Our worst night in Europe
Posted on February 16th, 2012 at 3:39 PM
A very poor performance in Milan saw us concede four goals which is likely to result in an early Champions League exit unless a miracle occurs in the return leg.
Last night was most certainly not one of our best away performances of recent years, a four nothing thrashing in the San Siro saw us slump to our heaviest European defeat.
Wenger opted to start the game with a slightly more defence minded midfield, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain dropped to the bench and Rosicky took up that left side position to provide Gibbs with a little more cover.
AC Milan lined up with an impressive attack of Ibrahimovic and Robinho with ex Premier League player Kevin-Prince Boateng just behind.
The game kicked off and the first shot came to Rosicky, it was sliced high and wide, a somewhat usual occurrence these days and it's not real surprise he's not scored in over a year.
A couple of minutes on AC Milan captain Seedorf had to go off with an injury and was replaced with Emanuelson, this didn't seem a huge problem to Milan and they went on to score the opening goal 3 minutes later. A poor distribution by Szczesny went straight to Nocerino who floated a ball in to Boateng allowing him to control and shoot past Szczesny, the hosts took the lead and very nearly made it 2-0 a few minutes later with a shot from Nocerino.
The pressure was already on and we needed to fight back. A 33 meter free kick from Van Persie gave Koscielny the first Arsenal attempt on target but it was straight at the keeper and an easy save.
Milan attacked again and an offside Ibrahimovic ran towards goal on the left wing, Sagna couldn't catch him and he managed to cross the ball for Robinho to head in, 2-0 and the hosts were walking the game.
Worse news was yet to come as our best defender of the half, Laurent Koscielny had to be subbed off due to injury which provided a return to the team for Djourou who hadn't played since being taken off at half time against Mancheter United a few weeks back.
Milan attacked once more and Boateng could've increased the lead but failed to hit the target with his shot.
To the relief of most Gunners the first half ended, Theo Walcott was taken off as he'd hardly touched the ball during the first half and was replaced by Thierry Henry.
More woeful defending saw us concede a third goal, a Djourou tackle and 'clearance' saw him kick the ball possibly 5 foot straight to Ibrahimovic who slid in Robinho to run past a fallen Vermaelen and score.
We had a chance to get back into it when Song passed to Henry who flicked it over the defence for Van Persie to volley but a fine save from the goalkeeper prevented that.
Gibbs went off to be replaced by Chamberlain but it was to little too late as Djourou dragged down Ibrahimovic to allow Milan a fourth goal from the penalty spot.
Some hope could've been regained had we managed to score an away goal but at 4-0 the tie now looks set to be over. If Milan come to the Emirates in the return leg and manage to score then we would need to win 6-1 to progress ..
In that game we need to line up with a very attacking squad, none of this let's try and hold the midfield so they don't score because it's not how we play and it's not how we can play, it never works! One of the most frustrating things about Arsenal at the moment is our inability to change the game tactically while the game is being played. If it had been Ferguson or Mourinhio 2-0 down at the San Siro you can be sure they would've made better decisions at half time, was taking Walcott off for Henry really all we could do?
Later in the game Chamberlain came on and was superb for the short amount of time he played. He runs at players and tries to beat them with skill, almost all other players would just dribble towards a Milan player, stop and then pass resulting in either Rosicky shooting high and wide or a full back trying to cross into a box of Arsenal players who don't like crosses ..
If we'd had Chamberlain on from the start then personally I think we'd of offloaded more of that constant Milan attacking with a little pace and skill down the wings, the game could've been different with Walcott and Chamberlain actually getting some possession down the wings.
Something that's also bugged me for some time now is our squad. We have a lot of players but some we just never see now, we have too many players that we can only play when the pressure is not on:
It's slightly embarrassing that we have to loan a 34 year old striker because Chamakh and Park are actually that untrusted we can't play them! What is that point in paying these people week in week out for them to do nothing?
In comparison let's look at the Milan bench - Pato, Ambrosini, Nesta, Bonera. Not bad subs when you consider they even have players from their first eleven missing.
Last season at this point we beat Barcelona 2-1, would we manage that this season? no. What's happened? Basically all our midfield creativity either left, is injured or we prefer to play them on the bench as we have no cover for Chamberlain if he get's injured.
Fabregas and Nasri as much as it pains me to say were excellent for parts of last season and on many times helped us win games, if not with goals then with assists. Another large chunk of our creativity also went missing when Wilshere was ruled out for many months after his pre season injury. This has left us a little flat creativity wise behind Van Persie and we now rely more heavily on Walcott, Gervinho, Chamberlain and Arshavin to create.
Ramsey, Arteta and Song have done well filling in but they're not really ones to beat players with magic in that final third, the introduction of Rosicky over Ramsey in the last few games has helped slightly but I think we will see a massive improvement in midfield play once we get Jack Wilshere back on the pitch and hopefully that will be within the next month or so so that we can have a strong run in.
Potentially going out of the Champions league (if we do) could be a slight benefit, it would give us more time to prepare and less travel over Europe, sure we may lose some revenue and the chance to win the Champions League ... but we can fight Tottenham and Chelsea for 3rd or 4th place, at least one positive this season is that Chelsea are awful.
Our next Premier League game now is at home against Tottenham, hopefully before then we can recover a little confidence allowing us to go into the game strong and really go for those 3 points, if we can beat Tottenham then we have a great chance of catching them up as they have some tricky games over the next few weeks as well.
It's really important that we finish in the Champions League top 4 so that we can still attract top players at the end of the season, this will give us a chance to actually sort the squad out once and for all. I am a big big fan of Wenger and what he has done for this club but he's got to prove by September that he still knows what he is doing and is truly taking us "forward".
Written by Dan