EUROPA LEAGUE: ARSENAL SHOCK AC MILAN 2-0 AT SAN SIRO
Just when you thought the Gunners were dead and nothing could come out of them, they turn around and and give one of the best performances iv seen in a long time. The stage was the imposing San Siro stadium in Milan. Home to AC and Inter milan. A stadium where we have enjoyed some good memories and Bad ones too. Many expected another limp and Gutless performance like the ones we have sadly grown accustomed to from these Unpredictable Arsenal side, but instead what we saw was pleasantly surprising.
WE came to bury Wenger, not to praise him. said some traveling Arsenal fans
But just when football was preparing to deliver the last rites to the Frenchman’s Arsenal reign, the stubborn old goat dredged up the kind of result he used to enjoy on a regular basis and the kinds that made him a great manager.
So now it is Rino Gattuso who finds himself under pressure.
For make no mistake, this was a performance which everyone but Wenger thought was way beyond his faltering team.
Defenders who won tackles and headed the ball clear, midfielders passing to each other and a striker stretching the opposition with pacey runs into the channels.
It was just like watching the Arsenal of old.
Back to the days of Henry, Pires, Ljungberg and Fabregas silencing the San Siro.
Back to the days when Arsenal were still regarded as European heavyweights.
“An encounter of lost nobility” as Gazzetta dello Sport had so eloquently described this meeting of fallen giants.
For the stunned contingent of Gunners fans right up in the heights of this famous old stadium, it was a rare occasion when they actually wished they had a closer view of the action on the pitch.
Now those long-suffering supporters must be wondering why their team can’t play like this every week.
Even Wenger had confessed that he his team were drinking in the last chance saloon ahead of this win-or-bust last-16 clash.
A fifth successive defeat would have all but ended Arsenal’s season and left their wounded manager limping towards the exit door.
Instead it was the much-vaunted young Milan team which buckled under the expectations of a 72,000 crowd.
Gatusso’s resurgent team came into this game on the back of a 13-match unbeaten run stretching all the way back to Christmas.
Their defence had not been breached for more than six games yet it took Arsenal just 15 minutes to find the goal they needed to set them on their way.
Mesut Ozil’s delicious ball over the top picked out Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a shot which flew past keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma with the help of a deflection off Leonardo Bonucci.
Mikitarayan scores for Arsenal to make it 1-0
Ozil, so often criticised for his lack of effort, clearly meant business. He was taking this one so seriously he had even left his gloves behind in London.
And the only time he walked all night was when he took an eternity to trudge off to make way for substitute Rob Holding late in the closing minutes.
The £350,000-a-week German has regularly been accused of going missing in the big games when Arsenal need him most.
But this was a night that he finally stood up and showed why Wenger still has so much faith in his ability.
And if his pass for Arsenal’s first goal was something special, his through ball for their second just before half-time was even better.
The entire Milan defence was left hopelessly flat-footed and looking in vain for a linesman’s flag as Aaron Ramsey dribbled nervelessly past Donnarumma and walked the ball into the empty net.
It was a goal which leaves Arsenal with one foot in their first European quarter-final since 2010.
Nobody at the Emirates will be counting their chickens just yet, particularly after the way they almost messed up a three-goal lead against Ostersunds in the last round.
The lads celebrate a much needed win.
Yet this was as much of a stress-free night as Wenger could have dared to hope for in the circumstances against the seven-time European champions.
His only heart-in-the-mouth moment came in the 12th minute when David Ospina flew out of his goal and clattered Hakan Calhanoglu.
It would almost certainly have been a penalty had Calhanoglu gone to ground, but the Turkish winger tried to keep his feet as he hurdled Ospina’s challenge and the ball ran out harmlessly for a goal-kick.
Skipper Laurent Koscielny’s magnificent challenge halted Frank Kessie in his stride while Jack Wilshere’s dogged persistence in midfield kept Milan at arm’s length all night.
And it could have been even better for Arsenal as they looked to stretch their advantage.
Mkhitaryan skimmed the top of the bar and Danny Welbeck was denied by Donnarumma’s low save as the visitors continued to threaten on the break
But Wenger was more than happy to settle for the two-goal advantage going into next week’s return leg.
There is still a long way to go yet, but maybe he can still sign off at the Emirates with that elusive first European trophy.