Arsenal travel to take on AC Milan at the San Siro on Wednesday night, and Arsene Wenger will be hopeful of getting a similar performance and result to the one recorded the last time The Gunners visited the Giuseppe Meazza. The north London club beat Milan 2-0 away from home at the same stage of the Champions League in 2007/08, and there is no reason why those lucky supporters traveling to watch Arsenal play in Milan won’t witness a similar outcome this time round.
After the early-season malaise, Arsenal are getting back to form and showing that with a little added consistency they can challenge for honours. A commanding 7-1 victory over Blackburn and last-gasp heroics by Thierry Henry to down Sunderland 2-1 in the last two Premier League fixtures should mean the Emirates Stadium side enter the fixture with confidence.
Wenger has this week stated the importance of away goals, and pledged to attack Massimiliano Allegri’s side; this is a must. As the away team the London club will be counting on their traveling fans to buy Arsenal tickets and support their players because against the current Milan side, psychological factors count double. The Italian team are very much a confidence-based unit, and right now they are rocking slightly after a couple of poor domestic fixtures. Defending too deep and letting the Italians have the ball will only give them belief; attacking them with pace may well decide the game in Arsenal’s favour.
Although they did get an away win over Udinese at the weekend, defeats against Juventus and Lazio in the last month have shown the Scudetto holders’ vulnerability. This Milan side is not at the same standard of those of previous generations, and if they are put under pressure could capitulate.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to show his worth and should start for Arsenal, and along with Theo Walcott needs to get the ball down and run at the home defence. The hosts will be boosted by the return of Alexandre Pato, Alessandro Nesta and Kevin-Prince Boateng after injury, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the man to watch for the San Siro outfit. With Per Mertesacker injured, Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen will be given the task to neutralise the powerful Swede.
All in all, this is not a bad tie for Arsenal, and Wenger’s men should not look at the fixtures with any trepidation. An attacking outlook in the first leg without being reckless is needed for The Gunners to get the tie back to England with an advantage, and this will be a real litmus test to see how far younger players such as Oxlade Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song have come in recent times. Away fans traveling to Milan without match tickets can try the online ticket exchange Ticketbis to ensure that they’re supporting their time in the iconic San Siro.
However, a fairytale stands in the balance, as it is a farewell (for now) for one older head. Thierry Henry has added welcome competition in attack over the last month and scored important goals for the club he loves. What an ending if the mercurial French attacker could inspire his team to victory, but I am sure the Arsenal legend would love a win to send him off back to America.