Time to deliver – Milan (A) Preview

Morning Gooners,

From Sunderland to Milan, the business end of the season is officially underway.

The winning goal in Saturday’s game has been described as fitting end to a fairytale return. You can’t help but agree it was a special way to sign off from the Premier League (part 2) by King Henry. Some of the negative fans out there (and believe me there are plenty!) will cite the games he was unable to help us out in during a tough January period. Never the less, with an amazingly low 3 touches in the opposition box since his PL return, Henry scored two very special late goals for The Arsenal.

The Sunderland game is now firmly behind us and regardless of how well we did or didn’t perform; we picked up 3 very special points and moved up into 4th thanks to losses by Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle. The key challenge now is to stay in that top 4.

Tonight it’s back to the sexy stuff of the Champions League and it doesn’t come much sexier than Milan away. Unfortunately I won’t be making the trip but I was there in 2008 when we won 2-0 to knock the then holders out. It was a special night with a team that had promised so much throughout the whole season but delivered little.

New team, Same result?

Our record in Italy under Wenger has been fantastic. We’re yet to lose a game in Italy and already have a win under our belt this season at Udinese. That said, we face a tough task tonight against talented players such as Robinho, Zlatan, Pato, and Prince Boatang.

We know that Mertesacker will now be out for an indefinite period due to the ankle ligament injury suffered at the mercy of the shite turf at the Stadium of Light. Wenger has already said Djourou will come straight in; meaning Vermaelen stays at left back. I am slightly surprised as I felt Le Coq may have come in at LB and TV5 revert to CB but experience seems to have got the nod.

I expect the offensive line up to be much the same with potentially Ramsey getting his place back after a much needed rest and a goal. I’d expect AOC to start and terrorise the Milan back line along with Theo but if experience is going to be preferred, don’t be surprised to see Arshavin start.

With the fairy godfather lurking on the bench, Henry and every Gooner alive will love for him to add to his 229 record haul for the club. Vermaelen spoke about the influence he has had since he re-joined:

 

“He has a big influence on the players. He is a leader: he talks a lot in the dressing room,”

“He has a lot of experience and because we have a lot of young players and he has that experience, he talks to them a lot.”

Wenger added:

“We wanted to keep him for two weeks longer but it wasn’t possible,” he said. “Thierry is captain of their team and they start the championship in two weeks.

“It is difficult for a player to come the day before the championship starts when he is captain of the club and has not played at all with the team in pre-season.

“I believe that it was just common sense. I am OK with that because I accepted that agreement at the start.”

 

You can’t really argue with why Henry is leaving ‘early’ but if a player has so much influence on the dressing in such a brief period, then what will be the impact when he leaves? I can confidently say all Arsenal fans will miss seeing Henry on the pitch/bench/touchline from Saturday but how will this affect the players who have looked up to him over the last few months. Hopefully he will have galvanised them and prepared them for a crucial period ahead. Time will tell.

The game against Milan is the 2nd of three games in a decisive week for the club. After defeating Sunderland I’m hoping we can come away from the San Siro without defeat and a goal to our name. It is games like this that makes the Champions League what it is.

Come on The Arsenal!

 

Comments Welcome – @Tottz82

  • OBA

    Good

  • afc4life

    No Cesc or Adebayor this time round….

    Arteta and Van Persie to score instead!!!

  • Gavin

    This definitely is a defining period for us, this time last year, we were top of the league, was in the league cup final and beat Barca in the first leg of the champions league but once it all toppled within a couple weeks, we lost our confidence and the season fell apart. I really hope the team has learnt from that experience and they remember that the next game is a new game and they have to treat every game like a cup final….there really is no time to feel sorry for ourselves….we need results and to remain in the champions league for next season.

  • Gavins

    This definitely is a defining period for us, this time last year, we wre top of the league, was in the league cup final and beat Barca in the first leg of the champions league but once it all toppled within a couple weeks, we lost our confidence and the season fell apart. I really hope the team has learnt from that experience and they remember that the next game is a new game and they have to treat every game like a cup final….there really is no time to feel sorry for ourselves….we need results and to remain in the champions league for next season.

