Milan Preview: Hide Behind The Sofa Time?

Arsenal travel to Milan for a football match tonight and recent months suggest this is not a very good idea. It’s a bit like The Jam reforming. On paper, it’s a great idea with all the old hits from a spokesman for his generation. In reality, the spokesman and his generation are now in their 50s and 60s so we know the lyrics to When You’re Young were right; we learned that lesson painfully.

Arsenal are the same. On paper, it’s a good idea but the reality is quite different. For starters, we don’t have a recognised centre-forward in the squad. Sure, you’d recognise Danny Welbeck on the street, but on the pitch, it’s a different matter. He’s not a goalscorer and frankly, the only one in tonight’s starting line-up will be Aaron Ramsey. We’re buggered, to be blunt.

This time, Milan won’t need the San Siro to resemble a ploughed field to beat us 4 – 0; they may only have to turn up. The players can talk about unity and “positive vibes” – got to be honest, they passed me by recently – but it’s in their actions and by their performances that we live.

How will they approach the tie? The usual mantras of European football don’t apply to us. We don’t know how to keep it tight at the back, even with a full strength back four, let alone one shorn of Nacho Monreal. And Hector Bellerin. He suffered knee-knack and went to hospital yesterday. Arsène stopped short of saying it would be three weeks, preferring the suitably vague “short-term” to describe Bellerin’s absence.

Calum Chambers is the obvious candidate but his lack of pace may see Ainsley Maitland-Niles slot in at right-back. Did he play there at Southampton there last season? I forget; the pain numbs the memory.

Say It Ain’t So

Tonight we enter the lion’s den with Gennaro Gattuso desperate to stop complacency setting in among his troops. That might be our best weapon. It might be our only weapon if Sunday’s performance is the benchmark.

Wenger waffled on in the media about strength, triumph through adversity, etc. The assembled hacks expected him to cite Kipling’s If and were poised, pens at the ready. Instead, he treated them to a gentle rendition of Telly Savalas’ 1975 Number One by the same name. Imagine the shock of those present when they heard that. You can multiply that ten-fold by the shock we’ll feel if we come back to the Emirates with a good result.

Milan haven’t conceded in six games, we have Danny Welbeck up front. The odds are not in our favour. The Frenchman isn’t having that though nor did he proffer it as an excuse beforehand; he’s saving it for afterwards.

The line-up won’t see that many changes from Sunday; we don’t have the options. Ospina in goal, Ramsey in for Jack with Iwobi somehow keeping his place, Mkhitaryan on the left. Mesut Özil will be there but you won’t be able to see him as he’s unwrapped the bandages from around his head so the folly of his scientific experiments is there for all to see.

Which leaves the line-up:

Ospina; Chambers, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac; Xhaka, Ramsey; Iwobi, Özil, Mkhitaryan; Welbeck

Ramsey could play on the right with Jack/Elneny in the middle but it seems unlikely.

I’m dreading this game with no obvious positives to draw upon. No disrespect to Milan but I expect this ‘fear’ against the European elite. Milan are 7th in Serie A and our ‘peers’. At the moment, they appear to be our betters.

The Fat Lady is Gargling

It’s the kind of odds I expected us to upset a few years back but the successive Champions League pummellings have worn me down. We’ve reached the Round of Sixteen so the lights above the exit door shine brightly. Wenger observed that winning the Europa League is now the be-all and end-all of the season.

It’s a frank admission on his part, of how far our fall from grace is. He waffled about last year when we won the FA Cup but missed out on the Champions League by one point. His reminisces formed a sepia dream before reality jarred him back to a present where we’re out of the cup and nowhere near the Champions League places. Somehow we’ve accumulated enough points to avoid a descent into mid-table mediocrity even though our current form suggests that’s where we’re headed.

So, this is where against all odds, we win tonight. Nick a goal before relying on luck and several gods. Not so much “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war”, more seeing the dogs of war slip, creating havoc among our back four.

Can we win? It would, in the context of this season, be one of our most famous European victories. I don’t expect it and it tells you where we are right now. None of that matters for 90 minutes, does it? So long as we turn up.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow


161 thoughts on “Milan Preview: Hide Behind The Sofa Time?

  1. C,

    It’s a shame, I grew up on Italian football as it was the only thing on terrestrial. George has been through more than us I’d imagine watching his team fall from grace. A reminder to Stan if he ever needed one

  2. Colts,

    Yea they have had quite a fall from grace and sad thing is they were building a brilliant team and then sold them all, fired Allegri for no reason and have been shit ever since. It is a warning to Stan but hopefully Josh will make the right decision.

  3. C,

    Dam, didn’t know they fired aleg, how wrong was that decision.

    He has to even if we win this cup.

  4. Interesting, normally Arsene goes and talks to the subs but it was Bouldie giving instructions to Maitland-Niles just now. Did Bouldie give the team some defensive instructions and lessons this week?

  5. Case for resting an in-form but recently injured Ramsey at two up? Give Elneny a chance?

  6. C:
    Interesting, normally Arsene goes and talks to the subs but it was Bouldie giving instructions to Maitland-Niles just now. Did Bouldie give the team some defensive instructions and lessons this week?

    Are you implying that Wenger is tryin to save his bacon by allowing more input from those around him. 😉

  7. i wonder if arsene will dare drop cech in the pl….
    this is all super but, for me, worst case is we somehow limp to the final and are valiant losers and that’s considered good enough for another year…

  8. On the whole, Adam, yeah, it’s been good in defence. Overall, it’s been better as a team than we’ve played for some time.

