Arsenal Vs AC Milan: It’s time to go peak Gunners

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images /

Arsenal host AC Milan with a two-goal advantage in the second leg of their last-16 Europa League tie. It’s time, truly, to go peak Gunners.

After a run of four successive losses, the first time since 2002 in which they had endured such relentless troubles, Arsenal shocked the world with a battling, biting, brilliant performance to outwit and overmatch a 13-game unbeaten AC Milan side in the first leg of their last-16 Europa League tie.

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Arsene Wenger, in his famed puffer coat, had no difficulty with his zipper. Neither did his players between the white line. While possession and control was conceded in the second half, it was the first 45 minutes that displayed that ruthless excellence of this team.

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Resolute and determined defensively, they repelled the Milan attacks with relative ease, before flowing forwards with a vivacious and clinical streak, scoring two wonderfully crafted goals, even if a deflection of the naively-turned back of Leonardo Bonucci was required for the opener, and carving out a number of good chances that could, on another night, have extended their advantage.

Subsequently, Arsenal, however unlikely it may have seemed beforehand, returned to the Emirates with a two-goal lead, one that now sees them favourites to progress to the quarter-finals. Even Milan manager Gennaro Gatusso, for instance, concedes the advantage, admitting, “We’ve [Milan] still got a 30 percent chance of going through”. He said so in a fighting, scrapping manner; it came across as an admission of the hole that his team had dug out for themselves.

And so the stage is set for the Gunners to do what the Gunners do best: Squander the delight in favour of the disgrace. I have said, on many occasions, whether it be on podcasts or in articles, that it would be peak Gunners to throw this away. Well, here we are.

Milan, in and of themselves, do not really scare me all that much. Their lack of speed, something that has caused Wenger’s teams great harm throughout the years, is self-evident. They lack neither the directness nor the guile to open up their opponents, and, while before last Thursday’s two goals, they hadn’t conceded a goal in 599 minutes, the space on the counter-attack, and the complementary movement of the Arsenal attackers to exploit that space, should make it difficult for Gatusso’s side to deny their hosts chances.

But Milan do not need to scare me. This is Arsenal we are talking about. They have, perhaps like no other team in world football, the innate and inordinate ability to capitulate when even the slightest pressure is exerted and chaos is caused. It took FK Ostersunds less than a minute, for example, to score twice and ripple panic through the North London outfit’s ranks. Milan are substantially better than Ostersunds.

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This is the type of game that we have come accustomed to Arsenal losing. Whether by hook or by crook, they find a way to throw away hope and take on shame. It would indeed be peak Gunners. I hope I’m wrong, but I am very, very nervous.