THEY will have to rewrite records if they are to pull off a Champions League miracle at Monaco tonight, but Arsenal have had more practice than most at desperate European salvage operations.
Every year for the past four seasons the Gunners have entered the second leg needing to overhaul a deficit. Every time they have fallen short, though they have come close to pulling off extraordinary escapes.
Perhaps the nearest they came was three years ago, when Arsene Wenger’s men flirted with glory following a disastrous 4-0 first-leg defeat against AC Milan in Italy.
A seemingly hopeless tie was revived by first-half goals from Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky and Robin van Persie but the crucial fourth eluded them, the Dutchman spurning the best chance to level.
Arsenal also glimpsed a memorable comeback 12 months later, when, as with this season, they lost the first leg 3-1 at Emirates Stadium, on that occasion to Bayern Munich.
Olivier Giroud’s strike after three minutes lifted hopes but it was not until Koscielny scored late on that the hosts began to wobble, and ultimately held firm. Bayern also ended the Gunners’ hopes last term, 3-1 in aggregate after winning 2-0 in London and then drawing in Munich, while Barcelona progressed 4-3 overall in 2010-11.
Nine times this season Arsenal have won by a big enough margin to overcome Monaco this evening, yet no team has ever overturned such a large margin in Europe having lost the first leg at home, and, damningly, never have the Gunners progressed when taking a deficit into an away second leg.
■ Monaco have not lost at home by a margin that would even force extra-time tonight since September 2011, when they fell 2-0 to Angers while in the French second division
■ The last European team to win in Monaco by a margin that would suit Arsenal were Leeds United, who beat them 3-0 in 1995 in the Uefa Cup thanks to a Tony Yeboah hat-trick
■ Monaco are 16 games unbeaten at the Stade Louis II – not including a penalty shoot-out cup exit – and also avoided defeat in all three Champions League group games, keeping clean sheets on every occasion