  9. Holding coming on for Ozil, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t take off Jack or Ramsey but also why wouldn’t you bring on Elneny is your trying to shore up the midfield?

  10. C:

    Donald Trump becomes President, Brexit, Global Warming is in full affect…..we have seen some strange things 😉

    Indeed, thanks for the reminder, been meaning to find out what all the fuss was about (stranger things).

  11. Elneny is playing either RB or RWB, why not just put him in midfield since you have been playing a back 4 and move Ramsey further up the pitch……

  12. Very pleased with the result but difficult to put into context without, say, making Milan play Brighton.

  13. No surprise to see one win and the rabid Wengerites are out in force calling for a new contract and wailing about how terrible the fans are who don’t share that view.

  14. Xhaka kicks it into row z, Wenger jumps off his seat and bollocks him(Yeah I know). And xhaka tells him to fuck off. Rambo has a little snigger. Excellent work from the camera man. Bravo.

  15. A great performance against a team who haven’t conceded a goal in six games. Which begs the question as to why Wenger simply cannot get performances out of his team on a regular basis. A performance like this perhaps says more about his failings as a manager than if we’d been given a humping.

    All of that said, on the night the lads played brilliantly and deserve the credit. Teams don’t do that to AC Milan.

  16. Andy1886:
    No surprise to see one win and the rabid Wengerites are out in force calling for a new contract and wailing about how terrible the fans are who don’t share that view.

    Reminds me of the last time I spoke to a Christian and he kept goin on about how much he hated Islam. I was like, bro, perhaps you need to take it more seriously.

  17. C:
    Arsenal has now reached the 100 contributed goals since his arrival, with 63 assists and 37 goals

    Well done, he’s been a baller from day.

  18. C:
    Arsenal has now reached the 100 contributed goals since his arrival, with 63 assists and 37 goals

    Özil, C, not Arsenal. 😉

  19. Wavey,

    Yup and it was really good to see Ozil grab to assists along with Mkhitaryan grabbing a goal since those are 2 of the 3 that apparently the rest of the team thinks is shit

  20. Colts @ 8.04
    I thought Xhaka said “fuck off’ as well.
    I also saw Bould giving instructions as well, but i would expect us to revert to default before long, cant have the assistant manager getting any kudos.

  21. Good job Milan were awful. It helped us gain our brittle dainty confidence in the game and play well.

  22. Michael,

    I wouldn’t be surprised given xhakas comments about the amount of instruction he got when he arrived.
    I think the only thing that could potentially save him is this cup. And you never know with us on a good day, especially if ‘laca service’ comes back in time.

  23. Might be a bitter pill to swallow for him but he’ll do it till the end of the season with Josh breathing down his neck.

  24. @Andy 1886,
    It’s not like you not to be simply appreciative of an excellent performance, away from home.
    Let’s hope that this confidence builder will be the fore-runner of a late surge in the EPL. 😉

  25. nicky,

    It’s not like you to only show up when the sun is shining and preach. We did this 5/6 years ago with the same result but in the proper Europe. Not league two

    The San Siro has been kind to Arsène he’s bought time for himself here twice now with a two nil win whe. We’ve been atrocious generally

    The fact it’s been rinse and repeat for so long is the whole point. I would’ve thought a fwbrbif you age would’ve able to spot a despot dictator that long lost the vision to see the wood from the trees?

    Or are you and Henry in cahoots as WUM sfrom the other lot?

  26. I can never wish that we lose any game regardless of my opinions on Arsene, was convinced we would be turned over, just finished a 14 hour leg of a journey down under had no idea of result looking for to watching it,

  27. Recorded and just watched the game. Very good first half and a solid although unspectacular second half. Overall 2-0 lead with 2 away goals should be enough to put us thru to the next round. Well done. I thought the defense played as well as any game this season.

  28. Again I am not making excuses for Arsene nor am I a Wenger appologist. However, if we really believe that the string of poor performances we have had were caused by a lack of direction and coaching from Arsene then logically we have to think that he must have done something different and made some tactical tweaks before todays game and someone must have given the defense instructions to get them ready for this game. Yeah right.

    Its much more like that Arsene did nothing different and for some reason the players just executed today. The tactical lesson for the team when we play against Watford this weekend should be play to tell them to play the way they did against AC Milan

  29. Bill,

    And that would suggest that Wenger has got it right all along and that the players don’t need tactical instruction, they just have to execute all of the time. That is completely unrealistic and suggests it is all down to the players, not matter which set he runs out. Given the animation from the bench in this match and the input from Bouldy during the game, it would seem more likely they have been specifically told to hold positions for this game. The idea that the whole team can work as a unit just by the players doing their thing is frankly ridiculous. There was organisation during the game that we haven’t seen for some time and it is wholly unlikely that the players just all decided to ‘do their jobs’ out of the blue for the same game. What seems more likely is that the team worked specifically on structure in training. When we have seen this in the past the work done is perhaps maintained for a game or two, but then old habits resurface as the work on the training ground is not reinforced.

  30. It all suggests that, for once, the manager decided that this was a game that the team would have to have a specific game plan for rather than the old nonsense that we play our game no matter who the opponents are. Wenger may be arrogant, but he isn’t stupid.

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