Tonight is a proper game for us Gunners. Yes we have a brilliant two nil lead to defend but let there be no doubt about it, this game is far from over. Milan are, at least historically, a big club and those sort of clubs don’t come give up easily; it is not in their DNA. The same would go for the Gunners.
Our biggest risks are complacency and nerves. A first half goal for Milan would put the cat among the pigeons, and we know we have the sort of defensive frailties in our team to just let that happen. What is then the best approach? Sit back and pick them off on the counter? Attack them with no mercy and get the game done and dusted within 30 minutes? A mixture of the two?
Not easy to say, but I reckon we need to not allow Milan to gain confidence and come and play their game in our half. This wait and see approach just does not suit us and would lead to a very nervy game. We should attack them in their half but ONLY IF we are prepared to attack them with the right intensity and focus. A half-hearted approach based on leading 2-0 in the tie will not suffice; that would be suicidal.
So attack with real purpose and intensity and dominate the Rossoneri in their own half, with quick and aggressive defenders to deal with any break-outs: Koz, Mustafi, and Bellerin and Nacho if they are fit, must play. Furthermore, key will be who will play in front of the defence in the double-DM pivot: Jack, Elneny, Rambo or Xhaka, or maybe Maitland-Niles? My guess is Rambo and Xhaka and especially the Welshman holds the most important role as our B2B beast. His discipline, positioning, interceptions and link-up play with attack will be pivotal tonight.
I expect us to play 4-5-1 or maybe even 4-6-0. Let’s face it, Welbeck is not a great attacking threat and Lacazette is still out. We will need the goals to come from our midfielders once again and Welbeck is probably also ‘just’ a midfielder. We can destroy them with our fast and inventive passing game and for this we need to add Jack, Mesut and Mkhi into the mix. It is a bit like the Cesc years, really. Midfielders playing football the Arsenal way.
Personally, I would go with these eleven and then give Elneny and Maitland-Niles and Kola half an hour in the second half, if the game requires it.
My predicted team looks like this (subject to players being fit enough to start):
I believe if we start with the right attitude, intensity and focus, and avoid big individual mistakes as much as possible, we will get a result that will see us through to the next round. Let there be no doubt about it, this is a big game. A win means hope and focus for the rest of the season; a loss means the season is over and the proverbial will hit the fan for months to come.
Dressing Room music (from 27.30 minutes onwards):
This Scherzo will focus the minds of the Gunners.
Come on Your Rip Roaring Gunners!