Monaco look like a latter day George Graham team

By Tony Attwood

Many who push out the mantra that coming fourth is not a trophy forget what happened after George Graham won his two league titles.  Following the wonder 1991 triumph of just one defeat through the whole season, Arsenal found themselves in 10th in 1993.  Worse we scored the lowest number of goals of any first division team.  We also had the best defence in the league.

It was that performance that cemented the negative reputation of George Graham’s team, and for anyone interested in attacking football that tail end of Graham’s career at Highbury is one to be forgotten – at least in league terms.

Except it seems Monaco, rather than forgetting it, has taken it as a blueprint.

Looking at tomorrow’s visitors  Mr Wenger was rather generous when he said, “Monaco are very tight defensively. So it’s two good teams.

“They didn’t concede in the group stage against good teams. Of course it will be tricky but it is a possible tie. It’s really a 50-50 because Monaco have followed a similar pattern to us. They came back into a good position in the league and their confidence level will be high.”

And this is the twist in the game, because Monaco’s recent games have indeed built into an impressive if very low-scoring run run.  Here are their last ten.  Not many scored, but very few conceded.  In fact only two conceded, but both in the last two games.

  • Nimes 0 Monaco 2 (Cup)
  • Monaco  0 Bordeaux 0
  • Monaco 1 Nantes 0
  • Monaco 2 Evian Thonon-Gaillard 0 (Cup)
  • Lille 0 Monaco 1
  • Monaco 0 Lyon 0
  • Monaco 0 Bastia 0 (League Cup – Monaco won on penalties)
  • Guingamp 1 Monaco 0
  • Monaco 3 Stade Rennais 1 (Cup)

Goodness knows how Arsène Wenger considers this reunion with his past  – but given his dedication to the cause it seems unlikely he will dwell on it too much when meeting up with Monaco again.  He won the league with the club, but had his side overshadowed by the match fixing Marseilles thereafter.  And there was the awful moment when he was offered the managerial position at Bayern Munich and was told by Monaco he could not go.  Being the honourable man he is Mr Wenger did not resign from Monaco and instead battled on, only to be sacked a few months later.

If he does think of that, it won’t be with any pleasure.

But in one way he got his revenge by raiding Monaco for players after moving to Arsenal.  Grimandi, Petit, Henry, Adebayor…

There will be handshakes and smiles, but beneath the surface… I wonder.

As for the team Arsène Wenger has quite a spot of choice now available.  Jack Wilshere being one of several who didn’t start at Palace but who could make quite a contribution.

Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla are becoming a dominant force side by side such that rather than missing Ramsey we now wonder where he would fit into this team.  A bit like the final arrival of Coquelin after his years of preparation and being talked up by Untold – we wonder what Arteta will do when he returns.

Also in midfield is Rosicky who always gives a good performance when he plays (and it is interesting to see that the press have finally given up that “over 30” nonsense they used to spout.  Mind you they were doing it even when we had Bergkamp playing in the team until he was something like 35 – so they’ll probably return to it shortly).

Up front we have similar problems of fitting everyone in.  Giroud is still on a par with Henry for goals per league game, so must play.  Welbeck has returned with power and pace. and Sánchez is only left out when injured or in absolute need of a rest.   Which leaves us the problem of Theo.  We waited a year for his return and now he looks like an occasional sub.

In fact if we look at the bench for the last game we also had Bellerin, Gibbs and Gabriel alongside Theo, Wilshere, and Rosicky.  That leaves quite a bit of choice.

But Monaco should not be underestimated.  I know this was the draw many of us fancied as for once it gave other teams the delight of playing Bayern and Barcelona, and that was based on their run in the first half of the season.

Certainly as a result of that run Monaco’s league position doesn’t look too wonderful at the moment…

Paris SG

But now they have that defence sorted out we need some very fast passing and an early goal or two to keep the tensions under control.  Which takes us back to Giroud, Alexis and Welbeck or Theo.

