Europe adventure's over, but Gunners can build confidence against Monaco
ROUND OF 16, SECOND LEG
MONACO v ARSENAL
(Tomorrow, 3.45am, Singtel TV Ch 111)
- Monaco lead 3-1 from first leg
Manager Arsene Wenger feels they can "create something special in Monaco".
Midfielder Mesut Oezil thinks they have the self-belief to achieve the feat.
Striker Olivier Giroud says the team "trust in our chance to go through".
Arsenal are attempting to pull off what no other team in the Champions League era have done - recover from a loss by more than a goal going into an away leg.
Monaco ripped them apart with a 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium three weeks ago. The Gunners need to score at least three goals at the Stade Louis II to stand a chance of going through to the quarter-finals.
The bravado oozing out of north London is clearly at odds with reality.
Arsenal certainly deserve applause for having the desire to fight to the last man and confidence that they can blaze a trail.
But what they must also appreciate is that the world doesn't end with failure at Monaco. Because the damage had already been done.
At home, Arsenal lost their composure and ultimately the plot.
In all likelihood, this looks to be a damage-limitation exercise, a chance to right the wrongs and for some players, an opportunity to banish some demons.
The Gunners' optimism may stem from last Saturday's 3-0 home win over West Ham - their eight Premiership win in nine matches. A similar result tomorrow morning (Singapore time) will suffice.
Monaco don't share the same pedigree as Arsenal, but they are not West Ham.
Coach Leonardo Jardim has moulded a combative unit ridiculously efficient at the back.
They topped Group C after conceding just one goal in six group games. In the French Ligue 1, they have let in only 20 in 28 outings. In terms of defensive record, whether in France or in the Champions League, they haven't found their match.
To put things in perspective, Arsenal must score more than what Monaco have conceded in their entire Champions League campaign, and even that may not be enough to clinch them a ticket to the next round.
It doesn't mean the Gunners might as well give up the fight. They mustn't.
Redemption against Monaco is essential because the humiliation of the comprehensive defeat in the first leg left behind psychological scars.
A moral victory is crucial because there are other fronts to fight on.
Arsenal are in the last four of the FA Cup, a competition they won last term to end a nine-year trophy drought.
Five Premiership wins on the trot have also propelled them back up the league standings, and to the brink of taking over Manchester City's mantle of being Chelsea's main challengers for the league title.
Third in the table, they are one point behind Man City and seven adrift of leaders Chelsea who have a game in hand.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho thinks Arsenal are "of course" still in the title race. Whether Arsenal have the durability and luck to turn it around remains to be seen.
But one thing's certain.
Arsenal need a miracle in Monaco, so don't count on that happening.
But their season is far from over.