Arsene Wenger: Monaco would be special draw
Arsenal 4 - Newcastle 1
"I don't think many people want Real Madrid. I don't want Bayern Munich and I am sure they don't want us as well. I am not against Monaco."
Thus did Arsene Wenger outline his preferences for today's Champions League draw. He will not be the only coach of those clubs in the unseeded pot thinking this way. In Wenger's case, however, there are personal reasons as well as professional for hoping to draw the principality's football team.
Wenger made his name at Monaco. Relegated with Nancy in 1987, he moved south and spent seven years at Stade Louis II, winning one French title (it would probably have been more but for Marseille's involvement in match-fixing) and steering the club to one European final and two semis.
"I have great memories from my time there," said Wenger. "They gave me a chance when I was a very young manager. When I arrived they had never passed the first round in the European Cup; we had good times."
What Wenger did not add, out of politeness and an awareness of the danger of giving possible opponents added motivation, is that Monaco are the weakest of the group winners, qualifying despite scoring only four goals and winning three of their six games. Arsenal have gone out at the last 16 stage for four successive seasons, beaten by Barcelona, Milan and Bayern (twice). "We have never had an easy ride," he said.
The other news Wenger will be awaiting today is the medical report on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was withdrawn in the final minutes of Saturday's win over Newcastle United with a suspected muscle strain.
Arsenal are already without six international midfielders and if Oxlade-Chamberlain joins the list Wenger may have to choose between Francis Coquelin and Lukas Podolski at Liverpool on Sunday. "We cannot afford to lose him," said Wenger.
His Newcastle counterpart Alan Pardew can at least welcome back his most influential midfielder, Moussa Sissoko, in the Capital One Cup quarter-final at Tottenham on Wednesday. But in goal he has to continue with rookie Jak Alnwick.
"He has now got in a short period of time an opportunity to make a name for himself," said Pardew.
"Jak has to prove he is a goalie, a top goalie.
"The second goal was maybe at fault, but he was pretty sound. He looked assured and I can't blame him for the result."