Update: It looks more than likely that Bacary Sagna will not play any part in the game against Milan due to the unexpected death of his brother earlier this week. On behalf of everyone who reads the blog I want to send my best wishes to the Sagna family and Bacary in particular. As someone who has two brothers of my own I can not even comprehend what it would be like to lose one of them at such a young age and hope that Bacary and his family can recover well from the loss. Special thanks to Le Gunner for the heads up on this issue.
As Arsenal’s paper-thin squad prepare for the massive Champions League clash with AC Milan I’ve been quite surprised with the somewhat mellow media reaction to Arsenal’s 4-0 loss to Manchester United on the weekend. Indeed, most football pundits seem to have rather intelligently written off Arsenal’s performance as a one-off and still consider Arsene Wenger’s side to be a strong chance to beat the current holders of the Champions League on Wednesday night. I was expecting something of a backlash but from where I’m sitting it just hasn’t happened and I have to say I’m thrilled to be able to turn my complete attention onto discussing this week’s game without having to look back at that abomination of a performance on Saturday. Huzzah!
The only man who has been talking about the Manchester United name has been the manager and even he was quick to turn the focus onto AC Milan. Indeed, Wenger correctly admitted that Arsenal were not up to it on Saturday night but also made it clear that he does not expect the result to have any great psychological impact on the side. For the first game in quite a while he also had the pleasure of revealing that no new injuries had been sustained by his squad.
“I am not worried about picking the players up for the Milan game. It is massive match and we have to bounce back quickly from our disappointment. At least we did not suffer any more injuries, so we might be able to find 16 players to face Milan. We will need to be at our best.”
I absolutely agree with the manager. I’m not worried one bit about the players being able to pick themselves up for this one. Each defeat that Arsenal have suffered this season has been followed by a win and that shows how well the players have dealt with the pressure of responding to negative results. While a 4-0 loss at the hands of United will test the players resilience a little bit more than the defeats to Sevilla and Middlesbrough and even the 5-1 thrashing incurred at White Hart Lane did, I’m confident that the boys have the mental strength to respond positively again.
Perhaps even more important is the fact that the four players who I see as the keys to overcoming Milan will surely return to the side after missing the defeat to United. I am of course referring to Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna. Now, while football is a team game and the entire Arsenal squad’s morale will have been impacted by the defeat to Manchester United I strongly believe that the players mentioned above will not be anywhere near as affected as the players who started the game.
In my personal experience as a footballer I’ve never really taken responsibility for a defeat in a game where I’ve not played or been substituted on in an impossible situation and I doubt whether the likes of Flamini and Adebayor will have done either. They will be fired up to prove how important they are to this side and make no mistake, they will make a difference against Milan on Wednesday. The same goes for Clichy and Sagna and also Philippe Senderos, who I expect will debutise in place of Kolo Toure, a player that has been uncharacteristically out-of-sorts both during the African Cup of Nations and since returning from it.
Seedorf questions Arsenal experience
One of the AC Milan players that Arsenal will face on Wednesday, Clarence Seedorf, has unsurprisingly tipped his side to go through because he believes they possess more experience than Wenger’s side. The Dutchman, a player I both like and admire, admitted that Arsenal have been playing exceptionally well this season but also revealed that he expected his Italian club to progress due to their superior experience and cunning.
“Although Arsenal are one of the best teams in Europe and have been playing very well lately, they lack experience. We know how to handle these occasions. We have experience and we also have cunning, especially when it comes to ties over two legs.”
It’s hard to argue with Seedorf’s comments but at the end of the day experience and cunning will mean nothing if Arsenal can perform to the best of their ability. As I mentioned earlier, with the game at Emirates Stadium and the likes of Flamini and Adebayor plus the two full-backs returning I believe that Arsenal have every chance of doing just that. It seems like every season people question Arsenal’s lack of experience but if you consider Wenger’s likely starting team for the game, pretty much every member of the side has been involved in Champions League football for a number of years and have, in my opinion, more than enough experience at this level.
Maybe the correct word Seedorf is looking for is ‘aged’ rather than ‘experienced’. Just going off on that tangent just a little bit further, when does an inexperienced player become experienced? Do they have to be a certain age or make it to a certain level of a competition? Is a player like Alexandr Hleb experienced? What about Toure? I really don’t know and would like to hear what you think.
That’s about it for today. I sincerely hope all you Arsenal supporters around the world have not copped it too heavy from your Manchester United supporting friends on the weekend and hope you don’t get too much more grief when you go back to work today. If things get a little bit too depressing then I’d encourage you to waste some time by voting for your favourite Arsenal photograph in the Arsenal Opus Competition or to join the Arsenal FC Blog Readers group on Facebook. I guarantee you will not hear a peep about the weekend loss from any Manchester United supporters there. Have a good one.
What do you think?
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