a psychological point of view so I hope we manage to score our first chance. That would set the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons.
I'd love for Oliver Giroud to make up for his first leg missed chances by scoring his first Arsenal hat-trick but that is fairy tale stuff. I'd take 3 own goals from Monaco defenders if it meant getting through.
Fingers crossed that we can do it but at the very least let us give a good account of ourselves as we need to keep playing well for the confidence of this team. We still need to finish as high as possible in the league as well as another assault on the FA Cup, so a good performance and hopeful result will be important.
Usual pre and post match stuff today.