Champions League draw: Arsenal given best chance to reach quarter-finals in five years as Arsene Wenger set for emotional return to Monaco

Wenger managed Monaco for seven years and won the French league title as well as reach the European Cup final

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The Independent Online

Arsenal have been handed their best chance to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League in five years after they were paired in the last-16 with French side AS Monaco.

The draw went as well as Arsene Wenger could have hoped, with Monaco widely regarded as the weakest group winner in the final 16 given they topped Group C with just three wins from six and an alarming four goals.

However, for Wenger it is a trip down memory lane, given that he cut his teeth on the Mediterranean Coast as manager of the Principality’s football team.

 

Wenger made his name at Monaco. Having been relegated with Nancy in 1987, he moved south and spent seven years at Stade Louis II, winning one French league title and steering the club to one European final and two semis.

Wenger admits he remains fond of his tenure with with Monaco, saying before the draw: “I have great memories from my time there. They gave me a chance when I was a very young manager. When I arrived they had never passed the first round in the European Cup; we had good times.”

The two clubs have never met competitively, although they did clash on the second day of this season’s Emirates Cup – the pre-season tournament that features at the Gunners’ home stadium in August – when a Radamel Falcao header sealed a 1-0 win for the Ligue 1 outfit. Of course, there is no Falcao to speak of in Monaco right now as the Colombian striker is on a season-long loan with Manchester United.

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Arsene Wenger during his time in charge of Monaco

Both are currently sixth in their respective leagues after difficult starts to the season, and it’s also worth noting that in finishing second in Group D, Arsenal have probably got an easier draw than group winner Borussia Dortmund, who will take on Italian champions Juventus.

The links continue between the two club's as Wenger developed Arsenal legend Thierry Henry at Monaco before eventually signing him for the Gunners from Juventus.  Another club great in Emmanuel Petit was poached from the French side before going on to make a name for himself at Highbury.

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