Anniversaries of the day: Two exceptional Arsenal men

24 February 1962: George Armstrong played his first Arsenal game, v Blackpool.  He went on to play exactly 500 league games for Arsenal before moving to Leicester.

24 February 1964: William Garbutt – the man who took football to Italy, died.  He played for Woolwich Arsenal before managing Genoa, Roma, Napoli and Milan.

And if you are a Bob Dylan fan… 

You might enjoy Untold Dylan.


22 Replies to “Monaco look like a latter day George Graham team”

  1. So, a la George Graham, it will be one-nil to Monaco? I don’t think so.
    In my view only complacency will cause Arsenal to draw or lose tomorrow’s leg.
    When the draw was made, I think everyone from Arsene down to my Gran (who cleans at the Emirates) breathed a sigh of relief, quickly followed by a feeling of quiet confidence.
    And there was spawned historical danger.
    Clutching defeat from certain victory and vice versa has been Arsenal’s watchword over the years.
    There will be a game plan tomorrow and it is vital that right from the start every member of the team adheres to it.
    Monaco is not a high scoring team but concedes few goals.
    Arsenal are naturally an attack-minded side and are at home. A 2 or 3 goal lead to take to the second leg is essential.
    I mention that Arsenal are playing at the Emirates tomorrow.
    Noisy home support from start to finish will be like an extra man on the pitch. Imagine the sound 50,000 could make… and how it would affect our heroes on the field.

  2. I think you forgot their last match Tony. A 0-1 win at the home of their biggest rivals Nice. Again keeping a clean sheet. Winning by a small margin… it seems to be their trademark. They look like a Mourinho team in disguise at times….

  3. Walter, I hope that they are not like a Mourinho team in terms of organised foul play, cheating, diving and simulation, attacking other coaches during games, assaulting ball-boys and then complaining hysterically to the media if thwarted in any way.

  4. It is vital that a) we score and b) that we keep a clean sheet. We need to start confidently and pass the ball quickly and fluidly and I’m sure we will achieve the first objective. For the second we need to have a good balance between attack and defence, one of our full backs needs to staty back and someone needs to watch Berbatov all game.


  5. Tony,
    Can I remind all Arsenal supporters that at 10pm tomorrow night, after the Monaco game, there is a 90 minute programme on Sky Sports One on the Invincibles.

  6. Tony,
    Can I remind all Arsenal supporters that at 10pm tomorrow night, after the Monaco game, there is a 90 minute programme on Sky Sports One, on the Invincibles.

  7. Boring,boring Monaco!
    Lure them out the hit them on a counter. Im sure that Giroud or Sanchez will find a way through and Urzel and Santi can cut them to pieces.
    A win tonight will me that they have to come at us in the second leg, which means more chances for us.This is well within our reach.

  8. Nicky
    With all due respect , what “complacency ” are you talking about?

    Last time Arsenal went beyond the round of sixteen was the 2009-10 season against Porto( I believe). If this is any reason to be complacent, than we have bigger problems than I thought.

    Personally, I think this should be the year we went deep into this competition. None of the European Giants are playing above the rest.

    Barca, Real and even the mighty Bayern have looked beatable this season.
    I’m very optimistic.

  9. Tom,
    I will tell you what I mean by complacency. The most recent example was last weekend versus Crystal Palace when, after going 2 up we nearly donated a draw.
    There is a tendency for the team, on occasion, after an early lead, to “rest on their laurels”, which can be fatal.
    Remember the recent Spurs game too, perhaps an even worse case of complacency.
    The game is never won with few goals until the final whistle. Game plan and shape must always overcome complacency.
    I was surprised at your question.

  10. Nicky
    Your examples of Arsenal players’ “complacency ” against the Spurs or CP , are more examples for dealing with being put under tremendous presure, rather than being complacent.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have been to Arsenal games where players were all smiles and jokes during warm ups , only to start the game slow and without commitment- that’s complacency. Those however were examples of games against “smaller “teams and usually at home.

