Do Arsenal have any hope of overcoming Milan?
Match Preview: AC Milan vs. Arsenal – Europa League Round of 16 Leg 1 – 08.03.2017
Writing about Arsenal has not come easily to me in recent weeks. Even something as simple as previewing a match made my fingers itch uncomfortably with every word I typed, so much so that I would give up midway through chronicling my thoughts.
We cannot sugarcoat it; things are bad. The players are sapped of confidence–and in some cases, ability–and the manager cuts a depressing figure on the sidelines. I’m not going to lambaste the manager, he’s getting enough of that, nor am I going to defend him. Something needs to change at the club and often the manager is the simplest solution although I genuinely believe our troubles run far too deep to be solved simply by sacking Arsène Wenger. What I will say is that it hurts to see Arsenal play so badly and to look at the manager and see torture etched upon his face. His love for the club should be indubitable so it is natural for him to be pained by our failings but what I find utterly terrifying is that he looks as though he has lost belief in this team picking themselves up.
Arsenal are out of the FA Cup, losing finalists in the League Cup, have next to no chance of finishing in the top four and now face AC Milan in the Europa League Round of 16. Our chances of salvaging anything from this season have gone from bad to worse. AC Milan are not the formidable foe of years gone by but that is precisely what makes them so dangerous.
I present no criticism of the match-going supporters but the environment in the Emirates is slowly turning toxic–understandably so–and given recent results it’s hard to expect the crowd to be anything but restless and angry if the players aren’t putting the effort in. The players have let themselves down recently and frankly I am not sure this side has it in them at the moment to rise to the occasion and win the fans back over. Which is why I am thankful that tonight is played at the San Siro – it may just give the players enough breathing space to pull themselves together.
The Gunners are already sans Lacazette and Aubameyang and our shaky defence will find themselves without two of our more reliable and consistent performers in Bellerin and Monreal. The signs aren’t great. We’re at risk of losing our home advantage before tonight’s match let alone the return leg at the Emirates because of a lack of first-teamers. I have a lot of time for Danny Welbeck but I’m not under the illusion he is a world-beater. I worry where the goals and/or clean sheet will come from tonight that we so desperately need to bring home for next week.
Arsenal lacks the incisiveness, intricacy and pace of previous Arsenal sides. Our movement is poor, our passing is erratic, our combinations torpid and our tenacity invisible. We have so many creative players yet we are struggling to make chances. We’re dreadful without the ball and barely better in possession. Hopefully the players have worked on sharpening their minds this week as well as their touches otherwise we could get embarrassed here.
This is possibly the most negative match preview I have ever written and I apologise for my lack of faith. I go into this match prepared for defeat but would not be surprised if Welbeck bangs in a hattrick and we finally keep a clean sheet. I have no expectations of Arsenal tonight and perhaps that is the most positive attitude to have.
Arsenal (from): Ospina, Macey, Holding, Chambers, Koscielny, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey, Özil, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Welbeck, Nketiah.
“[We need to] Focus on defending better, playing quicker and doing more things together. Reachable targets to improve the team.” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Arsenal 3-0 AC Milan (06.03.2012)
- AC Milan 4-0 Arsenal (15.02.2012)
- AC Milan 0-2 Arsenal (04.03.2008)
AC Milan have been in good form in recent months. Their light had dimmed in recent years but this season they have started to improve. They’re still a mid-table side, currently sitting in 7th in Serie A, but they’ve not lost a game since Christmas and they’re through to the final of the Coppa Italia. Milan are unbeaten in 13 games and under Gattuso have improved in defence so much so that they’ve only conceded one second half goal in 2018.
- Arsenal haven’t won a game since beating Ostersunds in this competition
- AC Milan are unbeaten in 13 games and have only lost one of their last 21 outings
- Over 2.5 goals have been scored on average in Arsenal’s last three Europa League games
In a final attempt to be optimistic I’m going for a 1-1 draw.
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