What a tenacious and masterful display by the Arsenal, I wouldn’t have it any other way, seeing that nothing seemed right for the past 4 games. That the Arsenal managed to turn their slight decline around on time is also testament to the team’s maturity and determination.
I was thinking of the ridiculous Man Ure FA Cup 4-0 loss away from home. Now, that really got me thinking that the Arsenal was actually affected by that huge loss. Make no mistake, the Arsenal played there with an almost complete team although more than half the team didn’t turn up on that evening and Old Trafford; the Theatre of Wet Dreams. To say that they weren’t bothered with the result can best be explained by the sudden loss of confidence in the past 4.
So, the win tonight against the mighty AC Milan was especially sweet.
They lay claim to being the only Italian side to have beaten all English sides who lay before them in all European competitions and their mighty San Siro stadium is a fortress of sorts for the illustrious Italian team. History may be kind on the Italians but the Arsenal didn’t care shit about history.
What’s more; AC Milan was the team who kicked Arsehole Ferguson’s butt and his sorry Man Ure out of the same competition last season. Where the Man Ure came to Milan rolling in their own brand of messy glob, the Arsenal eradicated the Italians with an affirmative performance.
And the 2 goals.
Before the match, with the tie finely balanced at 0-0 for both sides, I was thinking hard as to how the Arsenal could be finding the net at San Siro with their rather poor performance at home against Aston Villa. My summary of yesterday’s match is that AC Milan allowed Arsenal to play their football – that was the difference against the more defensive English sides. Obviously, the Italians can’t be sitting on the draw to hope for a penalty shootout. With no option but to attack as well, they were playing football to the tune of the Arsenal. They probably tried to defend tightly at times and they were almost successful in doing that. The most important thing was to contain their most dangerous player Kaka and in that the AC Milan machinery was crippled.
Still, for all of this joy of reaching the quarterfinals this year without arguably the best striker in Europe, Thierry Henry this season, the team hasn’t won anything of note yet. There are lots of arduous games left to play and there are still the away matches to the Wet Dreams Theatre and Stamford Bridge, so there can’t be complacency just yet.
24. Manuel Almunia – hard to give him a good score as he actually didn’t need to do much but also have to give him credit for that ‘save’ in that 2nd half Andrea Pirlo freekick. Still, I’d think that his goalkick deliveries are often way off the mark. You could blame Adebayor for his positioning as well but Almunia has often gone way too far with his distribution. for that – 6.5/10
3. Bacary Sagna – was often outrun by Kaka but did a great defensive job. He was quick to cover for an ineffective Emmanuel Eboue and came back to defend superbly. – 7/10
10. William Gallas – nice,commanding performance at the back. I can understand his less than mature display of outrage at certain official decisions which went against the Arsenal but last night was pure Gallas at his best. More of the same, Willy. – 7/10
6. Phillipe Senderos – he may be slower than most Arsenal players but didn’t allow that to hamper his dominance on the pitch. He effectively contained Milan’s young Brazilian striker Pato and used excellent positional sense to snuff out threats. We may be missing Toure and I’m still wishing that he didn’t score that own goal for Aston Villa but he’s a mostly solid player last night and let’s not forget that he’s still young. – 7/10
22. Gael Clichy – caught out on occasion but tracked back pretty well. While he wasn’t at his best, you’d have to take into consideration that his left side partner Abou Diaby wasn’t good all night despite showing what that lanky midfielder could do. Clichy also saved a certain goal when Kaka was freed down the centre- 6.5/10
27. Emmanuel Eboue – I guess Arsene Wenger was being diplomatic by allowing him to start. He was sent off 4 matches ago and hasn’t featured in the first team since. Maybe it was lack of match practice or maybe it was intimidation by the San Siro crowd. Whatever it was, he did show the initiative to go forward at every conceivable opportunity and even had a half-chance to score. Funny it is that the Arsenal don’t really have midfielders who can find the net convincingly. More target practice sessions,maybe? – 6/10
16. Mathieu Flamini – how this former leftback has matured! When he was told to play leftback during the 2005/2006 season, he did so with aplomb; now he was virtually making the defensive midfielder spot his own, beating Gilberto Silva to the first team place. He was shadowing Gattuso’s move at every opportunity and was also on hand to close down Kaka on most occasions. The only thing is – when will he sign that damned contract? – 8/10
4. Cesc Fabregas – Wonderkid and wondergoal. I really thought that it would be a near miss when he hit that rocket of a shot and when the ball ended in the net, I thought that it had hit the A-boards and rebounded to the literally, back of the net. It was when I saw Zeljko Kalac looking dejected only then I do know that the Arsenal was on the way. Now, Fabregas had a really shaky first half to start. He was often outpaced by the irrepressible Kaka and even Pirlo was more than a handful for him. But he turned his performance midway in the 1st half and hit top gear in the latter 2nd half. Amazing for a player so young. – 8/10.
