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What to expect from the second leg against AC Milan

With Zlatan's quotes again in the headlines, on how he rejected Arsenal and how the move fell through, we know the A.C. Milan game is around the corner. To be fair to the bloke, he has had an astonishingly decorated career over the years, winning the d...

05 Mar 2012, 09:40 IST

With Zlatan’s quotes again in the headlines, on how he rejected Arsenal and how the move fell through, we know the A.C. Milan game is around the corner. To be fair to the bloke, he has had an astonishingly decorated career over the years, winning the domestic league everywhere he has gone and a striker, I admire a lot. The cockiness is thus a part of the package.

Coming to the football, both teams go into the match with real momentum. The Rossoneri have won their last three away games, drawn against Juventus albeit a ghost goal that never was, and look good coming to the Grove. Arsenal, on the other hand, have won their past four league games, grinding out results on their way. With Allegri already thinking about Arsenal and Wenger bigging up our chances to do the improbable, what should we expect from the second leg of this Anglo-Italian clash? Nothing short of fireworks I say.

Milan hold an aggregate lead of four goals and we don’t even have an away goal to show for our efforts. Yet the mood is refreshingly warm, in and around the Emirates stadium. The reason can be two-fold. One, that there isn’t much of an expectation from the team, and any respectable result would do. Or two, that there is real belief among those around the club and that we can turn this around with another majestic performance on home soil.

Whatever be the factors, it’s always nice to go into the game with an air of confidence and less pressure. The we-have-got-nothing-to-lose syndrome, may help the players perform out of their skin.

No matter how monumental a task it may seem, we have to play our game. I am predicting Wenger to go with a stable, tried and tested 4-3-3, with RVP, AOC and Theo starting in the forward positions, with Song, Rosicky and Yossi in the middle of the park.

The defence picks itself up, minus the doubtful Gibbs, who will be deputised by Jenkinson, if needed. Getting an early goal would be key, and am sure that’s what the boss would be telling the players, come Tuesday night. It will be ideal to push high up the pitch, get the ball forward quicker, and play more direct, at least early on, to put the Italians under pressure.

In the reverse fixture, Thiago Silva almost had Robin in his pocket, not by marking him constantly, but by cutting off the supply lines. If that has to change, the onus will be on the wingers to draw the central defenders out of position, thus giving RVP the space that he thrives for. Once he gets that, any ball that reaches him, could turn into a massive goal threat. I am really expecting to see the full array of Song’s passing abilities in the final third on Tuesday night. He and Rosicky could be our trump cards, alongside the ever brilliant Dutchman.

Also if Jenkinson gets a start, we might see some terrific crosses by him in the Milan box. He is surely the best crosser in our first team squad by quite some distance. Theo’s form on the day, will be crucial too. His strengths are not just on the counter, but also in running behind defences, playing on the shoulder of the defender and beating the offside trap, as he showcased last weekend on derby-day.

Milan on their part would be pretty conservative. They will mostly pass the ball laterally, keep it simple, retain possession and hope to punish us on the break. The pace of Ibra and Robinho could be detrimental. What they do off the ball would be pretty interesting to see, and their defensive system without the ball, will decide the fate of the match. I doubt Allegri will ask the players to be too aggressive off the ball. He knows only too well, how just one reckless/mistimed tackle could throw the tie off the balance.

That is one reason I feel, none of the defenders will get too tight on the forwards. Something that Theo would relish, considering the fact that, he has had troubles against tight full backs. The Milan full backs won’t pop up in forward positions very often, surely not as often as in the San Siro. That would mean loads of room in front of Sagna and Gibbs/Jenkinson.

Even though all these factors are subject to Allegri’s cautious instructions, one thing that will remain universal is the fact that it’s the battle in the middle of the park that will decide this match. The Arsenal midfield three, if given space and time on the ball, could run A.C. Milan ragged. Thus, Van Bommel would be crucial. He is one yellow card away from a suspension, but I doubt that would affect his game in any way whatsoever.

Ambrosini will be a huge miss after picking up a one-match suspension. Muntari will fit in, but his defensive stability is highly questionable, and it would be surprising if Rosicky and Song don’t dominate midfield.

All said and done, an early Arsenal goal, within the first ten minutes would be ideal and might shape up one hell of a European night. A red card for Van Bommel and we will be well and truely on course. The supporters would be at fever-pitch and the stadium will be rocking more than ever.
Written by Debarshee Mitra
Follow him on Twitter @goonerstar_deb

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