  • Leroy

    This definitely is a defining period for us, this time last year, we were top of the league, was in the league cup final and beat Barca in the first leg of the champions league but once it all toppled within a couple weeks, we lost our confidence and the season fell apart. I really hope the team has learnt from that experience and they remember that the next game is a new game and they have to treat every game like a cup final….there really is no time to feel sorry for ourselves….we need results and to remain in the champions league for next season.

  • bergChamp

    Tonight we need to play to the best of our ability.
    We need to cut out the silly mistakes and focus on what we do best. We need to get Oxlade, RvP and Walcott good service. Song & Arteta need to win the battles in the midfield too.

    Come on the Arsenal!

  • gerry

    we can do it

  • gerry

    So apparently according to reports we are going to offer Benfica Chamakh and 5 million cash for there youngster Rodrigo in the summer. Its a shame Chamakh did not fit into our Arsenal team but early last season when he was played we changed the dynamic of how we played and I believed we needed someone to aim at airally. We started putting it into the air and I think Wenger’s philosphy and stubborness cut him out. I had a look at Rodrigo online and he looks very good in the air but also has gifted feet so I think he could offer us the best of both where as Chamakh could only really offer one thing. Arsene definetly needs to cut people out of the squad this summer and invest top four finish or not

  • arsefan101

    HUGE GAME! So excited!!

  • devday

    Excellent blog Mr Tottz!

    Will be an exciting game tonight for sure…
    Ramsey may well come in for Rosicky, but surely Arshavin and Henry will be on the bench ready to add experience and impetuous when needed.

    Come on you Gooners!

  • kev

    anyone who still backs this manager needs therApy

  • prime

    WHAT A DISASTER

  • Leroy

    That was one of the worst performances I have seen from Arsenal since the 8-2 loss to united. No fight, they looked scared and worst of all disinterested. Even Vanmealen, a normally assured defender looked out of sorts today. What is going on at Arsenal? So angry, so embarrassed today, so sad…

  • Leroy

    Eden Hazard watched the spuds beat Newcastle 5-0 and said they look like a good attacking team i mignt join them in the summer then he watched Arsenal v Milan…………….You know the rest !!!

  • sistable

    The most damning thing amongst many damning things in the San Siro was the lack of fight amongst this Arsenal team. Where was the drive, the passion, the determination? The midfield just knocked the ball sideways and may even have actually shaded the possession stats. But for what purpose?

    Possession was given away too cheaply too often and at this level, such profligacy often costs. And so it proved. And possession is what Arsène Wenger’s whole philosophy is based upon. This is no great Milan side. The standard of football in Italy has declined in recent seasons, and the team that faced Arsenal in 2008 was a much better one. Hell, Spurs won 1-0 in the San Siro about this time last season. And looking at the two squads in north London now, you’d have a hard job arguing Arsenal have the better one. Yes, they have the stadium and the profits, but somewhere down the line, someone has taken their eye off the ball and allowed things to decline to the point where you wonder if Tottenham will enjoy a run as the top dogs in a local rivalry that has been kind to Gooners for most of the last 25 years.

  • fenno1

    I think there wasn’t the leadership on the field to sort it out, or instruction from the sideline, was even more disappointing. Even late in the second half Milan had a free kick in midfield, they played a straight floated ball into our box, bread and butter stuff for any defence, yet Ibrahimovic won the ball. In the first half there was a moment when a high ball dropped just outside our six yard area and Boateng took it down without an Arsenal player even challenging for the ball. In our own box!

    You’d get a kick up the hole if you did that in a Sunday league game, let alone a Champions League knock-out tie. It’s so hard to explain, because these are professional footballers who should not need to be told things like play to the whistle or when a ball is dropping in your box make sure you get a head on it instead of letting it fall to a bloke who has already scored one great goal. For all the criticism the manager will get today, and rightly so, he surely has a right to expect that his players will at least get the basics right.

    The bottom line though is that on the big stage we choked. People can point to our squad and its weaknesses, again with plenty of merit, but you can’t tell me that the players we had out there last night weren’t capable of better. Quite why we performed like that is anybody’s guess. There can’t have been a lack of preparation or motivation, but nor can you say it was one of those days because we’ve had too many of them already this season.

    There are fundamental problems with this team and this squad that continue to go without being addressed. The only striker we had on the bench last night was a 34 year old Thierry Henry who now returns to New York, his legendary status enhanced not just by his goals but by the fact he became van Persie’s de facto back-up so quickly. Neither Chamakh or Park could even make the bench last night and when Henry came on he was deployed up top with van Persie behind him, something we haven’t seen Arsene do before. It all smacked a bit of desperation.

