We go to Milan with hope, but three things worry me.
1). Auba and Lacazette are out of the Milan match. With Welbeck likely to lead the line, I worry about where the goals will come from. That worry will lessen considerably if Ramsey and Mkhi will start. Both have appetite for goals.
2). Xhaka as a holding midfielder worries me. He is not athletic enough. We’ve shipped in goals all season. Put a midfielder behind him and there is hardly a blemish in his play. Elneny, not exactly a world beater, is the best we have for that role. Am still thirsting for a repeat of that hybrid role (holding mid cum central defender) he was made to play in the 2nd half of our League Cup semi-final match against Chelsea. Still it is Xhaka and not Ramsey or Elneny that I would not pick for this match. The combined energy of Ramsey and Elneny would breathe some needed life into the team.
3). Kolasinac as a left full back worries me. For me, that’s a strong reason to opt for a 3-man central defence anytime Nacho is unavailable. There is one thing Kola excels at. Racing up the touch line and sending tailor made low driven crosses box-ward. That’s what raised his profile in Germany and with us early in the season. He should be freed to maximize that play even at the cost of some defensive contribution for which reason Elneny’s hybrid role is so advisable, being there to cover for our flying wingback.
My fourth worry is in the shape of a man called Gennaro Gattuso. He took over the management of the floundering Milan team in late November last year. He has completely turned them around. Though they are still 7th in the La Liga table, they haven’t lost a game in their last 13 matches and have also qualified for the Italian Cup final. More than anything else he’s got his team fighting. He favours the 4:3:3 formation.
Our boys are hurt. They are going through the cycle of pain, self doubt, anger and rebirth. I wonder at what segment of the cycle they are. Fifteen minutes into this game we would have gotten a clue to the answer. Sideways, backwards, tentative passing or some swagger and adventure in their play. We go to San Siro hoping the cycle has closed.
The line-up I’d wish for, with Bellerin unavailable, is :-
SUBS: Cech, Per, Holding, Xhaka, Wilshere, Iwobi, Nketiah.
Fear never helps. We must approach the game professionally by simply following the game plan. Never a rush of blood to the head irrespective of our standing at any point in the match. The contest is only over at the final whistle in the 2nd leg at home. Don’t be deceived, Milan is scared too and for good reasons.
By Pony Eye.