“Defend, defend, break, defend.” Yes, Monaco is in town.

By Bulldog Drummond

This has been a season of a slow start and then reigniting the engines in winter.

We have won eight of the last nine matches in all competitions.  We have won every home match since November, and the injuries are jogging along at an average level.  It is something that can be seen in quite a few Arsenal seasons – and has sometimes led to trophies.  No guarantee of that of course, but it is encouraging.

Mesut Ozil is doing his stuff with flair and some goals, Olivier Giroud continues to keep pace with Thierry Henry on a goals per game record from the start of his Arsenal career, and Theo Walcott is available – and scoring when given a chance.

So where is the worry?  After all this is Arsenal.  There must be a worry somewhere.

Of course… it is Alexis Sanchez who has gone five games without a goal.  Shock, horror, panic, sell him etc etc etc.  (I must say I just loved those guys who were saying a week or two back that we should drop Giroud.  I don’t think people need detailed knowledge of football to enjoy a match and support a team, but really….)

February’s results show us having played five and won four.   Scored 12, let in four.  Fair enough.

January’s results were played five, won four.  Scored 10, let in four.

Go back to December and it was played seven, won five, drawn one.   Scored 17 let in nine.

This is decent form.  Of course it could be better – even the Unbeaten Season could have been better, but it is still decent form.  Played 17, won 13 across all competitions.

Monaco as the first preview of the game showed are also improving having adopted a George Graham post-1991 approach of the meanest defence and flimsiest attack, having let Radamel Falcao go to Manchester United on loan and sold James Rodriguez to Real Madrid, to try and sort out their FFP position.

And let’s not forget though that such a defensive approach gave us the Cup Double in 1993 – Graham’s final flourish.  So as a tactic it can’t be dismissed.

And Monaco have Berbatov, of whom Mr Wenger says, “He may be 34 but he’s still playing at a very high level. Why? Because he has great technique. That’s what allows you to last.   Is he a stronger player than 10 years ago? Certainly not. But he compensates with his game intelligence and anticipation in the penalty area.”  On the other hand he’s only scored six league goals in 18 matches.  But we know where he came from so he’ll want to score tonight.

As for the team, Jack Wilshere won’t play it seems Mr Wenger saying, “He was rested from training. He trained hard until now. No setback.”   And as we know Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Mikel Arteta (ankle), Abou Diaby (calf) and Mathieu Debuchy (shoulder) are unavailable.   Serge Gnabry continues his rehabilitation after a very long lay off and is not being rushed.

Monaco have more worries than us, it seems.  Left-back Layvin Kurzawa and forward  Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco are reported as doubtful while midfielders Jeremy Toulalan and Tiemou Bakayoko along with Ricardo Carvalho and Andrea Raggi in defence are out.  The moving around of the defence could help us, because that is what they consider to be their strong suit and they’d be delighted to keep us at zero or one goal.

Indeed Monaco only conceded one goal in the group stages… but only scored four.

1  AS Monaco FC 6 3 2 1 4 1 3 11
2  Bayer 04 Leverkusen 6 3 1 2 7 4 3 10
3  FC Zenit 6 2 1 3 4 6 -2 7
4  SL Benfica 6 1 2 3 2 6 -4 5

So for us it is a chance to over turn the run of recent years in which we have been knocked out at this stage.  In the last four years we have suffered at the hands of  Bayern Munich, Barcelona and AC Milan.  Time for that run to end.

But as Mr Wenger says, “It was always on goal difference or by one goal. It shows every single minute will be massively important. The last four years we came always out frustrated. We conceded three times a goal at home in the first 30 minutes. That was what knocked us out. We have learnt from that and we can show it.”

“I think with Monaco it’s even but even if we are considered favourites it’s not a problem. For me it’s a 50-50 game. We are 17 consecutive years in the Champions league. Easy is a word you have to ban in the Champions League. Every time we are in there, it was hard-earned wins. It’s always one goal you go out or stay in.

“There is a lot of stake, it’s the kind of games you want to play. We want to go to the end. Let’s do it step by step.

“I believe we are in a better shape. I am convinced of that. We feel as a team that we are on the way up and we can use the Champions League to confirm that. I look around Europe today and there are 10 teams who believe they can win it.

“That means belief, commitment and being in a good period [of form] when you play the game. We feel as a team that we are on the way up and we can use the Champions League to confirm that.”

