Plenty to get through this morning so we may as well begin at the beginning.
Team news for this evening is promising. Although we’re still missing Manuel Almunia we’ve got Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna back which is vital. Adebayor and Flamini have shaken off hamstring injuries while Denilson and Theo Walcott add a bit of much needed depth to the squad.
We go into the game as underdogs by virtue of Milan’s record in this competition but the manager is confident we can win the game, saying:
Itâ€™s the ultimate test. Weâ€™re in the position of challengers because Milan are the holders of the Champions League. They have quality and experience, but weâ€™re a team who can challenge them and can beat them. Whatâ€™s important is that we play without the handbrake on and go into the match with desire.
Cesc is hoping the team can put the United game behind them and deliver the kind of performance we’ve come to expect from these players this season. He says:
Manchester United were better than us, we have to accept that. We didn’t play well. But we want to win things. When you play against Milan, you don’t need extra motivation. We have to come back and be stronger than ever.
There’s no doubt they owe the fans and themselves a better showing than we got in the FA Cup. This is, as the boss says, the ultimate test. A team with a fantastic record in the Champions League, the current holders, against an up and coming team who try (mostly) to play football the way it should be played. There’s some suggestion we might take advantage of Milan’s goalkeeping ‘problem’ which sees a 38 year old veteran play his first game in 5 years but you might remember we played against Sheffield United last season when they had an outfield player in goal and didn’t trouble him one bit. We need to worry about their defence more than the keeper.
You do feel we need to win this game – taking a lead to Milan would be vital and if we can get through with a clean sheet all the better. They are a dangerous side though and in this competition they’re always highly motivated. Hopefully it’ll be a cracker of a game. Personally I’m a bit indifferent about the CL this season, it would be nice for the lads to have a good run, but I’ve got all eyes (yes, I said ‘all’) on the league title this season. That said Arsenal v AC Milan just sounds fantastic and these are the kinds of games you want to be in Europe for.
Mathieu Flamini has been compared to Milan’s Gattuso, a comparison he understands but rejects, saying:
I don’t want sound disrespectful to the guy because he’s amazing but I think I’m a different player to him. I’m more attacking. We try and play a little more football. And, anyway, I want to make my own name in the football world.
He’s certainly done that and it’s amazing just how important he’s become to this team. When he’s missing you realise just how plodding and pedestrian Gilberto has become. He has a huge role to play tonight and I would have felt much less confident had he not played. And can we please sort out this new deal? I would be absolutely gutted if he were to leave in the summer.
With the focus on the Milan game I don’t want to make too much of Alex Ferguson’s latest bleatings. He reckons Arsenal could have had ‘three or four’ red cards on Saturday which is, of course, absolute bollocks. He said:
There is one law for them and another for everyone else. The important thing from our point of view is that we made everyone aware of the incident involving Gallas and Nani.
Seriously, the man is demented. It’s all part of his ‘mind games’ but to suggest we get any kind of special treatment from the FA is quite patently nonsense. We’ve had players banned and banned again through video evidence, even when pictures proved there was no justification for it, but you can be sure that every little thing will be scrutinised from now on. Obviously the best way to shut him up is to go on and win the league but these are the kind of words that should be pinned up in the Arsenal dressing room.
Right, that’s about it. The countdown to tonight begins. T-minus 11 hours and something something minutes. Bring it on.