2. Vassiriki Abou Diaby – I feel that he could become a useful player in a few years time but no signs point to him being a great player. Granted, he did show flashes of his reasonably good ball control and his willingness to stretch forward in attack but the thing is that where the other Arsenal players imposed themselves with their own roles in the match, I can’t think of a reason as to how he could be of benefit to the team in the long run. Perhaps his left midfield role is slightly digressing from his central midfield role he was more familiar with and I can only think that he needs to adapt into the left slot. Can’t wait for Tomas Rosicky to come back in again anyways. – 6/10
13. Aliaksandr Hleb – had the right to be aggrieved with that unnecessary booking for that ‘dive’ he took in the first half but did well to make AC Milan players chasing shadows all night. He also tried a long-ranged shot which meant that he could actually shoot powerfully if he wanted to but have yet to see him try that at close range. What made him stood out was his hardwork,as I’ve emphasized before and I think that with a little bit more confidence to shoot for goal, he could be an incredibly useful player for the Arsenal – 8/10
25. Emmanuel Adebayor – when you watch him play, you may not get the impression that he’s something great. But you’d have to remember that Thierry Henry or even Dennis Bergkamp have had to work a fair bit in order to get the goals going. They were even supported by solid players of the time whereas the current team is a young squad. He still possess a fairly poor first touch although his predatory instincts have improved. I’m still hankering for Robin van Persie to partner him up front. It’s the next season, to be practical. More great things from Adebayor in the future! – 8/10
32. Theo Walcott- instantly galvanised the right midfield after a lethargic display by Eboue. Had the great Paolo Maldini slipping on his ageing butt a couple of times and turned in a wonderful cross for Adebayor to stroke home. You can call him young, but I don’t think that intimidated is the right word for him. 7/10. (May be higher score if he’d been on longer than Eboue).
19. Gilberto Silva – increasingly bit player and who knows what’s in store for him? – N/A
1st Quarter – Milan dominance. The Arsenal looked shaky and unsettled. Kaka came very close on occasion and Filippo Inzaghi looked the more likely to make the Arsenal net shake. Milan were efficient in snuffing out attacks and closed ranks quickly, meaning that the Arsenal were playing the same sort of game they did against Aston Villa etc.
2nd Quarter – The Arsenal takes the initiative and maintained a siege. Adebayor goes close; Fabregas hits the post in what was the other closest chance to score against Milan, the other being the 1st leg Adebayor effort on the post at the last minutes. Milan eventually drew parallel and did not allow the Arsenal to play football towards the end of the half but no side looked sure of winning the tie.
3rd Quarter – More spells of Milan dominance. Suddenly, I got the feeling that the Arsenal were slipping away again, giving away possession cheaply (Diaby, for instance) and both Kaka and Pirlo came close. The Arsenal tried to gain control which they did.
4th Quarter – The Arsenal strikes! After some wrangling over possession in midfield, Fabregas picks up the ball from midfield, ran towards the penalty box, cut in towards the centre and fires a dipping shot in the giant keeper Kalac’s right side. 1-0 to the Arsenal. Milan heads were drooping faster than Thierry Henry’s time as captain but still maintained some hope. Manuel Almunia engaged in some obvious time-wasting towards the end by feigning injury after a clash with Andrea Pirlo who chased the ball down. The San Siro crowd was jeering at the Arsenal as the Gunners made a quick swop for Hleb. Actually, the 1-0 scoreline would mean that the Italians have to score 2 to seal the deal to the quarterfinals as the Arsenal has scored a vital away goal. Fabregas could be seen motivating his teammates for that final push. And push on they did- substitute Theo Walcott raced down the right passage and crossed wonderfully well for Adebayor to score from barely 5 yards out. 2-0 to the Arsenal and Milan are as good as out.
What a performance to lift the team’s spirit and belief to do something great. Nothing is won yet, of course, but you can’t make omelettes without breaking the eggs. Now, I sound like Jose Mourinho….Onwards to Wigan!