The teams…

With so many players actually fit it is a bit of a guessing game.  I doubt that Gabriel will get too much time on the pitch until his language skills are sorted or one of Mert/Kos is injured.  Bellerin’s pace makes him look a possible for this game where we want to outpace a defence minded team.

It would seem odd to break up the Cazorla and Ozil duopoly so that just gives us the three in attack to play with.  I can’t see Alexis not playing despite the lack of goals in the last five, Giroud is running on all cylinders and gives every defence a problem, and that leaves the choice of Danny or Theo.   I really don’t know what the boss will do, but whichever one is chosen, the other will come on as a sub.


Bellerin     Mert   Kos    Monreal


Cazorla    Ozil

Alexis    Giroud   Walcott

Which puts on the beach some or any of these

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Szczesny, Akpom, Chambers, Gibbs, Gabriel, Flamini, Rosicky, Zelalem, Welbeck

Incidentally it means the Ox could come back with Jack for the match at the weekend.  More fresh legs – always a good idea.


Anniversary of the day

25 February 1998:  Crystal Palace 1 Arsenal 2 (Cup 5th round replay on the way to the second Double).      The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.

On the Arsenal history site today: Gilles Grimandi – seven trophies with Arsenal and the league title with Monaco.



112 Replies to ““Defend, defend, break, defend.” Yes, Monaco is in town.”

  1. I think Welbeck will be on the bench and Theo will start. Oh, that’s what you said also 😉

    I have noticed a pattern on a few occasions that the player that sit next to him for the press conference usually starts at the bench. The beach will be for the return leg I think

  2. I can’t imagine Zelalem being on the bench after playing 90 minutes for the U18s on Monday night. I use the word ‘playing’ loosely as it was a performance lacking conviction and drive. Definitely not one to add to a scrapbook for the future..


  3. The dynamic duo of Ozil and Cazorla is the key here. If they are in the mood, a sure Arsenal victory. Of course, you’ll never know with jokers like Berbatov around.

  4. Please allow me a space on the Untold.com to correct my the error on comment which I posted on justarsenal.com. about 2 hours or so back. I had posted an over Gunners starting X1 as those>MY BLASTIN GUNNERS STARTS: Szczesny. BellerinDe-AbreuKoscielnyGibbs. CoquelinFlamini. WalcottCazorlaOzil. WelbeckGiroud. Is a joke. The boss can’t start 12 Gunners but 11 for a game at a time. And there can’t be a 4-2-3-2 playing style but a 4-2-3-1 which the boss has since been playing. The boss should please forgive me my error. Let him reduce my 12 starters to the correct 11 blasting Gunners starts to blast through the starting 1X of Monaco FC and blast the Red and Whites to ashes as: AFC 3-0 MFC FT. 90” +. All other contents on that my comment save the 12 starting X1 and my 4-2-3-2 playing style remain unchanged.

  5. Just hope we keep our shape and wait for the breaks and do it in style . Come on guys , go on make us proud.
    A 2-0 win would be a good lead to take to the return leg.
    Up the Gunners !

  6. I don’t think Theo has been offering enough (beyond goals…) since he came back. Welbeck contributes more defensively and managed two assists at the weekend – he also didn’t play the 90. So would start him. Once the Ox is fit I would have him ahead of both Welbeck and Theo. Particularly as whoever plays right back is relatively inexperienced and will need support.

    Pretty sure that Bellerin will come back while I have a hunch that Gibbs might start, possibly Szcz also. Otherwise agree with the team listed.

    So: Szcz; Bellerin, Gibbs, Mert, Kos; Coq, Santi, Ozil; Welbeck, Alexis, Giroud.

    With Ospina, Monreal, Gabriel, Flam, Rosicky, Theo and Ox on the bench.

    We shall see. Leaving soon for the game, via the Hen & Chickens on Highbury Corner. Can’t wait!

  7. Daily Mail is the first to have Starting 11 that I have run across.

    Bellerin Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
    Cazorla Ozil
    Alexis Giroud Welbeck

    Sky had 11 and subs, so here are the subs

    Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel, Monreal, Chambers, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott.

    Which I think is Bulldog has 2 wrong, and Pete has 1 wrong. And Samuel, I don’t know.


  8. Daily Mail is showing one poster in the stands:

    > Monaco is Impassable Rock
    > Hello Arsene Wenger
    > . . .and
    > . Eric Dimeco
    > Thank you for what you did
    > . .at Monaco

    I’ve changed the capitalization a little.


