Today, friends, is not a day for talking down the lack of pace of the Milan side. Nor is it a time to dismiss the failings of the Italian domestic league as ‘budget’ or ‘substandard’.
No, today is a day where we need to revel in an Arsenal performance, because in 2018 we have not so much seen that from the players. Especially away from home.
So to be writing today’s blog with positive tones in my words is a nice change from the recent morose prose I’ve inflicted on you since the start of the year.
No Monreal, no Bellerin, no Lacazette and no Aubameyang through ineligibility, I must confess I gave us little more than no hope against an in form Milan side, playing against a beleaguered and battered Arsenal side in which everyone had been questioning their desire at the weekend.
What we got was what none of us expected but all of us had hoped. A performance. It was a performance befitting the ability of the quality of the Arsenal players and early scares aside, it was a composed and controlled display that had me happy but also scratching my head.
Cue the clichéd:
“Why can’t you play like that every week?”
Of course it helped that Milan didn’t have pace on the counter and of course it helped that they seemed to take the wrong decision at times in the final third, but for a glorious change Arsenal didn’t succumb to unforced errors defensively and we saw what happens when you do the basics right.
Chambers, Mustafi, Kolasinac and Koscielny all got the basics right and specifically for our French vice-captain, we saw a completely different animal to the forlorn player who misplaced passes and generally had a mare on Sunday at Brighton.
Chambers had a few scary moments but I thought he grew into the game in the second half and on the other side I thought Kolasinac had one of his best games this season. So there was an element of predictability that he went off and it won’t surprise us to find out from Arsène that he’s out for a period of time now. That sort of sh*t just happens to us.
In front of them Arsène went for Xhaka, Ramsey and it was the latter who shone brightest on the evening. I’ve never been Ramsey’s biggest fan but as Dave often tells me Ramsey is one of those players who we only really see when he’s two or three games into full fitness.
He was energetic. He moved around the pitch and created an option. He was available. And he made a pinpoint perfect run in behind the defence to get our second on the night. Ramsey didn’t play on Sunday and I just wonder what performance we would have got against the Seagulls had we played him. Because when you have somebody in that kind of imperious, hustle-and-bustle mood, it transmits to the rest of the team and where Sunday’s passing was laboured and sterile, there was a purpose to this Arsenal team’s passing that we haven’t seen for quite some time.
Milan simply couldn’t deal with the movement of the Arsenal players and in front of the midfield two was Wilshere, Özil and Mkhitaryan and the movement of Mes and Mkhi on the left caused problems for Milan all night.
Mkhi got a goal, could have had more, but he found time and space again and again and when Özil can find you like he did for the first goal you’re always going to give your team a chance.
Özil has a decent game with two assists. By far not his best, but it’s those moments of vision and class for the two goals we scored that you have a Mesut Özil in your team for. I’m not sure how many Arsenal players see those two passes he made.
Wilshere was a different story for me. He did ok on a night where everyone performed, but I’m starting to get really worried about him you know, because at times he seemed a letter heavy on his feet and even in the first half we didn’t see the same kind of running and mobility that we used to from Jack. It does make you wonder about his long term place in the side but for now we can just be glad that we’ve got him fit and as an option.
Up top I thought Welbeck ‘did a job’ too. He was his usual profligate self in front of goal and definitely should have scored one, but that pressing from the front that he gives provided Milan problems during the night and at times forced them to go long and turn over the ball and for that you have to be grateful that whilst Welbeck isn’t a prolific finisher, he can have an impact on the way the team can have a go at opponents.
This performance has to be used as the platform for the team. We all know the league is done, but we need to see the team carry on the momentum, which means another performance needs to happen on Sunday at home to Watford.
Thereafter we play Milan at home and again, we simply must win to keep up momentum and rebuild the confidence, which after Sunday will have been on the floor.
The players have shown they have it in there to put on a show for us. But now it’s time for them to show us that all elusive thing this season: consistency.
Catch you all tomorrow.