Wenger lays gauntlet at Giroud’s feet

Frank Dalleres
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France striker Olivier Giroud missed chances in the first leg against Monaco
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has laid down the gauntlet to striker Olivier Giroud and challenged him to deliver the goals that secure the most unlikely of Champions League triumphs tonight in Monaco.

The Gunners must become the first team ever in European competition to overturn a two-goal disadvantage in an away leg if they are to avoid elimination at the last 16 stage for the fifth year running.

Giroud was guilty of missing a handful of clear chances as Wenger’s men suffered a damaging 3-1 defeat to the French outfit in north London at the end of last month.

He also saw £16m rival Danny Welbeck excel in his stead as Arsenal beat Manchester United in the FA Cup last week, but Wenger insists the otherwise in-form Giroud, who has six goals in seven games, is ready to make amends.

“Giroud is better today,” said Wenger, preparing for his first match back at the club where he made his name. He needs to play a good game for himself, he wants to do as well as possible. I think he has the international and mental level required.”

Wenger admitted to concerns over the playing surface at the Stade Louis II, which he said remained tricky since his days in charge and had been made worse by recent heavy rainfall.

“It is a little bit of a problem if it rains a lot,” he added. “There were two problems when I was manager, and one was that the pitch quality was not fantastic, but I just went out and it’s very good. The second problem was that when it rains in the south of France, it really rains.”

History and the manner in which Monaco exploited Arsenal’s over-eagerness to attack during the first leg have not dimmed Wenger’s belief that his team can reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010.

“Monaco are in a very strong position but we have experience, and the desire and belief that we can do it,” said the Gunners boss, who is without midfielders Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain through illness and injury but has defender Gabriel back in the squad.

“I am confident. The odds are stacked against us, but we will give absolutely everything to turn the tie around. We will show a different face. In the first leg we failed, which was surprising given our form. We have a second chance and we will exploit it.”

Captain Per Mertesacker has vowed the defence will put in a much improved performance in the return leg, having allowed Monaco to hit them twice on the counter-attack at Emirates Stadium.

“We want to do better and make better decisions,” he said. “We did something wrong, but can we learn from that and put another performance in? We have to show a different face.”