This is a night where something has to give.
AC Milan will either be the first Italian team to beat Arsenal in the knockout phase of any European tournament or they are going to be the first team to throw away a four-goal advantage in the Champions League. They have form, Deportivo eliminated them following a 1-4 reverse in Milan by putting four past them without reply at Estadio Riazor in 2004. We can always send them our own experience of throwing away four-goal advantages, perhaps with a note that says, “Go on then prove you’re better than us – concede five“.
Overturning the deficit would be no small feat but then who thought we would thump their city neighbours 5 – 1 at the San Siro in a different but no less precarious position. Another trend to be bucked is scoring against AC Milan at home; the two previous meetings have been goalless. Maintaining that record of not conceding is an absolute necessity if the faint embers of hope are to be rekindled into a roaring flame.
And I for one cannot wait for kick-off. It is a real ‘next goal wins‘ scenario. An early goal for Arsenal, followed by another before half-time? Doubts would surely creep in? A not-implausible scenario but one that requires everything to fall into place very quickly as soon as the referee signals the battle’s commencement.
The team Arsène fields is being heralded as the stongest available to him. Scouse shoulders have denied him the services of Arteta which has led to speculation that the team will play in a 4-2-4 formation. Or 4-4-2. Or 4-4-1-1. All of which suggests it will be in the usual 4-3-3. Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to start in midfield alongside Rosicky and Song, an attacking option and one that puts a lot of emphasis on the defensive abilities of Song.
Defensively, the manager has his biggest conundrum. Whilst he is instilling belief into the players about them achieving the 5% victory, he has to be mindful of his already not insignificant injury list. According to reports, Kieran Gibbs is carrying a knock which begs the question as to whether he should be risked at all. With Andre Santos not likely to be back for a few weeks, can Arsenal afford to take on their next few Premier League opponents without a left bak should the worst happen? That said, there is a six day breathing space for the players until the visit of Newcastle so I suspect the manager will view it as a risk worth taking.
Whether the players entirely believe their manager’s kidology is another matter but it really is as simple as he says,
It is important we have a strong belief and that we show we have enough belief to make what looks impossible, possible.
Can the players do it? Of course they can, anything is possible in 90 minutes or longer. Do I think they will? No but as important as scoring the four or more required goals, is them trying, making the effort, playing for pride. To enter the pitch already defeated is not acceptable even when four down. A performance to make us proud of them is the expected outcome. Anything more really is just a bonus which ought to work in the team’s favour when it comes down to receiving our support from the stands, surely? Expectations of clawing back the four goal deficit must be minimal – expectations, not hope – so complaining is the footballing equivalent of kicking a man when he is down. Let’s rise above that, for one night at least.
The team for tonight is probably as already reported in the media.
Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Rosicky, Song, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho
There are few other options although putting Chamakh up front with van Persie might work? No, it’s not going to happen until the final third of the game. Substitute options are limited though and Park will surely get his Champions League bow for the club at some point tonight. It appears the final formation might be 2-2-6 which is attacking to say the least.
Enjoy the game wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.