  9. Looks like speed for the R+LBs as stated above to combat a defence minded team. Hope we get a good game of football with no incidents.
    Come on Arsenal.

  10. Daily Mail is writes:

    From Sportsmail’s Matt Barlow at the Emirates Stadium

    ‘Nice effect from the Monaco fans in the away corner: All those at the top in red. All those at the bottom in white. Viola, a large Monaco flag.’


  11. Gary neville, shut the fuck up, twat. Going on and on and on about Ozil. I’ve had to mute the sound.

    There’s still plenty of time to turn this round. COYG!

  12. Can someone tell me the.purpose of that official behind the goal, if he couldn’t see the defender cushioning the ball away from Ozil with his arm. Fifa would rather waste money on a paying an extra man who seems useless when a piece of technology can do the job ten times better.

  13. Al,

    I managed to start watching (here in Canada) at about the 35 minute mark, and I had to mute the twits doing the coverage here as well. 🙂

    Why can’t they just give us the audience soundtrack, and forget about having the babbling muppets?


  14. Bad luck on the goal. Too much space but a crazy deflection. Comparing our offence to Barcelona’s. Their centre-backs almost always take two or three steps forward when they receive the ball initially to see whether they can split the defending forwards and launch an immediate counterattack. We take the ball and play it sideways.

    Still, 45 minutes left.

  15. This is just typical Arsenal, we cant do it the easy way. If we could just play with a bit mote concentration, we can win them easily. Where is Sanchez? Why is he a human today? Wenger should search for a kryptonite in his clothes!

    Come on you gunners, that was just a lucky goal, we are by way the better team.

  16. AL

    Just what I was thinking. It’s got nothing to do with how he’s played because he started on him from minute one.

    I used to like Gary Neville but since he’s been on his ‘World Tour’ boasting about how he used to kick Arsenal off the park he’s really dropped in my estimation.

    Turns out he’s just a thug.

    As for the game. Okay not playing brilliant, but looked to me like we was just one pass away from a killer ball and we looked in no danger.

    Freak goal. What can you say.

    Long way to go, and as long as we take a lead to Monaco I’ll feel pretty confident. Don’t really want to let another goal in though.


  17. I know, Gord. It’s unbelievable.

    Good thing you’re finally getting to watch, let’s hope the boys turn this round quick and make it a memorable night for you. We weren’t terrible, it was just a deflection and these things happen. We just need to be precise with our final ball in the final third and we will beat them.

  18. AL – The purpose was to have additional officials to watch the goal line. So with 4 officials, 2 more were added, hence there were 2 more on. So I called them more-ons! Apt considering what they do!

  19. Since the ref is awesome (until now) I think Sanchez should some dribbiling cause then he can easily take 2 to 3 defenders away
    Yes he can, but why isnt he? Come on Sanchez, destroy them!!

    Oh I wanna be in the emirates tonight ;(

  20. Jambug
    I couldn’t believe it when he said Ozil needs to start delivering in like the 2nd or 3rd minute! Ever since coming back from injury he’s been either scoring or assisting, turning man of the match performances. And this idiot had this to say about him. I just couldn’t believe it.

    He’s spoilt it for me now coz I’m watching in silence.

  21. Lots of foul tackles on us when we play the ball. The ref seems to think its ok to kick the player holding the ball.

    OG is not switched on yet. Perhaps Theo needs to warm up.

  22. Just the sub you asked for, Menace. Don’t think there can be many complaints about that one today, it just wasn’t happening for him tonight.

  23. That was almost their third! We have to up the tempo otherwise we could be in serious trouble.

  24. Must say Monaco are well drilled defensively. Not surprising they’ve only conceded one goal in the CL so far. Come on boys let’s dent that record!

  25. Yes, their defence is good. We have not been terrible Mr neville, this team has a very good defence. Credit where it’s due.

  26. Looks like we have to take it on the chin. Small fouls not being given but make a difference to touch players.

  27. Just heard Perry Groves say on Arsenal.Com that with all the tricks Monaco are playing

    If I was an Arsenal player, I would …. how do I say it, “get among them”

    It was 100% obvious he meant to kick them

    I hope Untold will suggest a letter campaign against Arsenal.Com and ask for Perry Groves to apologize or leave.

