Arsenal almost pulled off something that we’ve never seen in the Champions League, but a 3-0 over AC Milan was not enough, and Arsene Wenger’s men were left with compliments and bemoaning about why Robin van Persie tried to chip the ball over Abbiati instead of, well, anything else.
Taking a look at the full 180 minutes of the two legs, it has to go to Milan. Not just because of the 4-3 aggregate score, but if you try and look at it like a boxing judge, Milan won more rounds. Two decisive rounds in the first match which should have been a knockout, and they were equals to Arsenal in the second half at the Emirates. Unanimous decision.
But ghosts from 2004 and 2005 were floating in Allegri’s head, remembering Deportivo, and remembering Liverpool. Too many failures against British teams in the past few years came back to haunt the Rossoneri once Van Persie slotted in his penalty kick. Christian Abbiati, despite conceding three goals, came up as the big hero for Milan on the night, coming up with some big saves, sending Arsene Wenger to his usual whining defensive mode.
Arsene Wenger – I was not happy with the referee tonight because I felt he gave many free-kicks in the middle of the park. Every time they went down a free-kick was given for them, and they sensed that very quickly and they used it very well. Just so Wenger knows, I think Arsenal shouldn’t have gotten that penalty kick. But why blame yourself for a horrific first leg when you can take it out on the ref (for no reason) and UEFA, always a popular target.
It is maybe an easy excuse, but I feel UEFA has a lot to answer for because if you arrive at 7.46pm you get fined, but you can play on a bad pitch and they don’t say a word. I just feel it is part of the respect for people who pay their money and go to a football game and expect conditions where you can play football. That’s what we try to do here and it is unacceptable for UEFA to accept pitches like the one in Milan.
This was the Arsenal we saw against Tottenham. Tomas Rosicky will never be a great player, but he can still have great matches from time to time. A game-time decision after not passing the fitness test, Rosicky scored the second goal, his first Champions League strike in over four years and was brilliant in the middle of the park. Clever passes, correct decision. Something people expected him to do day in and day out before injuries and the weight of expectations smothered his rise.
Milan did have their chances in the second half, but Szczesny is currently going through that phase when people still don’t think he’s a real great keeper and one that the club can build on for many years, but they’re having second doubts. He’ll still make at least one awful mistake per game, but cover up for it with more than one brilliant save. If Tottenham enter some sort of downward spiral, Arsenal might even finish third this season. I don’t see Chelsea catching up with them.
The main goal is to finish third, and do everything possible to convince Robin van Persie to stay and extend his contract. Right now, he’s the best striker in Europe, and when players reach that kind of level, they usually start to look towards greener pastures, with the prospect of winning titles greater than the one at the Emirates.