    And for me our woes come from our inefficiencies off the pitch as much as on it. I don’t pretend to know exactly what goes on when it comes to our transfer business but clearly there’s something missing in our set-up. It’s one of the more curious situations that many champion the return of David Dein as a cure-all but, at the same time, advocate the removal of the manager he’d most like to work with.

    Yet you cannot look at the way this team, this squad, has been managed and not worry about where we go from here. The nucleus is there, there are exciting young players with huge potential, but a lack of quality to support and develop them properly. Last night was something of a slap in the face for Arsene Wenger, he talked about his pretenders becoming contenders, but last night they could even pretend to be pretenders.

    The Champions League was, for me, an unrealistic target for us but we’ve been hammered in Europe before (think Barcelona away) and it hasn’t felt like this. Maybe we had the luxury of pointing to the genius of Messi or a harsh sending off, this time we failed miserably, and it feels like something’s got to give now.

  • gerry

    I’m gutted with that performance, but yes AC Milan were clinical. I can’t say that was the worst performance Arsenal had this season, but they were low in their confidence and can I say we were outclassed? After a topsy turvy season, the results don’t lie and there isn’t enough quality in the squad. We need to invest, simple as that, why? Simple as this, we sold key players before and the ticket price is expensive and we need to bring back the quality we had before.

  • gerry

    I’m gutted wit that performance, but yes AC Milan were clinical. I can’t say that was the worst performance Arsenal had this season, but they were low in their confidence and can I say we were outclassed? After a topsy turvy season, the results don’t lie and there isn’t enough quality in the squad. We need to invest, simple as that, why? Simple as this, we sold key players before and the ticket price is expensive and we need to bring back the quality we had before.

  • gerry

    Fans will only put up with this rubbish for so long, i mean how may years is it now? 6 – pathetic. the youth project is finished as are Arsene FC – so now piss off and take the dross with you.

    I believe the only way we are going to bring about change is if we go 2 steps back.

  • Bonathan

    For anyone who was still under dissillusioned that we are a top team in europe, hopefully now you’ve woken up. 4th is the best we can hope for this season, and let’s face it,if we do get it it’l be more down to chelsea being sh1t this season rather than us being good.

    i hate to admit it, but spurs are a cut above us now. without doubt. hopefully the wheels will fall off when redknapp goes, but who knows, that could be a good thing for them if they land mourinho.

    looking north to rangers, and you have to be thankfull that we are in a very good position financially. and people will always point to that. but for me, i don’t actually think we need to have spent much, if any more on our squad than we have. i think what we have spent has been spent poorly.

    we are still yet to really see park and before we know it, he’ll be off for national service. andre santos cost over 1 million more than jose enrique despite not being anywhere near as good.

    if we don’t finish 4th, it’s a long way back. if we do, we need to thank our lucky stars and make a couple of quality signings. i don’t think we need many. but it’s important they are quality. to much second rate stuff has been brought in of late.

    as for the management/coaching of the team goes, clearly, this is probably the most important change. a new face is needed somewhere, even if it’s just to help AW.

    and as for the injuries, this has gone on long enough, our injury record is appalling, somebody needs to get to the bottom of it. all soft tissue. clearly there is something amiss, but is everyone too stubborn to admit it? getting our injuries down to a ‘normal’ level for a season would be as good as a major signing.

  • prime

    we need masterclass creative midfielder

  • fenno1

    mate we are not even an average team – wenger has been found out and the axe is coming down on this once a great manager – the dictatorship is coming to an end and we are looking at many years of mediocrity and that can be blamed on the bastrds at the board and the dunce manager.

  • gerry

    Well according to good sources Wenger read the riot act to the squad after Wednesdays debacle! By all accounts he is planning for a mass clearout of the dross and under performers staring with Walcott! this has real feeling of De ja vu. As i recall last season the same message being relayed to the press. Then it was Denilson, Almunia, Bentner, Rosicky etc etc. So how many of these did he manage to offload?

