Saturday, March 2, 2024

Young Guns just too good for Milan's old legs

AC Milan 0-2 Arsenal

What can you say about that? Fantastic, awesome, brilliant, inspired, emotional, wonderful. You’d be here all day just saying one word after another because there are so many that apply to that result and performance last night.

We went to the San Siro and, some small moments apart, outplayed AC Milan, the holders of the Champions League. The goals may have come late but nobody could possibly argue they weren’t deserved. After a good start to the game from us Milan had a spell of pressure in the first half which saw them create a few chances. Maldini had a header from a corner, and there were three or four of them in a row, one from a Gallas header which was wonderfully timed with the Milan player lurking behind him. There was a Pato chance which the young man will kick himself over, Almunia saved easily from Inzaghi, Clichy blocked another shot from the same player and Kaka had a shot too.

But once that ten or fifteen minutes was over we began to get a real hold on the game. We pressured Milan, when we had the ball we were in their faces so quickly they were giving it away like a pub team. The whistle happy ref didn’t help the game too much in the first half, wrongly booking Hleb when he was felled on the edge of the area, but that it was such a spectacle despite the man in the middle was a testament to both teams. I hadn’t expected the game to be quite so open. Our main chances in the first half fell to Adebayor, whose shot was tipped over by Kalac (it might have been going over anyway) and then Cesc who hammered a shot against the bar.

Cesc celebrates his goal against AC Milan...It’s an old cliché to say half-time came at the wrong time for us but it’s true. I thought they’d regroup and we’d lose a bit of our momentum but we bossed the game again right from the start. The high-tempo pressing was fantastic, again we forced errors out of them and when they did get a bit of possession Cesc and Flamini were snapping at their heels to get it back. We could have scored early when Senderos found himself unmarked at the back post but his shot went straight into the keeper’s arms, then Eboue hacked one wide after being set free in the box by Adebayor. It was an atrocious effort on goal in such a big match.

Quite rightly the boss made the change soon afterwards, mindful also of Eboue’s yellow, and brought Theo Walcott on. He got in behind the defence at one stage and tried to square it for Gallas but the keeper got a leg in the way. Meanwhile the only moment of danger from Milan came from a Pirlo free kick which bounced right in front of Almunia who pushed it away for a corner.

The goal had to come though and who else but Cesc? He was a little magician in the midfield yesterday, dictating the pace of the game, popping up all over the place and when he took the ball on, drove past a couple of Milan players and unleashed a shot from 30 yards, seeing it nestle in the bottom corner was no less than he deserved. 1-0 to the Arsenal and that meant Milan had to score 2 in the last 5 minutes. As they hadn’t much looked like scoring in the previous 85 it was hard not to feel confident.

As we headed into injury time confidence became assurance when Walcott, his young legs outpacing the desperate Milan defender, got first to a ball down the right hand side, drove into the box and squared it for Adebayor to score his first ever Champions League goal for Arsenal and seal the win. So, 2-0 Arsenal. The young guns wore down the old men of Milan. It was the kind of win and performance we all hoped for but secretly, after the last couple of games, weren’t too confident about. Now though, they have to take this win, use it like rocket fuel and keep on going. The confidence they can take from this game is immeasurable.

And the performance itself was the perfect antidote to the Birmingham and Villa draws. This was a team back to its best. Flamini (NDPPPPPPP), Cesc and Hleb were absolutely outstanding. The energy they have, the willingness to run and move is amazing. And you sometimes don’t think about that – the little ten yard run to move into space to pick up a pass, play the pass, then run another ten or twenty yards. They don’t stop and it’s just brilliant. The back four were really good and are really operating like a unit at the moment. I know Kolo is a good player but he should have to work to get his place back.

I’m delighted that Adebayor got off the mark in the CL, he seemed to have an up and down night but he did cause their defenders problems and playing up top on your own against quality like Nesta, Kaladze and Maldini is not easy. I wonder as well has Theo done enough to convince the boss he’s a better option than the ineffectual Eboue on the right hand side. He came on and offered pace, directness and he didn’t forget he had defensive duties too. Setting up the goal will have done him good.

Overall, as a team performance and achievement, it was as good as we’ve seen for a while and hopefully they can kick on from here. It’ll be really interesting to see who we get in the next round. The chances of drawing another English team are very high. United are through, it’s hard to see Chelsea missing out and Liverpool take a 2 goal lead to the same stadium next week.

Afterwards Arsene Wenger said:

We played with organisation and never dropped off. We did not give them time and went forward every time we could. We played with authority, maturity, talent and intelligence.

Sometimes as manager, you feel there is something in the team and you know that for them to get a step higher up they have to deliver in a big game like tonight. I hope this will strengthen the belief in the team.

Well, if knocking out the holders can’t boost your confidence then I don’t know what will. Cesc has eyes on a double, you can’t fault the lad’s ambition, can you? He says:

We are top of The Premier League and through to the quarter finals of the Champions League after beating the holders at home, so why can’t we win them both?

The only thing that can stop this team doing that is this team. On their day they’re as good as anyone, capable of beating anyone, they just need a bit more consistency. In general I’m going to ignore the media reaction to all this. I’m just tired of listening to the cunts. A few months ago we were the best thing since sliced bread, a dodgy spell (which, we should point out, has been few draws and some cup defeats – we’ve only lost one league game this season) and we’re all but finished and now. after beating Milan, we’re fucking brilliant again.

Those flip-flopping, mischief making cunts can go and shove it up their holes. While there will be some reasoned analysis I’ll leave it to you to trawl through the shite to find.

A proud morning to be an Arsenal fan but let’s not get carried away either. It’s only the 1/4 finals and there’s still a good way to go in the league yet. The beauty though is having that much on our plate. Bring it on.

More tomorrow.

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