  28. The few times we breached their defence they were lucky. Anyway, that’s football. On to the next game.

  29. Ok guys, keep it tight now, that was the first of the three goals we need in the next 92 minutes

  30. How can we loose 98% of all duells in the middle of the park ??????
    1-2 is to live With, 1-3 is a DISASTER!!!

  31. Struggling for a positive in this game. I still believe but perhaps not as much as I did 105 minutes ago. 🙁

  32. I prefer to back this team, but that performance was pathetic. A few arses need kicking. We seem to product these abject performances every few games at the moment, but that was one of the worst. The last goal…..I would set Steve bould, Adams and Keown onto them!

  33. Stunned, first 10 minutes I thought this could be a big night. Turned out it was but not for us. Can’t even blame the ref for this one.

  34. We have to take our chances & that was the difference. Chasing opens our defence. Too many shots not on target in first 70 mins.

  35. Stupid article has come back to bite. Monaco were better than us all over the pitch including attack. Well deserved win and an utterly disgraceful performance from our players and manager.

  36. OK Jayram and their manager had a better suit on than wenger and there away fans were prettier

  37. sad night for all gooners… a lack of desire pretty much sums up the night… nothing more nothing less…

    hope they settle this issue asap…


  38. There seemed to be no movement up the field. Our midfielders had no options going forward, which slowed them down. Theo had a few good runs, but that was it. Also they seemed to specifically close down our creative men, Ozil and Santi were always surrounded.

  39. It cant be described Va Cong,

    Had we taken our chances it would have been another story. We reached their goal way more than tbey did (and before they score there was non for them). It was their damn lucky first one.

    For God sake, how on earth would Welbeck shot hit Walcot, Giroud shoot that badly, and even Sanchez? Their third goal, it started from a bad control by Ox (what a damn lucky team?)
    with all due respect to Monaco, they didnt out play us, we just shot our own foot.

    Now we should do it the Arsenal way, 3-0 away? But please, get some damn luck with you.

  40. Give Monaco some credit they defended extremely well….even so we missed at least two simple goals. That was Ozil’s worst performance in the shirt. Playing two big guys up front with Sanchez and Ozil coming inside played into Monaco hands. The intensity needed was not there end of

  41. Yassin

    I am just pissed at my bet loss and well we played a bit flat!
    But I will put a bet n for 3-0 😀
    Yeah it could have been easily 4-3 but thats the greatness of hindsight ask Jayram Yassin

  42. There come the yaaaps. Fasten your seat belts, there’s gonna be a lot of sewer splashed around.

  43. They did us in the same way they had done us at the Emirates Cup – they looked more organized side with more steel in the midfield and more discipline at the back.

    Giroud is a nice lad who’ll give us goals in the forthcoming fixtures but comparing him to Henry is an insult to both Henry and common sense.

  44. They are a defending team whats there to give credit, they countered with a lucky goal and then merty moment of madness and well their third was a 50-50. Next time our rebounds will be coming in
    and they will cry! 😀

  45. We lost because two of our players were not in the game (and I dont blame them, this happens). it was not there day, one at attack and one at defense. That is it, Monaco were not as good as the score showed, they gained they shoots not from their play, but our really stupid mistakes.

    Had those playera been what they always were, the score would have beem something else.

  46. This is just not acceptable at home in CL. Come on. Players cannot play like this. Monaco were non existent at first, but we lost control of the game, and we cannot do that.
    The problem is WHY?
    What has changed for the same team to come out and forget all the basic skills and play like they were just having a kick around? If you look back at Untold, this is the only thing i complain about, consistency from game to game.

  47. Yes Va cong, we will do it. They were lucky, that is the definition of luck. their second goal was the only playes goal ( I have no idea what Mert was doing).

    @Andy Bishop,

    Really? Ozil? You can blame Mert, Giroud, Sanchez? But Ozil? What the heck did he do wrong? He was the best player in the starting eleven after Welbeck! Man turn the commentators off when watching next time please.

  48. Bad luck & little fouls ignored causing us to lose possession. Poor finishing & chances not taken by us. Slow defense allowed them options.

  49. Had nothing to do with little fouls and bad luck! We were awful. Just tell it like it is.

  50. They weren’t lucky. They were better and totally deserved a victory. We had a decent ref tonight (not the one delegated by PGMO, of course), they were without a few of their players and they still ran out as the deserved winners.

    I just hope Thierry will work a lot with Danny Welbeck in terms of finishing.