    Arsenal biggest problem in my view is the mental part of the game but it’s not complacency. This is just an excuse used by some , because admitting we are mentally weak is more damaging than saying we get complacent.

    Complacency comes from the position of strenght, so the manager and the players want to project that part of their make up , naturally.

    There’s absolutel nothing in Arsenal European record that should suggest our players be remotely complacent facing a solid team in the round of sixteen.

  11. Tom,
    I think we had better agree to disagree. In the Spurs game in particular, the game plan after an early goal was, IMO, “Ils ne passeront pas”.
    As we held our ground and did little else, Spurs became dominant and deserved their win.
    We were complacent and paid the price.

  12. @ Nicky & Tom, I think you are both right.

    We have been complacent at times, and we have been making very bad decisions when under pressure at other times. I honestly thought we got over this shit in the past 2 months or so but apparently the Spuds match (which I didn’t see, so it’s only according to reports) and certainly the Palace match (which I did see, and we were simply not good enough) are a proof that no one is perfect.

    But… wait a minute. The KGB just drew at home to Burnley, no? Man U just lost to Swansea (after not losing 18 in a row or something), no? And city had a string of crappy results before the 5-0 this weekend. Same happened to Barca, who lost to Malaga, same happened to Real, who just found their winning ways this weekend after starting 2015 badly, and Bayern drew against Shakhtar….

    So it can happen, no team can maintain a perfect mental-result record forever. The biggest achievement in my opinion is actually getting good results when not playing our best (i.e. Palace, and I was very happy about it).

    I hope we get a good result vs. Monaco tomorrow, hopefully playing nicely, but a 2 goal margin will make me happy nontheless.

  13. Nicky
    The problem with the Spurs game was that we didn’t hold our ground , but instead dropped too deep and invited the presure. The reason this happened was because of our inability to retain any posesion which can only happen when your movement and passing is good enough. Ours wasn’t. That’s why we were overrun in the midfield and dropped deep , which is a natural defensive reaction when unable to retain the ball.

    But , let’s not hijack this thread and as you said let’s agree to disagree and enjoy the game.

  14. Maybe us holding a bit back against Palace was with the match against Monaco in our minds already?

  15. If they play football then we will win them, but i think this will be a tough game no doubt. Hope they are football players and not thugs.

    Watching ManC v Bar, our possible opposition somewhere along the line.

  16. I don’t think its complacency by Arsenal, more a sort of tradition, take a little breather etc, let them have a little kick now, but in today’s football they need to keep going and keep in control by attacking, as we know even 4 goals up is not really safe at all.

    When we are defending or forced to defend we tend to make more costly mistakes, so we need to be always ready to attack and always closing down in dangerous areas, do not let the opposition even think we have relaxed.

  17. My impression is that for our play to work, the team must work together. For example, one man cannot do a press by himself. You must eliminate the passing lanes at the same time. On offense we depend on players reading each other’s body language and making the proper runs at the proper times. I am not sure whether it was individuals not doing their jobs and then the system failing or whether there was a lack of familiarity amongst players due to the number of injuries. Whatever, it was, we seem to be starting to click. Starting. Optimism always.

  18. I’d take the old ‘1-nil to the Arsenal’. A clean sheet means Arsenal have denied Monaco an away goal. We certainly can’t forgot how vital that is to advancement. A comment on the media hacks, if I may. In today’s Telegraph Henry Winter says (copied & pasted from the Telegraph):

    “Arsenal will be without Jack Wilshere on Wednesday, who was rested from training but should be fit to play Everton on Sunday, but are otherwise relatively untroubled by injuries.”

    Has he had a peek in the Training room lately? Or at some of the players just back from injury & not fully match fit or on form? It never stops. The implication being the mighty Arsenal should dispose of poor Monaco. Then if it’s not a super performance they can justify rubbishing the team. If we win Arsenal are untroubled by injury and should win. If we lose…..well, you know the rest.

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