Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Arsenal vs Milan Preview: Maybe, just maybe

Evening all,

Today’s post is a bit of an amalgamation of both post-match thoughts following the snatch and grab job against Liverpool, as well as pre match thoughts on tonight’s “Mission Impossible” against Milan.

Immediately following the Liverpool game, fans and pundits alike were in disbelief at the nature in which Arsenal defeated Liverpool 2-1, to extend an impressive run of 5 games unbeaten at Anfield stretching back to 2007. Despite conceding the vast majority of possession for the entire match, in a game where we were constantly under cosh, we managed to sneak an injury time winner through the most prolific striker in the league; Robin Van Persie. Some may call him awesome, I only think of him as god. Blasphemous I am sure but can’t say I really care.

Despite the constant pressure we were under, Liverpool were essentially denied by a combination of a fine individual performance from Szczesny, poor finishing and the majestic Robin Van Persie. For all the pressure they put us under, it was only an unfortunate own goal that got them any sort of end product. Perhaps indicative of Liverpool’s problems this season.

Robin Van Persie extended his goal scoring to 25 league goals for the season also taking him up the Arsenal all time scorer list to 8th place with 126 goals moving ahead of David Jack and Joe Hulme. It is not inconceivable that he could go further up the list this season needing 11 goals to catch Doug Lishman, who the mathematicians amongst you would have worked out, sits pretty on 137 goals.

This result as well as the results of our rivals at the weekend mean we are 3 points clear of Chelsea in fourth place and only four points behind our bitter north London rivals. What a turn in fortunes from a side that were seen to be in crisis a little over a month ago. It seems that despite what is in all likelihood another trophyless season, Arsene Wenger has managed to turn our league form around to ensure we are in control of our own destiny with regards to Champions League qualification. I would not discount the possibility of Arsenal finishing above Tottenham come the seasons close.

Despite the many positives that come from the outcome of the Liverpool game there were in many ways just as many negatives. We have lost Arteta, Benayoun, Diaby and potentially Gibbs and Rosicky to injury. Many have argued the merit of playing a full strength team against Milan given the relative invalidity of the match. I think to gain a measure of credibility out of the tie we need to play everyone available as long as they are not risked.

If we have any chance of winning tonight then Van Persie will need to add to the aforementioned tally and in a big way. It is strange how the mood around Arsenal has turned out. Following the catastrophic defeat there was a real sense of impending doom, a deeply permeated feeling of melancholy from everyone involved in the club. The mood following two dramatic comebacks has changed considerably and after glancing at some peoples views on twitter many fans inexplicably have the hope of another comeback. I have to be honest, whilst I in no logical way expect Arsenal to win the tie, I do have a strange feeling that all is not as clear cut as it may be. Two early goals would potentially cause a little uncertainty in the Milan side and then I suppose anything is possible.

Realistically though, overturning a 4 goal deficit is nigh impossible against any side but against the Italian Champions when they are in the form of their lives is literally Mission Impossible. What is more important than attempting to do the unexpected is doing the basics. They must ensure that they play and work as hard as they did against Tottenham, as if they do that and keep a clean sheet then we will have every reason to be proud of a team who have shown some real character in recent weeks.

As mentioned earlier, there were a number of casualties from the Liverpool game to add to a fairly extensive list that already existed prior to the game. According to Arsenal.com we have Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos, Johan Djourou, Sebastien Squillaci, Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby, Thomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun are injury doubts for tonight’s game. That makes 11 players that could potentially miss the game today. Sounds great for us doesn’t it?!

I expect that Rosicky’s fitness will determine the formation as without him we will have little choice but to go with a 4-4-2 or even a 4-2-4. Will certainly be interesting to see and whilst scoring is obviously essential, the tactics we employ tonight may just leave us susceptible to conceding a lot of goals. That is the danger but unfortunately we have little choice. We could potentially face a similar score line but one thing is clear, it should be some exciting stuff.

I expect the team to be:


Sagna                          Koscienly                                Vermaelen                   Gibbs

                                    Song                                        Rosicky

            Walcott                                   Chamberlain                            Gervinho


Enjoy the game and let’s not get too disappointed if we don’t win 5-0 but… Maybe, just maybe.


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