An unfinished business that will take another season (at least) to be completed. Some would suggest that the business be completed elsewhere, away from Arsenal. At this point, the chances of that happening is increasing. We were supposed to enter the field with a winning mentality, having known the prowess and capability of the home side. Some, even had prior experience of handling a certain opposition.
All of those remarks counted for nothing as we were thoroughly and completely outplayed from start to finish. Wojciech Szczesny might think that we could still overturn the tie in the second leg. The second leg coincides with my maiden pilgrimage to thehome of football, but I’m not entertaining any thoughts of us making through to the next round of Champions League. If we do, I won’t be the only happy man on the face of the planet, but I will certainly count my presence as one of the vital ingredient in the comeback.
Yet, on the face on this whitewash, it’s hard to summoned any positivity. Arsene Wenger was forthright in his assessment of the abysmal 90 minutes that the men in yellow displayed.
We were very poor offensively and defensively. We were beaten everywhere. There was not one moment in the 90 minutes we were really in the game.
Wenger hit the nail precisely on the head. We were chasing the game right from the very start. You can probably name every single attribute of the game. The statistics after the final whistle was misleading to say the least. Orbinho got the numbers correctly ( I don’t doubt him for one second), yet every part of the game felt like we were second best.
The pitch was bad, very bad. For a stadium of the stature of San Siro, it was a disgrace. You can easily divide the pitch into 3 sections, drawing the line from goal post to goal post. The 2 sections nearer to the side touchlines resembles something you would see from a paddy field. However, it would be a lazy and ridiculous thing to say that the pitch contributed to our defeat. Yes, Milan was familiar with the stadium but they can hardly be too familiar with a pitch that was re-laid just 2 days ago.
If Milan were able to cope with the conditions of the pitch, then why can’t Arsenal? Passes were either too short or too long. Ball control mirrors that of a high school team. The bounce of the ball was hard to judge and yet it seemed to cause very little unease to the team in red and black. Of course Milan play a very different style of football compared to us. Perhaps they were pinging the ball higher in the air more than we do, but shouldn’t we try to adapt to ensure that we negate the effects of the pitch?
I wouldn’t say it was easy but I thought everyone got their jobs right. All 11 players were pressing defensively at the right moments and we made them look quite average at times. It was nice to see an Arsenal team actually do everything right and hopefully we’ll just continue to do that.
Theo Walcott said that of a match 13.5 months ago. Chelsea were the opponent that day and we obliterated them. That was probably the only time I ever saw us do that. Whether you want to call it the Barcelona pressing or the Swansea pressing, it’s pressing. An act that was nowhere to be seen from the players in yellow yesterday. We allowed Milan players all the time on the ball to control, take a touch and look for options. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was strolling around nonchalantly without anyone to pressure him.
The best player on the pitch who looked like he was at least trying to match Milan was Laurent Koscielny. His departure just before half time, left the team devoid of any player who look like they could drag the rest of the team along. We have plenty of players who’ve shown consistency every time that they took to the pitch as Arsenal players. Koscielny apart, none was in attendance yesterday. Even Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta looked out of sorts. You can imagine the words needed to describe the rest of the team.
To be fair, Robin Van Persie tried his best but he can’t do it alone. Without service, he dropped deep. That meant Milan were able to push further forward and keep us as far away from their goal as they can. It was 3-0 down before we could mustered an effort at Christian Abbiati. RvP was denied twice by the quick reflexes of the Italian custodian. We started to create chances then because Thierry Henry and Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain came on as substitutes. Their presence pushed the Milan backline back and hence allowed for the opportunities to be created.
Yes, Wenger picked the team. Yes, Wenger is responsible to lift his team for matches. Yet, what can you ask from the manager when his team churns out performances at polar opposite of what they’ve been able to do. The win at Sunderland showed that this is not a bad team. Granted, Sunderland are no where near the quality of Milan. But what we showed at Stadium of Light was character, character that apparently did not board the plan to Italy with us.
As responsible as the manager is to preparing his team, he could do nothing if the players collectively put in a performance like they did last night. Realistically, we have a minimal chance of winning the Champions League but we are capable of producing a much better effort than the one we saw at San Siro.
Not the kind of ending we would have loved to send off Thierry Henry.