Good morning to you, the eagerly anticipating. In stark contrast to yesterday’s horrors, my bowels are functioning efficiently and pleasantly today. Hardly relevant, I know; I decided to share it with you regardlessly. If I can’t offer frank, graphic and intimate details of my bodily functions with my delicious readership, who can I?
I love the knock-out stages of the Champions League. What the group stages lack in intrigue and genuine excitement, the last-16 offers up in abundance. And we’ve got ourselves another European heavyweight encounter to enthuse, speculate and get excited about.
AC Milan are a quality side. They lack the daunting potency of a Barcelona or a Real Madrid, but their ranks can boast internationals, superstars and an egomaniacal Swede who’s troubled us in the past. Our performance and attitude can’t afford to be anything other than exceptional. They’ll be significantly boosted by returning players (Flamini, Nesta, Pato, Yepes) and the vociferous support at the San Siro.
We do have an advantage: pace. Theo and The Ox have bucket loads. Milan have an experienced and classy back four, but what they aren’t is particularly quick. In my opinion, exploiting that area, allowing them to come forward enough to leave the space in behind we can capitalise on is the key to getting a result tonight.
That makes the midfield vitally important. Alex Song – not ‘Alexander Songinho’ – and Mikel Arteta represent the two players who’ll need to be on top of their game and disciplined enough to ensure there’s always a holding midfielder. If the distribution and support to the flanks and Robin van Persie is good, and at the same time we don’t lose defensive stability, I think we can get a good result to take back to The Emirates. After Ramsey’s strike at the weekend, I know many are advocating him to make up the midfield triumvirate, but I’d like to see Rosicky keep his place. He quickens our play, keeps possession better than the Welshman and is more suited to European football.
With that in mind, my starting XI would be:
Szczsney; Gibbs, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny; Arteta, Song, Rosicky, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain; van Persie
Wenger has stated that Djourou will deputise for the injured Mertesacker, leaving Vermaelen to continue in his less-than-favoured tenure as a full-back. Perhaps, given Gibbs’ fragility, it’s a better choice, but I think we’ve lacked the width on our left side for sometime, and the team has better balance when players are selected in their natural positions. What ever the starting 11 turns out to be, I’m still quietly confident of a good result and a good game.
I’m excited, the players are excited, so the game can’t come quick enough. A victory would be wonderful, a score-draw would be very useful. After the disrespectful words of Kevin Prince Boateng, it would be all-the-more satisfying to ram those words back down his ex-Spurs, gobshite throat. However, those words can be dismissed easily when they come from the mouth of a second-rate journeyman. When Dennis Bergkamp makes similar observations in today’s Telegraph interview with Alan Smith, you sit up and take notice. They’re hard to hear, but I challenge any of you to disagree.
Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. Enjoy the game wherever you may be watching it. The comments await your views below, and take a moment to keep up with my views on Twitter – @_ArmchairGooner.