AC Milan aren’t Barcelona – why fear the SanSiro?

WTTGT Writer: Vivek Arulnathan

It’s always been this way, hasn’t it? I can’t remember the last time we failed to draw the best teams in a Champions League draw. Roma, Inter, Real Madrid and Barcelona to name a few and this year it is AC Milan. They are Italian champions and seven time European winners. Sounds terrifying on paper, eh?

There is no doubt that AC Milan are a brilliant outfit and they gave Barcelona a run for their money in the group stages. They arguably have one of the most potent strike forces in world football in Ibrahimovic, Pato and Robinho. They could well be joined by Tevez in January but I am not too sure if he would be eligible to play in the Champions League. That said, there is a clear lack of quality in the rest of the squad (not many would agree though!). 

The likes of Gattuso, Van Bommel, Seedorf, Aquilani, Flamini and Boetang in midfield are quite formidable but I don’t think they’ve got a creative spark in there. Their biggest mistake in my opinion was to sell Pirlo to Juventus and the void left by the veteran midfielder is yet to be filled. Thiago Silva is one of the world’s best defenders but lacks the support cast to form an intimidating defence. Nesta is in the twilight of his career and with the likes of Mexes, Abate, Zambrotta and Yepes making up the rest of the backline, it certainly provides Arsenal with a chance to eliminate one of the competition’s frontrunners.

I know I sound like an arrogant and overconfident Arsenal fan by dismissing an AC Milan side that almost beat Barcelona at Camp Nou, but believe me, they can’t be any worse than Barcelona, can they? We managed to stop Messi, Villa and Pedro at home and that was without Verminator! So what’s wrong in fancying our chances against the Italians?

The fixture list is certainly not favorable with away trips to Sunderland and Liverpool before each legs of this two game tie. But as group champions, we get to play the second leg at home which is always an advantage. With the games scheduled during the middle of February and first week of March, we should be good on the injury front with Sagna and Wilshire set to return by then. Of course it depends on the current crop not picking up any injuries but we’ve not had the usual November breakdowns so I am fairly optimistic.

Tottenham showed last year that the Milan forwards can be shut out as they kept clean sheets both home and away and that was with Gomes in goal! Vermaelen, Koscielny and Mertasacker are exactly the kind of defenders who can do that and AC Milan won’t find it as easy to score goals as it is in Italy. Their midfield and defense though intelligent are on the slower side and could really be exposed by the pace of Walcott and Gervinho and the tricky movement of Van Persie. Fingers crossed that this trio stays fit!

More impressive is our record against European heavyweights in the Champions League. Having previously knocked out the likes Real Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan with wins at the Bernabeu and San Siro in the recent past, Arsenal command a lot of respect in Europe and Milan would do well not to take the Gunners lightly. A lot of these victories were a result of the brilliance of Cesc Fabregas and it will be a good challenge for Van Persie to emulate the heroics of his predecessor.

It most certainly is unfair given that we emerged winners from a tough group only to draw AC Milan while the likes of Lyon and Benfica face weaker oppositions. But I believe that Napoli were our biggest threat in the draw and we should be happy to have avoided them. And there isn’t any reason to fear the Italians. The underdog tag has favored us this season and we can certainly draw inspiration from our earlier exploits at San Siro and our fighting performances against Barcelona last year.

Several things have gone against us so early in this season that I can’t help but think there could be several surprises in store for us especially given the way things are going at the moment and a trip to Manchester could be the start of better times for Arsenal! 


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One Response to AC Milan aren’t Barcelona – why fear the SanSiro?

  1. [email protected] December 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    what a stupid headline ?, who fears Ac Milan?

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