In just over a day’s time Arsenal could be returning from Milan with happy faces and a Champions League quarter-final place in the bag. They could also be returning back without one but I’d rather focus on the more positive side of things. Happy thoughts and all that.
In the last couple of weeks Arsene Wenger and his players have had to deal with the death of Bacary Sagna’s brother, the horrific injury to Eduardo da Silva and the fierce criticism aimed at William Gallas’ leadership credentials, yet Arsenal still sit atop of the Premiership table and remain just one good performance – and perhaps just one goal – away from progressing to the next round of the Champions League at the expense of holders AC Milan.
And who would bet against them putting in that good performance tomorrow night? Well, perhaps that’s not the right question because I’m sure there are a number of people who would, but I’m not one of them. I think Arsenal can do it, I think Arsenal will do it and I can’t wait for Arsenal to do it.
The key to getting through against Milan will be to get that away goal. Yet the 0-0 result in the first leg means that there is no real reason for Arsenal to go hell-for-leather in order to get it. Indeed, Wenger’s side may be well-advised to play a little more defensively in this match to ensure that Milan do not repeat the dominant performance they put in at home to Manchester United in last season’s semi-final, a point not lost on the Arsenal manager.
“We have to be tight defensively, because they tore Man United apart in the first 20 minutes of the second leg at the San Siro last season. It is important for us to start strongly in defence, but also not to hide.”
As Wenger suggests, the major focus for Arsenal will be to keep things nice and tight at the back and attempt to get the crucial away goal on the break. Emmanuel Adebayor spoke a little earlier this week about the fact that no matter what happens in the game tomorrow, Arsenal will have chances to score and if they can take just one of those chances then they should get through.
The manager has a tendency to start Adebayor up front alone in away Champions League matches and while it wouldn’t surprise me to see it happen again, recent comments made by Wenger about the relationship between Adebayor and Bendtner suggests he is preparing to play the pair alongside each other at the San Siro.
“You don’t have to be friends to play well together. If I want to win and to win I have to give you the ball then, if I’m a great player, I still give you the ball. They are winners and they respect the game so much it goes above liking or disliking.”
I have no doubt that the pair can work together despite their obvious off-the-field differences and was surprised to see Theo Walcott given the green light ahead of Bendtner against Aston Villa. Once the Dane came on and Walcott moved to the right it made a huge difference to the attacking part of Arsenal’s game and I hope Wenger has learnt from that. For all of Bendtner’s obvious over-confidence issues he remains exactly the type of player you want in a game like this and I would back him to put in an excellent performance if he is given the chance. I will be crossing my fingers that Wenger lets him have it.
That’s about all that needs to be said for today. I’ll have a full preview of the match in tomorrow’s blog once more team news becomes available so until then, have a good one. Oh, and don’t forget that there is just two more days left to enter the O2 Arsenal Opus competition so get your votes in to be in a chance to win your own copy of the Opus by clicking here. As always, I wish you the best of luck.
What do you think?
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