Wednesday, 7 March 2012

UEFA CL Review: Arsenal 3 AC Milan 0 (3-4 agg)

A game of two halves

As well as being a tie of two vastly different legs, this was also a match of two vastly different halves. Arsenal were dominant in the first half, and with the momentum behind them and being 3-0 up at the break would’ve been confident of going on to complete a historic comeback. However, in the second half a vastly different Milan team emerged and they managed to control the game in the middle, appearing the more likely team to grab the next goal and kill off the match. In the end a final flurry from Arsenal never came and Milan managed to hold out and progress to the quarter finals

Mistakes will eventually hurt Milan

Milan managed to escape this tie, but if they’ve got ambitions to go further in this year’s Champions League they’ll need to cut out some of the mishaps they experienced today. After the opening goal Milan had wrestled back some sort of control until a woeful clearance by Thiago Silva went straight to Rosicky, who neatly slotted the ball into the corner of the net. Similarly, Mexes carelessly giving the ball away in midfield led to Arsenal’s best chance in the second half, before Abbiati saved his blushes with a fine double save. Finally, the astonishing miss by Antonio Nocerino in the 77th minute simply must be put away at this, or indeed at any, level. Against better opposition Milan will be found wanting unless they manage to eliminate these elementary errors from their game.

Statistics don’t always tell the full story

Milan had the bulk of the possession (54% vs 46%) and more shots on target (13 vs 8) in the game than Arsenal*, but the Gunners were good value for their 3-0 victory. What the statistics don’t show was the nervousness of the Milan team when Arsenal had the ball, and the fact that Arsenal were happy to concede possession on occasion in the hope of hitting Milan fast on the counter. What they do show though is that the perceived threat from Arsenal, particularly in the second half, really was more perceived than real, with Milan never facing the barrage from Arsenal that could’ve finished them off.

The positives for Arsenal

Despite being knocked out of the Champions League Arsenal will take plenty from this result. In the past 10 days they’ve managed to display some of the spirit which Wenger so often talks about in 3 memorable displays. Arsenal are in pole position to qualify for next season’s Champions League, and the momentum they’ve now gathered should be enough to see them through to the end of the season. Whether that’s enough to keep Robin van Persie at the Emirates remains to be seen, but they’ve given themselves every possible chance of doing so and hopes must be high for their silverware drought to finally end next year.

*statistics taken from the BBC Sport website

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