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Thursday 19 October 2017

Wenger wants Gunners locked and loaded for uphill task

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his side to believe they can beat the odds and overturn a 3-1 deficit to defeat Monaco tonight and reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The Gunners jetted out to the Principality tax haven, famous for its casinos and yacht-lined waterfront, needing to rewrite the history books to become the first team to qualify when heading into the away leg having to score more than one goal to avoid elimination.

Wenger accepts his men failed to produce the required performance in London last month when they squandered numerous chances before being hit on the counter - with a potentially fatal third goal coming in stoppage time moments after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had grabbed a lifeline.

Monaco are also a formidable defensive force at home, having not conceded at all during the group stages earlier this season, and extended their unbeaten record at the Stade Louis II Stadium to 16 games with a 3-0 win over Bastia on Friday night.

Arsenal, though, have never lost in France, and Wenger sees no reason why his side - the FA Cup semi-finalists in fine domestic form on the back of Saturday's 3-0 Premier League win over West Ham - cannot progress.

"Monaco is in a very strong position, but we have experience, the desire and belief we can do it," said Wenger, who confirmed centre-back Gabriel Paulista had travelled after recovery from a hamstring injury.

"We want to give everything to have the greatest performance on the pitch. If we did not believe we could do it, we would not be here. The statistics are against us. The result in the first leg is against us. We are conscious about that.

"But no matter how big the percentage (chance) is, we have to give absolutely everything to make the stats lie, that is our desire and belief that we can do it."

Since missing several chances in the first leg against Monaco and being substituted after an hour, forward Olivier Giroud has scored three in his last four appearances, including a fierce strike to open the scoring against West Ham.

Wenger has every confidence in the French international, whom he signed from Montpellier in the summer of 2012.

"Giroud actually owes the revenge to him. He owes a great performance for himself," he said. "He missed a few opportunities in the first leg, but what striker doesn't miss an opportunity?"

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