Well now boys and girls, what did we learn from last night, other than our reserve ‘keeper has two songs to sing along to, where Elneny has none (that I know of)?
Well, it turns out that after all of the trials and tribulations, after seeing Arsenal sh*t the bed on multiple occasions, this collective of players are actually aware of the concept of ‘game management’.
Because that’s what last night was. I mean yes, Milan were no great strokes and yes, we seemed to make it look hard for ourselves at times with a bit of fortune for the penalty and second goal, but after the season we’ve had shouldn’t we be allowed to just revel in our own victory rather than focus on the shortcomings of others?
NB – have just re-watched the Welbeck penalty. Clearly a dive but how about the British media reaction, with the likes of John Cross, who have minimised the chastising of Kane and Alli and all of a sudden are out in force to condemn Welbeck? The hypocrisy of the British media when there is a favourable club they are all collectively backing, for some bizarre reason, knows no bounds it seems.
That’s what I’m doing this morning anyway. I’m taking pleasure in the fact that we’ve bested a Milan side that I honestly didn’t see how we would overcome given our shocking form in the run up to the first game. We were an ailing team with a manager looking more and more battered and bruised with every shoddy domestic performance.
But last night provided an elixir for the team and we find ourselves in the quarter final having beaten a resurgent AC Milan side.
The evening had its nervy moments though didn’t it? After all, when Milan hit the side netting after about 40 seconds I feared this might be an Arsenal team that would slink back into its shell and look like the poor and whimpering version of Voldemort that Harry Potter looks pitifully down on in the final stages of JK Rowling’s literary saga. We’ve seen that before. Not just this season but in season’s past. The team whimpering I mean, not Lord Voldemort because, y’know, he’s a fictional character n’everything.
So my, weren’t we all grateful for the softness of European football and referees in particular, because in the Premier League Danny Welbeck would have got a talking to and most likely a booking. He went down easy but as I said to Andrew at halftime, I thought it was a good performance from Arsenal and one controversial moment shouldn’t detract from the fact I thought we were the better side and didn’t deserve to be behind. Milan have some decent players and the way the tie was set up they were always going to have periods where they were going to press and have more of the ball, so the fact that we limited them to about three shots in that first half was a-ok with me. And hey, perhaps there’s an element of me being more magnanimous because we won, but sometimes you do just have to applaud wonder strikes and that Milan goal was a good one. Swerving away from Ospina, right in the corner, no deflection. Not really sure what more the Arsenal players could have done about it. Perhaps close down the Milan player but that’s being slightly picky. It was a great strike.
So when you’re a goal behind the most important thing to do is respond and to their credit the Arsenal players did. The much maligned Danny Welbeck stepped up to take his own soft penalty and from there it was always an uphill struggle for the Italians, which I can say with the benefit of hindsight this morning, because at the time it felt very nervy until the second Arsenal goal.
They came out in the second half with a bit of bite about them but the second that Done-a-runner hashed his save for Xhaka’s ‘goal’ (he’ll claim it but in reality it probably should go down as an OG) the tie was effectively over. It was a speculative effort but *cliché klaxon* if you don’t buy a ticket, yada-yada-yada.
The game petered out and only a second goal for Welbz added a bit more gloss to the end of it, but all in all, we have to say we’re happy with what we’ve seen over these two legs. Arsenal have shown that there’s some fight in them and despite the posturing of one of the Milan officials about feeling ‘sorry’ for Arsenal, we were all reminded that there are good players In this Arsenal team who can get the job done.
Over the two legs we were the better team. We had more incision about our play, we took our chances having given Milan plenty ourselves, we looked like a team that has a bit more confidence about us and hopefully the players will be going into work on Saturday for training with a bit more confidence and belief in their own ability.
A few final thoughts go on individuals before I leave you though. Firstly, given that he was clearly hobbling around after he’d taken a knock, why on Earth didn’t Ramsey come off as a precaution? We’ve already heard from Wales manager Ryan Giggs talking about a ‘small procedure’ over the next few weeks, so why the heck do we risk yet more damage by keeping him in the pitch? I just don’t get it.
Also, whilst Mesut ensured a frustrating night and was far from his best (probably because I wrote a blog about how good he could be during the week – so just to spite me he’s had a poor game), let’s have a cheer for Welbeck. He’s driven us mad at times with his ‘Bambi on Ice’ style of play, but two goals against Milan will hopefully do him the world of good, even if the first one feels a little dirty and the second was a tap in with his barnet.
But who cares, right? We got Richarlison’d earlier in the season and Kane and Alli are making a mockery of the game on a weekly basis, so that’s my justification for not chastising Welbeck too much!
we’re in the hat for the next round and Atlético Madrid aside, there isn’t anybody we should fear, so I’m hoping we get a decent draw. I’m off to Lisbon for a work incentive weekend this afternoon, wouldn’t mind returning in a few weeks to watch The Arsenal!
Might catch you tomorrow, hangover dependent.