Principally, the team played well – no question about that; it was a very good defense by Phillipe Senderos (who replaced Kolo Toure who limped out with an injury which would keep the battered Ivorian player out for 2 weeks) and with Mathieu Flamini moping up the defensive midfield, the potent creative Milanese force of Kaka, Pato and Clarence Seedorf(!) out for a while. Hey, Seedorf is a good Oranje player ok?
1. Jens Lehmann – good to see Mad Jens playing regularly now; I’d really not like to see unhappy players at the club – they stifle the team spirit and it’s rather bad taste to see their rants in the media about lack of first team action. Aside from his 4-0 conceded goals, he did rather well in the game, even palming away a Milan corner kick in the first half. – 7/10
3. Bacary Sagna – wish Sagna the best of luck after hearing news of ‘personal problems’ affecting his immediate family. He played well as usual and am glad that he is back in the team. 7/10
5. Kolo Toure – with 7 minutes on the pitch, it’s not fair to rate his performance at such short playing time. His injury wasn’t as bad as first feared and would be back in 2 weeks at least. Wonder when Robin van Persie is coming back, though it’s a different issue. -N/A
10. William Gallas – Nothing of special note though he did support the attack in corners and freekicks. He even tried an amusing long range short in the first half which went…well, to where the Milan goalkeeper couldn’t even save if he wanted to – not that Kalac needed to in the first place. 6/10
22. Gael Clichy – Really, what do the Arsenal do without Clichy at leftback. If Flamini was a revelation during the 2005/2006 season where he played leftback at that time, then Clichy has refined his defensive skills and made it his own. Could have done better with his crosses but he’s done well against Milan. 7/10
27. Emmanuel Eboue – now this is what the real Eboue is like – the player with jet-heels and excellent dribbling to boot. He even feinted the stalwart Paolo Maldini in the first half and drove the ball into the penalty area for Flamini to hit it straight at Kalac. More of the same, please. 8/10
16. Mathieu Flamini – quickly demonstrated why Gilberto Silva is becoming a bit player in his presence. The bumbling Brazilian doesn’t have the same mobility, the same ferocity and the same passion playing Wengerball as we knew it with Flamini around. Now, it’s just the matter of making the hot-headed Frenchman sign along the dotted lines on a new extended contract for the Arsenal. Go on, sign it! Allez! – 8/10
4. Cesc Fabregas – worked his socks off but I still have to admit that he’s not playing to full potential yet. He was fire-driven in the first half of the season but I think that he has dulled his knives somewhat. 6.5/10
13. Aliaksandr Hleb – you know, this Arsenal player is a funny one to describe. While there is the tendency to draw comparisons with the Arsenal players of old, I firmly acclaim that he’s a player of his own class. You can’s simply assign Hleb as another Robert Pires or the Fredrik Ljungberg of the left wing. His twig-like legs do make him appear frail but in the Milan game, has shown dexterity and superb attacking moves. If not for Hleb opening up another channel down the left, the attacks would surely have blunted on the right. Ok, the Arsenal didn’t score yesterday, but I liked that they tried. 7/10
25. Emanuel Adebayor – ooh…that miss in the final minutes of the game can kill a team off the competition charts of the Champions League. It could be the crucial goal and a lot of ‘what-ifs’ but I really think that he has tried his best yesterday, attempting first time shots which predictably went into the crowd and also worked hard on crossed headers. There’s nothing else he could have done. Give him some credit at least. 6/10.
9. Eduardo da Silva – to say that he wasn’t good yesterday is quite unfair – but to say that he’s useful in the attack is exaggerating. Put it this way – he was good defending opposition attacks down the flank but doesn’t look good in attack. 5/10.
6. Phillipe Senderos – the rock at the back. He blunted Pato’s ego many times and saved Lehmann’s ass a couple of times at least. Where he lacked speed and acceleration, he makes up for in intelligent positioning. 8/10
26. Nicklas Bendtner – Can he play upfront with Adebayor? Wenger may be musing this quandary as it doesn’t appear that the two largest men in the attacking department could work any goal. Still, Wenger never did give his substitute strikers enough time to do anything of note. Remember the times when we see Bendtner warming up and ready to come on in the dying minutes of injury time, only to be on the pitch for 1 minute or so without even touching the ball. Do you honestly think that coming on in the 74th minute is good for anything? If Eduardo is having a hard time, I’d say let him out in the 60th minute at least. Let Bendtner have more time. 5/10.
32. Theo Walcott – we’ve a decent right-sided midfield alright. Walcott’s preferred position may be in Adebayor’s position but he has done quite alright in right midfield. His cross led to Adebayor heading it to the crossbar which should have been a goal. The jury is still waiting on him, however, and I think that next season, he’d a be a good player if not a fantastic one.
So, while I agree that the Arsenal played rather well, it’s hardly on their side that they scored no goals and would be facing Milan away from home in 2 weeks’ time. Tough luck negotiating a further round, but I think the Premiership League is still all to play for.
Cesc has armed himself to the teeth and have declared that he senses an upset is on the cards. No dispute with that sort of enthusiasm – after all, he’s right. If (and that’s a mighty ‘if’) the Arsenal scores, then AC Milan would have to score twice to advance. In fact, AC Milan should’ve been the team to score the away goal to seal the Arsenal’s fate in this season’s Champions League. There’s infinitely a lot to play for in the 2nd leg. We’ve to recall that AC Milan was having a torrid run at home turf at the early stages of the Serie A 2007/2008 and maybe, just maybe, the Arsenal could pick up the quarterfinals ticket. Until then, there’s nothing to do but keep the powder dry.