Elated Arsenal fans across the universe are still expressing their gratitude that fate shined favourably upon them in the Champions League last-16 draw at long last.
The Gunners managed to avoid FC Bayern Munchen, Barcelona, or any of the bigger fish in the hat, pulling out the ‘plum’ tie of Monaco.
Immediately after the fixture was announced, the north Londoners’ price to win the competition shrank into 25/1 from 33/1, while they’ve been afforded a real slim-shady 2/5 to advance from their two-legged tussle against the Ligue 1 outfit.
The first knockout round has come to represent something of a burial ground for Arsenal’s Champions League’s aspirations in recent seasons, owing to a habit they’re forging of finishing second in their pre-Christmas pool.
Having done so in the previous two instalments they were rewarded with successive last-16 dates with Bayern, while a silver-medal finish in 2010/11 saw them draw Barcelona.
In 2011/12 they won their group, but pulled Italian behemoths AC Milan out of the hat and were subsequently ejected after a 4-0 reverse in the San Siro, which underlines the extent of their difficulties at this stage of the competition.
The worst was feared after finishing runners up to Borussia Dortmund in Group D but, for many, pulling Monaco out is a bullet dodged.
Yet the cash-rich French club can inflict the same last-16 fate upon the relieved Gunners as the fatter cats have done in recent seasons.
Their defence has been iron-clad in Europe’s premier competition.
Leonardo Jardim’s men may have scored just four goals en route to topping Group C, but they made qualification possible by conceding just once in six matches, rendering their backline the sternest in the entire group stage.
Arsenal, by contrast, leaked eight and if they carry this porous form into the knockout stage they’ll find the going tough against this reinforced rearguard.
After a humdrum start to the domestic campaign, the principality club are growing into quite the force on the home front.
Improving Monaco have prevailed in four straight games heading into their League Cup clash with Lyon without giving up a solitary goal.
They’ve lost just once in eight across all competitions, compared to the three times Arsenal have been bested over the same period.
The Gunners have a great record in France, but have never faced a foe who are as effective against English outfits.
Monaco have lost just once in Europe when taking on Blighty-based adversaries at the Stade Louis II.
Six have visited and four have returned home defeated.