  • Leroy

    This team, as a team and as individuals, is just a little bit shit. This is confirmed when you see them lose 8-2 to Man U, 4-3 to Blackburn, and in the heaviest European defeat ever 4-0 to AC Milan. So, to see them there in fourth place in a Premier League which collects the best players from all over the world is a compliment to Arsene Wenger.

    I’ll even go another step further and say that Arsene Wenger is the greatest manager this club has ever seen and could even go down as the greatest manager this club will ever see. In years we will come to appreciate what he has done and in the greatest compliment ever we will measure other managers by the standards he has set.

    Already his footballing legacy is written. He was the first foreign manager to win the League. He is the only manager in the Premier League era to go an entire season unbeaten. Two doubles. Fourteen years in the Champions League. He carved London Colney out of the woods and created a state-of-the-art training facility that is used by the England team and is the envy of all. He has launched more careers in football than I care to count. And, possibly the biggest compliment to him is that teams, managers, and players aspire to play “like Arsenal.”

    You’ll note, however, that I left the stadium off that list of accomplishments. That’s because I think we built that stadium. Our money built that stadium. Our money at the turnstiles, at the Arsenal shop, as Red Level members, or even just in passionately following the team and watching games on television. He built us a team that we could love, he gave us a philosophy that we could believe in, and we poured our money and passion into that stadium in return.

    We built Ashburton Grove, because we love Arsene Wenger and what he has done to make Arsenal Football Club one of the greatest teams the world has ever seen.

    One day, days like today will be all but forgotten. Swept away by the memories of winning the League at Old Trafford, memories of Thierry Henry scoring at White Hart Lane, of Tony Adams’ famous goal, Freddie’s goals in the FA Cup finals, and of the Invincibles season. 49 games unbeaten. 229 goals. 229 is a prime number, only divisible by one and itself. Just like Thierry Henry. Just like Arsene Wenger.

  • Leroy

    And as the long slog of this season marches toward its inevitable conclusion, piece by piece Wenger’s legacy is worn down. Far from invincible, this team’s defense is quite vincible. Whereas Arsenal under Arsene have always been weak at set plays, there isn’t even any single thing about the Arsenal defense that you can point to and say it needs fixing. The whole team’s defensive set-up is wrong from front to back.

    And worse, whereas teams once feared Arsenal as they would a tiger with our swift attacks, sweeping counter-attacks, and devastating goals, they now look at us as kitten chasing a ball around on the kitchen floor. The sad reality is that Arsenal don’t even play beautiful football any more. Arsenal are now predictable, slow, and frankly, at times boring.

    Arsene’s other great strength was always in finding bargains in the transfer market. But lately, I suspect that the manager is somewhat out of touch with the reality of transfer costs and player salaries and as such keeps thinking that he is overpaying when a team asks for a few pounds more for Juan Mata. And he also believes he is getting a bargain when he sells players like Toure and Clichy to Manchester City. Perhaps it is as others have suggested and his hands are tied in that regard. But if his hands are tied it is with golden handcuffs because he is well compensated for the job he is doing.

  • fenno1

    @leroy- superbly put. As for the pitch, it was just relaid on Monday and both teams had the same access to the pitch before the match. The state of the pitch is a weak excuse that even the manager didn’t use. I watch Milan most weeks, they don’t normally play the ball in the air the way they did last night. They adapted to the pitch, Arsenal did not and as I’ve said Arsenal have had plenty of opportunities to learn that teams will do this to the field before a game. And the Milan players were falling all over the place too.

    Besides, the problem yesterday wasn’t in Arsenal’s attack it was the utter lack of communication and organization at the back. Sagna gave up on Ibra for the second goal. Vermaelen and Koz had no clue who to cover for the first. Song and Arteta didn’t press in midfield.

    Frankly, your tone is dismissive and sanctimonious. You came here and told me not to “succumb to the English mindset” like I’m some kind of nitwit and now you’re here setting it up so that anyone who thought that buying a player when you have injuries to the entire defense is irrational. We can disagree over the particulars but seriously, stop insulting people who disagree with you.

    I think I know who you are and you have been reading me for a while. I think you also know that I don’t just say things for effect. I’ve thought through these issues, on my own, and I disagree with you.

    This is a team and manager in decline. There are going to be good moments during the rest of the season but if the loss on Wednesday has anywhere near the same effect that the League Cup loss had this could well be the high-water mark for Arsenal’s season.