Champions League draw: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger wants Monaco tie and trip down memory lane

The Arsenal manager wants to avoid Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in today's draw

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The Independent Football

“I don’t think many people want Real Madrid. I don’t want Bayern Munich and I am sure they don’t want us as well. I am not against Monaco.”

Thus did Arsène Wenger outline his preferences for today’s Champions League draw. He will not be the only coach of those clubs in the unseeded pot thinking this way. In Wenger’s case, however, there are personal reasons as well as professional for hoping to draw the principality’s football team.

Wenger made his name at Monaco. Relegated with Nancy in 1987, he moved south and spent seven years at Stade Louis II, winning one French title (it would probably have been more but for Marseille’s involvement in match-fixing) and steering the club to one European final and two semis.

 

“I have great memories from my time there,” said Wenger. “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.”

What Wenger did not add, out of politeness and an awareness of the danger of giving possible opponents added motivation, is that Monaco are the weakest of the group winners, qualifying despite scoring only four goals and winning three of their six games. Arsenal have gone out at the last 16 stage for four successive seasons, beaten by Barcelona, Milan and Bayern (twice). “We have never had an easy ride,” said Wenger.

 

The other news Wenger will be awaiting today is the medical report on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was withdrawn in the final minutes of Saturday’s win over Newcastle United with a suspected muscle strain. “He has a pain in his groin, lower stomach,” said Wenger. “I wanted him to come off quickly, then he takes the ball and runs the whole pitch and crosses and then he cannot run any more. He had a little bit of inflammation before the game. I took him to Galatasaray and maybe two games was too much.”

Arsenal are already without six international midfielders and if Oxlade-Chamberlain joins the list Wenger may have to choose between Francis Coquelin and Lukas Podolski at Liverpool on Sunday. “We cannot afford to lose him. I hope it is nothing bad,” said Wenger.

 

His Newcastle counterpart Alan Pardew can at least welcome back his most influential midfielder, Moussa Sissoko, in the Capital One Cup quarter-final at Tottenham on Wednesday. But in goal he has to continue with rookie Jak Alnwick, who made his first start on Saturday.

“He has now got in a short period of time an opportunity to make a name for himself,” said Pardew. “Jak has to prove he is a goalie, a top goalie. He  was a bit exposed against Arsenal. The second goal he was maybe at fault, but other than that he was pretty sound. He looked assured and I can’t blame him for the result.”

It is 45 years since Newcastle last won a trophy and Pardew acknowledged the hunger on Tyneside to end that drought: “Bob Moncur [captain of the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup-winning side], who I call our president, is on the bus every week so I can’t get away from it, but no one would be more delighted than him [if we won a trophy].”

Ayoze Perez, who began on the right but then switched to play the No 10 role behind Papiss Cissé, is likely to start in that position at White Hart Lane. “That was a bonus,” said Pardew. “Perez struggled at Burnley in that role but today he was terrific. With [Daryl] Janmaat, I thought Perez was our best player; he was everywhere.”

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