Big-Game Preview: “A story of Arsene Wenger’s kids against the Milan old guard”

milan kitars kit

It’s the biggest competition in the footballing world. Its the Champions League. The location is Milan, Italy. It’s a showdown between the giants of Italian football versus the once-invincibles of English Premier League. The stakes are high. The stage is set. The teams play for Munich. The teams play for European Dominance!

The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, or a place more commonly known in the footballing world as the San Siro, hosts, what on paper, looks like the biggest game of this year’s Champions League Round of 16. Two giants of Europe face-off on Wednesday, February 15th 2012. Two of, undoubtedly, the biggest teams of Europe play in what should be an absolute cracker of a game.

Arsenal:

Arsenal travelled to Milan on Monday without Per Mertesacker, who suffered an ankle injury during the weekend League game against Sunderland where he had to be stretchered off. He was immediately ruled out of the Milan game and he’s posted a picture of a nasty bruise on his ankle. He has since travelled to Germany for further scans. A lot has already been said about the appalling turf at the Stadium of Light, and quite honestly I’ve seen League Two teams with better playing surfaces. It means however that Thomas Vermaelen moves to a position he says he prefers playing in – along side Laurent Koscielny in the heart of Arsenal’s defense. Kieren Gibbs is back from injury and was an unused substitute against Sunderland, will slot back into the left wing-back position. Here’s hoping he gets some decent match-time under his belt this time around, instead of his customary 30 minutes every 3 months.

Another interesting aspect would be to see who starts for Arsenal on the left wing. The manager will in all likelihood rest Gervinho, who’s back from his African Cup of Nations duty, and had some good things to say about compatriot Robin van Persie. It will be either Arshavin or The Ox on the left, the latter most likely to start, as has been the case recently. In addition, we could also see the return of Ramsey as the chief playmaker behind the striker, although the boss might also prefer to stick with the in-form and Champions League-experienced Thomas Rosicky.

Other than that, Arsenal should line up as expected:

van Persie

Ox Rosicky Walcott

Song Arteta

Gibbs Vermaelen Koscielny Sagna

Chezney

Subs: Gervinho, Henry (who spoke of his desire to see Arsenal go through to the quarters), Fabianski, Coquelin, Arshavin, Djourou. Strong line up on paper, but with the Arsenal of late, you just never know do you.

Milan:

Last year at this time, Milan were knocked out of the Champions League by another North London team, with Aaron Lennon in particular impressing for Tottenham on the flanks, and eventually getting a reward (an assist) for his efforts in the 1-0 win. We could once again see a similar tactical battle on the wings, when Theo Walcott of Arsenal will be deployed on the right to take on Milan’s Gianluca Zambrotta. It is interesting to note that Milan play a very narrow 4-1-2-1-2/4-3-1-2 formation, which means their fullbacks would always be vulnerable to fast, pacy wingers who like to take their man on in one-on-one situations, which also plays to the strengths of Oxlade-Chamberlain.

A.C Milan were once the all-conquering team in the Champion’s League, one of the greats of Europe. They’ve been labelled as Europe’s ‘retirement home’ in recent times, however Milan’s midfield-enforcer Mark van Bommel says that the two games are anything but a matter of “Arsene Wenger’s kids against the Milan old guard”. While only time will tell if that indeed is the case, van Bommel and Robinho are still wary of the threat posed by Arsenal. Kevin Prince Boateng however  thinks otherwise, and one cannot help but think that his words do hold a bit of truth to them. Nonetheless, Milan can hardly afford to be complacent here, and Clarence Seedorf believes Arsenal are still ‘one of the teams to beat’ and that Milan need to be wary of Arsenal’s most potent weapon – his Dutch International compatriot and a man in blistering form Robin van Persie.

Milan are fresh off a league away win against Udinese, despite having 10 players out due to injuries and suspensions, including the likes of Gattuso, Nesta, Falmini and most importantly Pato all of whom are still in the battle for fitness for tomorrow’s game. But perhaps Milan’s biggest threat – a certain someone called Zlatan Ibrahimovic – should start. Ibra’s stats this season are excellent – 21 goals and 5 assists in 26 games in all competitions for AC Milan.

Expected line up:

Ibra Robinho

Seedorf

Boateng Ambrosini Emanuelson

Zambrotta Silva Mexes Abate

Amelia

Will Arsenal’s fragile defense once again prove to be their downfall? Will Milan’s poor form in recent weeks and an injury struck squad give the Gunners an edge? Hopefully, we have another classic on our hands, a 180 minutes of football that will be remembered for some time. Goes without saying, but this is one you certainly wouldn’t want to miss!

——-

As an added bonus, a tune you’ll all soon be hearing as Tuesday’s games kick off in a bit:

Analyzing the Remaining Seasons of the Current EPL Top 5 – #4: Arsenal

Continuing with the individual analysis of each of the EPL’s top 5, it is now time to turn our attention to the Gunners, who in recent seasons have looked a mere shadow of what were once The Invincibles!

ARSENAL:

The team currently 4th have had a very mixed season this time around. Normally what happens is the Londoners fly high till about mid-season and then they suddenly fizz out. Epitomized most by what happened to them last season. Challenging for 4 titles and on the verge of winning their first in 6 seasons, then came a loss to Birmingham in the Carling cup final and as witnessed by all, it was pretty much downhill from there. They slowly but surely went out of all competitions they were challenging for and in the end it proved to be another trophy-less campaign for Wenger’s men!

Although still in contention for 3 titles this season (F.A cup, Premier League and Champions League) few expect them to win much this time around either. Many fans and pundits alike point the blame towards the Gunners’ inability to finish teams off when needed. This combined with the fact that apart from Norwich, Arsenal have conceded the most amount of goals in the top half of the table and one can begin to see where the problems lie for the men in red and white!

One thing though that has been quite amazing and frankly jaw-dropping has been captain Robin Van Persie’s form over the past year and form he has brought into 2012 as well. 35 goals scored in the calender year, just 1 short of Alan Shearer’s EPL record, and the 22 goals & 8 assists this season have been a major part in keeping Arsenal’s hopes for a Champions League spot alive.

Robin Van Persie has been in blistering form over the past 14 months

More great news for the Arsenal faithful is that young Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain signed from Southampton in the summer really seems to have found his feet at the Emirates and has already taken over from Arshavin on the left side of their attack. His dribbling, trickery and creativity have really set the Premier league alight and just like D. Sturridge over at Chelsea, ‘The Ox’, as he’s referred to by the fans, seems destined to be a future Arsenal and possibly England legend!

So whats next for Arsenal? They still have to cope with visits from rivals Tottenham, Man city and Chelsea and pay a visit to Anfield. Still very much in for a Champions League spot and a possible 3rd place finish, Arsene wenger needs to make sure he can keep his teams spirits high and most importantly keep the likes of RVP fit if they are to continue their record of having not missed out on a champions league place in the last 16 years!

(follow on twiiter @rafeyAM_MUFC)