  51. @Para,

    I think Nicky would have the answer, he said it was typical Arsenal. And yes it was.

    Now, to think about it, yes I back you up here, why? Is it psychological? Then get someone to fix it. I have no idea. But I can still say that nothing, and by nothing I mean not any simple pass, rebound, or any header was going our way. This was unbelievable.

    Today we had two players not at their best, and they cost us the match. Ome was substituted, the other was not. Their goals were lucky. give me those players at theit usual quality and we would have been winning today. It was not working for us

  52. Well its a game of 2 halfs 😀 we can get our luck next, spot on menace nothing to special required for ref

  53. I’m stunned, on another night Giroud’s rebound goes in and Welbeck’s shot doesn’t hit Walcott. Unfortunately, that’s the type of night it was. They have to turn it around for the 2nd leg and play like they’re capable of.

  54. The ref was so good, and I wish we had like him in the PL. Althougj in the 3rd goal there was a foul on the Ox (which is usually not given, but he did give it 2 times in the injury time, and Monaco wasted time by then). Still that was not the reason we lost/played that way.

    As for the luck part, no they were lucky. Before that goal they had nothing, and we looked more like scoring. Giroud in his day would never waste those easy goals. Welbeck shot that hit Walcot? Their 1st goal? Theit third coming off the bad control of one of the best people who can control balls (Ox). In my opinion, they were lucky, still if Sanchez did what he always do, we would have emerged winners today.

  55. The result almost entirely kills our hopes to progress to the next round, after what was one of the easiest draws we’ve had in over 5 years. The same flaws just keep appearing in our team.

  56. No doubt that Monaco performed better but they won a lot of ball from Santi & Alexis with initial fouls that allowed the ball distance to take it away. Our finishing was poor. Shots were off target from both Danny & Giroud. When Danny shot at goal it came off Walcotts leg and ballooned over the bar – bad luck.

  57. Why did we save our worst performance of the season for tonight?
    Seems like some people here don’t like Gary Neville telling them the truth. Did you expect him to lie just to suit your sad lives? Suck it up. We were shit.
    He made the best assessment I’ve heard so far:”Everything you don’t want to happen in a performance you’ve seen tonight from Arsenal”.
    It’s still possible to turn it around in Monaco, we usually play those away legs ( after this kind of defeat ) quite well.
    So to those of you with your fingers hovering over the A key, take a reality check.

  58. They had luck on their side but we were nowhere near our best. On another night things would have been different but lets not take it away from Monaco, they had a game plan, stuck to it and won. We on the other hand seemed to be without a rudder for long periods of time and some of our players simply did not step up when needed.

  59. Think we are missing a box to box player, coq needs someone like that alongside him. We miss Jack or Ramsey at his best. Think Arteta could also have helped calm things down a bit.
    But still see that as absolutely shocking, dereliction of duty all over the pitch. Some will blame wenger, but I would imagine he is fuming. Whatever we are trying to do, or whatever direction we are trying to go, this game and others this season, suggest we are not there yet.
    And what’s really strange, they looked absolutely shattered. This was on a par with our worst performances of the last couple of years, everything that could go wrong did. We really have to look at our defending after this, not acceptable.
    We are not out of this, but a huge improvement is needed in the return fixture. The players will be hurting, they need to turn this to a positive however hard that may be.

  60. Thanks florian haven’t peed in 2 weeks! 😉
    Mandy we did this at Munich we can do it at Monaco oh yeah!

  61. We can Va Cong, an early goal will make them nervous, but we have given ourselves a mountain to climb. But sorry, keep labouring the point, but that was a really strange performance, it’s like they just didn’t wake up from the first lucky goal.
    But I trust this team to bounce back.

  62. The only way they can redeem themselves in my eyes would be if they qualify! I won’t so easily forgive them for this shambolic performance! Its an insult. And this has nothing to do with Lady Luck. When will they learn that no one is gonna give them a game on a platter? Actually, I love Arsenal to shreds but stop breaking my heart time and time again.

  63. To keep the winning balance going, the players need be discipline for it to work. They totally lost it today. Hope they can turn it around in the 2nd leg. They can take a cue from the on-going AFC Suzuki Cup in SEAsia. Malaysia lost at home 3-1 to Vietnam, all hell broke loose in my local media. Goodness, they beat them 4-2 in Hanoi to progress. What a celebration the next day! COYG!

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