Arsenal 1 Monaco 3 comment: Will Gunners react like Manchester United and Chelsea after crushing Monaco defeat?

Gunners have a mountain to climb in second leg

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The Independent Football

Maybe we should not have dismissed Monaco’s threat. Their round-of-16 tie against Arsenal is their third knock-out tie against English opposition in the Champions League and they were wrongly under-estimated in the previous two as well.

In 1998 the Monegasque team knocked out Manchester United on away goals at the quarter-final stage, David Trezeguet’s goal at Old Trafford doing the damage. In 2004 they dispatched Chelsea in the semi-finals, Fernando Morientes the destroyer. After Monaco’s 3-1 win at the Emirates on Wednesday night a hat-trick looks probable.

In 1998 Alex Ferguson responded by pushing hard for Manchester United to spend, and spend big. As he later wrote, “I decided I had to assert myself on the need for Manchester United to spend money in the transfer market. For too long I had allowed the PLC to overwhelm me, accepting too readily all the Cityspeak about institutions and dividends and the harsh realities of the financial world.” 

While those words have a hollow ring given his later accommodation with the Glazer family at the time Ferguson meant what he said. Originally told the budget for summer 1998 was £14m he levered a £26.5m investment out of the club bringing in Jaap Stam, Dwight Yorke and Jesper Blomqvist. The season ended with United winning the treble with the first two players instrumental in that success.

Monaco’s defeat of Chelsea prompted even greater spending with Roman Abramovich committing £102m to upgrading the team. Significantly he also changed the manager, sacking Claudio Ranieri, who was already on borrowed time, and bringing in Jose Mourinho for his first spell at Stamford Bridge.


So how do Arsenal react should Monaco, as seems likely, complete the job on the Mediterranean next month? Arsenal can now afford to spend, and are likely to do so, but who will be choosing the players? There was a fin de siècle feel at the Emirates on Wednesday, but that has been the case before and Wenger has recovered. Should Arsenal end the season as last, with Champions League qualification and the FA Cup, will the hierarchy really tell their manager of 19 years to go? Will Wenger walk? Both scenarios seem unlikely.

But Champions League qualification alone might not be enough this time. Suddenly the FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford on 9 March, eight days before Arsenal travel to Monaco, assumes huge importance.