Wenger looks to cause an upset for Monaco

Wenger looks to cause an upset for Monaco

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal are worth a gamble as they look to pull off an unlikely result at Monaco which would take them into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The Gunners may be in fine domestic form, having reached the FA Cup semi-finals with victory at Manchester United while moving to within seven points of Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea after defeating West Ham 3-0 on Saturday, but their European ambitions appear all-but over for another campaign.

Monaco will defend a 3-1 advantage from their unexpected, but thoroughly deserved, victory in London three weeks ago.

It is a deficit from which no team in the Champions League era has recovered when heading into the away second leg, not to mention the Ligue 1 side having avoided conceding a single goal in their three home group stages earlier this season.

Nevertheless, Wenger remains confident his men have what it takes to upset the odds in the principality, famed for its casinos and yacht-lined waterfront.

“The statistics are against us, the result in the first leg is against us, we are conscious about that,” said Wenger, who confirmed centre-back Gabriel Paulista had travelled after recovery from a hamstring injury.

“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.

“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.”

Asked if he thought it was worth having a bet for Arsenal to qualify when out on the town later, Wenger joked: “I stayed a lot on the football pitches and I don’t think that people saw me in the casino (here).”

Since missing several chances in the first leg against Monaco and being substituted after an hour, forward Olivier Giroud has scored three in his last four appearances, including a fierce strike to open the scoring against West Ham.

Wenger has every confidence in the French international, whom he signed from Montpellier in the summer of 2012.

“Giroud actually owes the revenge to himself. He owes a great performance for himself,” he said.

“He missed a few opportunities in the first leg, but what striker doesn’t miss an opportunity?

“He has the ability and the right mental level.”

Wenger was manager at Monaco for seven years, guiding them to the French league title in 1988 and also to French Cup glory.

The 65-year-old was presented with a commemorative picture ahead of Monday night’s media conference at the Stade Louis II.

Despite the air of sentimentality surrounding his return, Wenger – who moved to Japan after leaving Monaco and then to Highbury in September 1996 – remains focused on the task at hand.

“For me, it is 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 decisions, 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.”

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