What a night. Well, morning for me so I’ll rephrase that; what a morning. Arsenal are through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and deservedly so after an impeccable team performance saw Arsene Wenger’s side beat AC Milan 2-0 to become the first English side to beat the Italian club at the San Siro. Yet, it was not the result that made this victory so sweet for Arsenal but the manner in which it was achieved. Every single Arsenal player on the pitch performed to the level that was required to enable such a result while some simply played out of their skin, as the manager was quick to point out at the end of the match.
“Tonight it is very difficult to single one out. I believe the whole team defended well and attacked well, it was a complete team performance.”
And he’s absolutely right. Manuel Almunia did not put a foot wrong in goals; William Gallas and Philippe Senderos were completely dependable at the back; Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna defended superbly and still managed to get forward; Mathieu Flamini was all over Milan’s dangerman, Kaka, like a rash; Cesc Fabregas’ passing was extraordinary and his goal remarkable; Alexandr Hleb probed and prodded with token unpredictability; Abou Diaby made Massimo Oddo look laughable at times down the left while Emmanuel Eboue was just as difficult to contain on the right.
And then there was Emmanuel Adebayor. For a 4-5-1 to function effectively the ‘1’ has to be absolutely on top of his game and Adebayor was a monster last night. The likes of Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini never quite worked out how to play him a fortnight ago at The Emirates and they looked even further from knowing at the end of this match. His touch, his creativity and most of all his seemingly endless reserves of energy meant that he was able to put in his best performance of the season in the game that mattered most. Absolutely sensational stuff.
I would love to write a paragraph about every single Arsenal player because they were all that good – even little Theo Walcott when he came off the bench to race past Kakha Kaladze and set up Adebayor with the second goal – but if I did that I would be here all night. This was a team performance and one which has sent as clear a message as could possibly be sent to the rest of Europe that Arsenal have the ability to not only win the Premiership, but win the Champions League as well. Even Carlo Ancelotti agreed with that sentiment after the match.
“They managed the ball better, put a lot of pressure on our midfield and did not allow us to play as we wanted. I think Arsenal have shown they have the qualities to reach the final of the Champions League.”
There is, of course, a long way to go both in this Champions League campaign and also in the Premiership, but this victory will do nothing but good for an Arsenal side that looked to be losing their way slightly over the past couple of weeks. In many ways this game was make or break and if Wenger’s side had failed at the San Siro then it could have had a substantial impact on the team’s morale and motivation going into the final stretch of the season. As it is, they did not, and as a result the players will be more confident of winning the Premiership and even the Champions League then they have been at any other time in the season.
When I walked into work following this game I was absolutely buzzing. It has not even come close to wearing off yet. I love this team so much and last night’s win was one of the best that I have ever witnessed in the ten or so years that I have been supporting this club. Forget the fact that Arsenal haven’t won anything yet, forget the fact that this is only the second round of the Champions League and forget the fact that this Milan side have struggled to play at their best this season; for Wenger’s side to go to the San Siro and so convincingly outplay the Champions of Europe is something that every Arsenal supporter around the world should cherish for some to come. Enjoy it.
Just one final point. To all those people who were worried about the impact of Arsenal finishing second in the group behind Sevilla tell me; which of the two sides still has a chancing of winning the Champions League?
Thank you Arsenal! Well done boys! Have a bloody good week everyone!
What do you think?
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