Let’s take a look at our history against AC Milan in the Champions League (sorry, Europe) to date.
In 2008 after a tight home leg finished goalless, Cesc in his pomp led Arsenal to a resounding 2-0 victory in the San Siro; the first English team to win there.
2012 was a different story altogether. Battered 4-0 away from home, the return leg at the Emirates looked a formality for Milan.
This was from BR’s pre-match on 6th March 2012.
“I expect the atmosphere to be great tonight, few will expect us to go through, and the fans will get the opportunity to see some superb players in the Milan side. The mood from the blogs indicates we are favourites to win but not by much. I tend to go along with this view. Arsenal are a damned good team, capable of beating anyone when on-form (including Barca and RM),
Mr Wenger has stated that he will play a full team which is exciting. We do not play again until Monday evening, so the players can go flat out from the first whistle.”
As it turned out, the players did go flat out from the start, went 3-0 up by half time with goals from Kos, Tomas Rosicky plus BSR and so very nearly pulled off a glorious comeback.
This season the situation is reversed almost 180 degrees. Two goals to the good in the San Siro, on the back of a surprisingly excellent performance, leaves the second leg at home, with Milan in the position of having little to lose and Arsenal everything. As Micky said the other day, ‘Milan get one first half and it’s clenched buttocks time’.
There is no way the players will be complacent after the sequence of results they (and we) have endured since the turn of the year. Exercising extreme control over any jitters and showing mental fortitude will be among the attributes required to see the job done.
Having said that, Milan were fairly average in the first leg and whether that was because they got stage fright or because they are not as good as their current run suggests, we shall find out this evening.
It would appear that everyone is available though there are still rumours about tests for Shkod and Mesut. Even Alexander Lacazette has resumed full training and could be available after the impending international break. Maybe Elneny might get a game after his fine performance against Watford, then again, maybe Jack was being rested on Sunday precisely because he will play tonight.
So, lads, all you have to do is play as you did last Thursday, closing down, always attempting to give the man on the ball options with some excellent off-the-ball movement, defend using the Roman ‘testudo’ formation and take a couple of chances. Cheers.
We are comfortably odds on favourites to get through to the quarters with the best odds available on Milan qualifying about 6 to 1 against.
I, for one, am praying the bookies are right.