Tonight we should get the job done.
That word – “should” – doesn’t exactly fill you with an abundance of confidence, does it? This is Arsenal, and in things Arsenal-related, “should” often means “high potential for making total mess of everything”. We’ve a commanding lead with 2 away goals. Milan will have to score at least 3 times to win the game in open play – a reverse of the score in Italy will force penalties. It is undeniably a strong position.
But I’m as confident about the outcome tonight as I would be if we had taken a 1-0 defeat back to the Emirates. I know, I know… this all sounds incredibly pessimistic and miserable….
I guess there’s something about Arsenal when expectation is on their shoulders. If we’d lost in Milan and no one expected us to do anything tonight, the players perform without pressure and with a point to prove. When it’s assumed we’ll progress, that pesky complacency monster shows up and, invariably, someone does something silly and we concede early and turn into a trembling bucket of nerves.
The first 15-20 minutes could show which way the game will go. If we concede within that time, then I can certainly see us having plenty of problems. However, and I’m hoping this is what we see; if the players come out all guns blazing, don’t give Milan time to play and look to create openings, I think we’ll be okay. An early goal would work wonders and it’ll leave Milan needing at least 3.
The teams news is looking good. As it stands, only Alexandre Lacazette and Santi Cazorla are absent from the game through injury. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible for the remainder of our fixtures in the Europa League on account of a dip-sh*t ruling that doesn’t make any sense. Shkodran Mustafi was thought to be a concern having left the field against Watford on Sunday, but he will retain his place tonight having fully recovered from a troublesome groin (That’s a great name for a thrash-metal band – ‘Troublesome Groin’). Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are also back and available for selection.
I think we’ll go for solidity in midfield, so I think Jack Wilshere will miss out tonight in favour of Mohamed Elneny. Something like this:
I hope Arsene does go with Elneny because he’ll offer us more positional discipline in the holding role. When Xhaka plays that role without support, there’s regularly gaping holes to be accessed within our midfield. Elneny may not be the flashiest player; he may not have a silky touch or a magical wand for a foot, but he is disciplined, professional, a great team player and incredibly fit and enthusiastic. I’ve been a fan of his for a while. I like his attitude and I don’t think he’s ever let the team down that I can recall. In my opinion, a very underrated member of our squad.
Speaking of the game during Wednesday’s press conference, Aaron Ramsey said:
“It is a massive opportunity for us so it’s something we’ve got to be prepared to give everything for to try to achieve this. This game is very important for us and our season.
We saw how good they are. We can’t take our foot off the gas. It’s important we treat it as 0-0 and go out there for the win.”
That’s the perfect summation of how the match should be approached. AC Milan are a good team with dangerous players and they warrant our respect. However, we are in the commanding position and we should use that. Get an early goal and that will be that – barring something utterly spectacular from our visitors. I see little point in sitting back and challenging them to break us down. Given our propensity for jarring defensive blunders, that may not turn out well. Go out there and win the game.
I’m going to predict a 2-1 win tonight and safe progression into the quarter finals. Hopefully…
That’s all for now, folks. I’ll be back tomorrow the review the game.
In the meantime; why not tell me what your selection would be? The comments below await your thoughts.
Until tomorrow, and as always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.
Soundtrack to this post: