“Wenger” things going to change?

AC Milan 4 – 0 Arsenal

Arsene Wenger’s side were well and truly beaten by a very robust and dominant AC Milan who will go into the 2nd leg at the Emirates with more then one foot into the next stage of this years UEFA Champions League. Before the game Arsene Wenger commented on the “worrying” state of the pitch at the San Siro, but come full time the Arsenal performance described by Mr. Wenger himself as “one of our worst” would give him an even bigger thing to worry about.

It appears that this defeat along with the numerous stumbles along the way domestically in the Premier League this season is leaving Arsenal fans with no other option but to question…Wenger things going to change?

First Half

Arsene Wenger welcomed back full back Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs who along with Thomas Vermalen and Laurent Koscielny made up the back four in there usual 4-3-3ish formation. Alex Song played at the base of the midfield with Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey who took it in turns to get forward a support the attacking line of Walcott-Van Persie-Rosicky.

Starting XI's First Half

From the outset Arsenal struggled with the narrow diamond shape of AC Milan spearheaded by Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Kevn-Prince Boateng. The movement of the front two caused Vermalen and Koscielny all sorts of problems and created the first goal which KPB took in stunning fashion. Arsenal failed to gain a foothold in the game and once KPB volley crashed in off the bar the home side proceeded to bulldoze and bypass Arsenal’s units at will.

Milan Coach Massimiliano Allegri after the game highlighted the excellent positioning his players took up and the opportunities it created for them. Song who was constantly looking over his shoulder and occupied by the movement of Ibrahimovic and Robinho also had to worry about KPB, while both Arteta and Ramsey never seemed to get close enough to Seedorf (Emanuelson), Nocerino and Van Bommel to press them. On the flip-side with Song’s defensive pressures both Ramsey and Arteta never had time to secure quality possession for Arsenal, as the base of Milan’s diamond midfield (mentioned before) choked the time and space out of them…this meant Van Persie cut a lonely isolated figure up front and although Rosicky came infield to provide some support Walcott was non-exsistant and never got the ball.

One solution to combat Milan’s dogged diamond would’ve been for both Sagna and Gibbs to get forward and provide extra support and width to the Arsenal midfield and thus forcing Milan’s midfield to stretch, become disjointed and create space for RVP to come into and receive the ball – this never happened and it was obvious to see it was Sagna and Gibbs first game back and were lacking match sharpness.

With KPB’s goal born from the inside right position with a ball in behind Kieran Gibbs, Milan’s second goal was exploited by a “too close to call offside” looking Ibrahimovic behind Sagna down the left…the big Swede exploded into the box and cut a cross back for Robinho to head home after the Arsenal backline was caught napping looking for offside and slow to react…2-0 down at half time was a mountain to climb but it was only the start of Arsenal’s misery.

Second Half

At the break Arsene Wenger had to try and find some inspiration and spark so threw on Thierry Henry for Theo Walcott. Aaron Ramsey moved out to the right, Rosicky stayed left while Henry Partnered RVP upfront. The Dutchman was asked to drop off and Arsenal flickered between a 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1. As positive as this change may have looked on paper it in fact gave Arsenal less width with Ramsey naturally coming inside and Rosicky doing similar as he was in the first half – some individual quality and interplay between Henry and RVP created Arsenal’s best chance when the Dutchman’s wicked volley from Henry’s clever flick was tipped round the post by Abbiati.

Starting XI's 2nd Half

Aside from that effort and a RVP header normal service resumed in the second half and Milan continued there dominance with Ibrahimovic causing further problems to Vermalen and now Djourou who replaced the injured Koscielny. Both of Arsenal’s centre backs were directly involved in Milan’s third and fourth goal with Vermalen slipping to allow the space for Robinho to arrow his shot into the bottom corner on 49mins and in the 79th min Song clumsily dragged down Ibrahimovic inside the box…who dusted himself off to step up and slot home.

Wenger introduced the talented Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain late on in the second half and the lively winger created a couple of problems for Antonini, and also provided the cross for RVP header which was well saved by Abbiati. It would have been interesting to see how Milan might of faired if Wenger started both Walcott and AOC on the flanks to try and stretch the Italians…being that their full backs Abate and Antonini were never challenged and had almost free reign to drive forward.

Conclusion

Barring a miracle of epic proportions at the Emirates AC Milan have all but secured their passage into the next round of the Champions League. Arsene Wenger’s side never got going and were not allowed to by a very athletic, fluid and razor sharp AC Milan side, who when the likes of Ibrahimovic-Robinho-KPB produce displays in tandem like tonight can be a real match for anyone in this competition.

Arsenal and their fans are left to lick their wounds on the flight home and think to themselves if the 2nd leg at the Emirates could be their last taste of UEFA Champions League Football for a couple of seasons…?

Food For Thought…

Although Arsenal’s recent run of form has seen them creep back into 4th spot, this year more then ever could be vitally important for the club to stay amongst the Champions League places…if this was not to happen it could spell disaster for them both on and off the pitch.

2005...last taste of success

This has been the first season in the previous trophy-less seven where the Arsenal faithful have made their feelings loud and clear to Wenger that they are not happy with the current state of affairs. This has not been helped with the summer departures of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to Premier League leaders Manchester City…Wenger has tried to play down the panic asking fans for trust and patience – which he has the right too after many wrote his side off after the Invincible’s era of Pires, Henry, Viera all departed and the club had to rebuild.

Wenger like Sir Alex Ferguson has been a master of rebuilding his squads after significant departures whilst still qualifying for Champions League Football and legitimately competing for silverware domestically year in year out…however it seems that this balancing act is finally coming loose at the foundations and even Wenger’s Worshipers are beginning to question the lack of direction of there manager and the club.

Another quiet transfer window in terms of “major signings” the fans have been crying out for added to the frail and inconsistent Premier league performances this season has left Arsenal Football Club at a cross roads…

Will the club give Wenger the funds to buy “big names’?

Is Wenger the right man to kick start Arsenal back into life and get them back on track?

Can Arsenal continue to compete domestically and in europe if they cannot keep their best players?

What ever the answers, they will certainly be put to the test if come the summer Arsenal are out of the Champions league, finish outside the top four, go another season without silverware and lose Robin Van Persie……or is this trend unfortunately becoming the norm for Arsenal Football Club and its follwers?

So the question remains…Wenger things going to change…? Only Arsene Wenger himself can answer that.


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