Arsene Wenger takes his Arsenal team to the south of France for a daunting Champions League 2nd leg encounter against Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco, in a bid to overcome the huge deficit already created by the French side. Wenger’s men will be tested again but there 3 particular individual battles, which will be key tomorrow night.
Olivier Giroud vs Aymen Abdennour
Despite the number of chances the Giroud wasted on the night, he was involved throughout the game, albeit being involved in not quite the way he wanted. However, the fact that good chances were presented to him highlights how unwell he was marked to prevent those opportunities.
He’ll again come up against Abdennour, who started that game in the heart of the Monaco defence. The battle here is simple: Giroud will need to be physically sound to overcome the physical Tunisian centre-back, whose been part of a defence which has conceded only 3 goals in this year’s competition.
Everyone knows the Frenchman isn’t gifted with pace, but what he does have is a tall physical frame to hold up the ball, combined with the intelligence and skill to effortlessly link up with the supporting players around him. This type of play we’ve grown accustomed to watch Giroud use is going to be called into action tomorrow night, to breakthrough that Monaco wall.
Above all, he needs to do the basics by playing to his strengths, not rushing his game and keeping composed in front of goal when the opportunity arises.
Alexis Sanchez vs Almamy Toure
On the left wing, the Chilean forward will almost certainly start this game and be challenged by right-back Almamy Toure, who also started the first leg.
The tricky forward is of course Arsenal’s top performer this season with 19 goals in all competitions. Alexis has got skill and pace to burn, on countless occasions have we seen him cutting inside defenders onto his right foot, to create shooting space. The goal against Dortmund at the Emirates is an example.
The full-back he’ll possibly come up against will be sure to try and snuff out the threat on the flank, by stopping Alexis working space for himself. Toure will most probably will be touch tight to the his attacker, so Alexis will need to make sure he uses the supporting players on the attack, mustering up one-twos and making runs in-behind to beat his man.
Francis Coquelin vs Joao Moutinho
Coquelin has been a key man for Arsenal in the heart of the midfield and he’ll need to be again, to keep the creative Portugese midfielder quiet.
Whenever Monaco attacked in the first leg, they attacked through the middle and Moutinho was very much involved in the attacks. The saving grace in this battle is that he isn’t the most physically astute players, and it’s better news that Geoffrey Kondogbia misses this game through injury.
Coquelin’s job as always will be to nullify Moutinho’s efforts to orchestrate attacks from the middle, but he he’ll need to help from his midfield partner as well. The Frenchman has one of the best tackles and interception record in the Premier League, and I have every bit of faith in the 23 year-old’s ability to continue his good form in this match.