Wenger focused on victory over Monaco, not nostalgia

Reuters , Tuesday 24 Feb 2015

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (Photo: AP)

Arsene Wenger had little time for a nostalgic look back to the start of his coaching career with AS Monaco on Tuesday before his former club meet his Arsenal side with a place in the Champions League quarter-finals awaiting the winners.

The Frenchman made his name at Monaco between 1987 and 1994, leading them to the French title, the French Cup and to a place in the final of the 1992 European Cup Winners' Cup which they lost to Werder Bremen.

He then went to Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan before taking over at Arsenal in 1996 and was unemotional about his time with Monaco when he spoke before Wednesday's first leg of their last-16 tie.

"I am happy that Monaco is back at the top level, for the rest I am for 18 years the manager of Arsenal Football Club and focused on just qualifying for the quarter-finals, against a good side," Wenger said.

Asked what significance his time at Monaco had on his career, he replied: "It was the start of my career ... It was my first chance to be in a big club, I was very young, and you are always grateful for that."

Of far more interest to the 65-year-old, however, is the immediate future.

"If you look at the numbers, Monaco made 11 points in the group stage, they scored four goals and conceded one and that means they can defend very well and that's what they will certainly try to do tomorrow.

"They are very good on the break, very quick in transition so that's what we expect from them."

Wenger left Monaco in 1994 and although he he has had little contact with his old employees over the years, this will be the second time the clubs have met in the last seven months.

Monaco won a low-key pre-season warm-up 1-0 against Arsenal in the Emirates Cup in August and the only thing certain is that the pace, vitality and pressure on Wednesday will be very different.

Wenger identified former Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov as still being a real threat at the age of 34.

"He may not be as fit as he was 10 years ago but his footballing brain and his intelligence in the penalty area means he is very dangerous still" Wenger said.

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