Arsenal 3 – 0 Milan: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

There are games where even a defeat feels like a win. Then there are those where victory can’t quite overcome the feeling of losing out. On a rare occasion though, one gets to experience both these contradicting sentiments at the same time! Arsenal’s heroic effort against Milan will surely fall into that exceptional category.

The Gunners are out of the Champions League but have now won the last three games against Tottenham, Liverpool, and Milan with an aggregate score of 10-3! If that doesn’t spur this team on or make fans believe again, nothing will. On the other hand, after a 3-0 win in this game, one cannot help but wonder what the result would have been if Arsenal had performed at even half the required level in the first game. Some would surely think the telling difference was made by the quality of the pitch at Milan. At the end of all rationalization and analysis though, it’s hard not to feel this celebration could so easily have had greater substance to it with a place in the next round.

Anyway, let’s not focus on what could have been. There is a need to focus on the Premiership and this win was sumptuous enough to restore the wounded Gooner pride. The cost, in terms of injuries, will be known in coming days. As long as it’s not too heavy a price there can be no cause to complain about the recent performances, and every reason to look forward to the rest of the games in the League even if it’s just a fight for fourth of the possible date of St. Totteringham’s Day.

The game itself was predictable in some ways and surprising in some others. Everyone expected Arsenal to come flying off the blocks but the intensity and tempo that the Gunners produced in the first half was breathtaking. You could see Milan didn’t know what hit them. The early goal, from Arsenal’s only accurate cross of the game, helped immensely.

Those watching carefully would have noticed many interesting details. Arsenal did press the visitors intensely but it wasn’t a consistent effort through the half. In a way you could say the Gunners went hard at Milan, then collectively paused for breath by allowing visitors some time on the ball, and then went for the jugular once again. This pattern repeated all through the first half. As a result, Milan actually made more passes in the first half, and indeed in the entire game, but the Gunners had greater urgency and impact.

The thing with such cycles is that over time the side going gung-ho will lose energy and consequently their ability to threaten the opposition. Add the lack of options on the bench into the mix and it was no surprise to see the last Arsenal attempt on goal come as early as the 64th minute. For a side chasing the game, and especially after knocking off so much of the lead in the first half, that is the decisive stat.

It was a extraordinarily direct and un-Arsenal-like performance from the Gunners. It isn’t often that visitors at the Emirates attempt and complete over a hundred passes more than the hosts. The goals too came from non-regular sources, one from a corner and two from runs that started wide on the Right just inside the Milan half and forced mistakes in the box. While Arsenal do get a lot of assists from the Right side, there is usually a degree of finesse involved either via a through-ball, a clever cut-back, or such other piece of skill. In this game it was simply a result of direct running.

And therein also lay the problem. In the second half, Mesbah got really tight on Theo instead of dropping back. This reduced the opportunities for him to receive the ball and turn. Van Bommel too was quick to cut across and helped close a couple of runs down early. With that threat gone, Arsenal really didn’t look like they had any other options.

While I don’t wish to be critical of any player after such an effort, Gervinho did have a disappointing night where he was anonymous for large periods. The injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain also put greater pressure on the midfield but they too struggled to create any meaningful combinations. It’s hard to remember many moves where Arsenal’s passing actually cut Milan apart. Indeed, there were occasions when the Gunners wasted good openings after the players earned time and space in the opposition half through their synchronized pressing.

To take just one example, in the 16th minute Emanuelson was forced into making an erroneous back pass. Rosicky got the ball but played it too early for Van Persie who then returned it but it was behind Little Mozart. The attack fizzled out even though it was a scintillating 2-v-2 with acres of space on both sides.

There were many such moments when a greater degree of composure, which is Arsenal’s strength in most games, would have made all the difference. But I guess it’s not easy to play the game at this Basketball style intensity and maintain a level head at all times. It’s a con one has to accept with the pros of the style.

At the back I thought Arsenal were disciplined, committed, and focussed. Obviously, with such a direct style, and with a young lad playing in an unfamiliar role in midfield, the back four were not going to get sufficient protection. Considering that, they did superbly to hold a strong line and on many occasions got a desperate last gasp tackle, interception, or block in.

I also thought Ibrahimovic and Robinho were atrocious for large parts of the game. They saw a lot of the ball – Robinho was fourth highest in terms of successful passes (47/55) and Ibra wasn’t far behind with (36/49). To put that into perspective, Koscielny made the most successful passes for Arsenal but he only managed 38/46. Those are very high number for attacking players. – but were extremely ineffective. A lot of their movement seemed lethargic and disjointed. Even their attempts at the final pass or finish were substandard.

At the end both sides will look back and see a number of missed opportunities. Not only the obvious ones like Van Persie’s chip that was saved or Nocerino’s tap-in that went straight at Szczesny, but also a fair few moments when a better pass/choice in the final third could have been decisive.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Once again his decision making was very good and did make a couple of quality saves. Only one mistake in the whole game when he played a lazy pass to Song that gave Ibra a great chance to score.

Sagna: Attempted the most passes for Arsenal. Worked hard on the flank but couldn’t really make a meaningful attacking contribution. Was fairly effective in defence as he got his positioning and decision making right on most occasions. He also won all 3 aerial duels and 2/3 tackles.

Koscielny: Completed the most passes for the Gunners. A very good run across the face of goal to get rid of his marker, was a bit lucky with the finish as it went down to his shoulder and then in. Made 5 interceptions and was generally in the right areas defensively.

Vermaelen: He too had a very efficient game at the back. Also made a couple of vital tackles and threw his body on the line when he had to.

Gibbs: His run and attempted cross won the corner that led to the first goal but I thought the youngster’s general understanding with Gervinho was not that good and Arsenal were not a threat down the left for most of the game. Did get into good defensive positions and made a number of vital clearances.

I thought the back line was fairly steady and that resulted in a number of offsides. The central defenders, with a lot of help from Song and AOC, also ensured the visitors rarely got a shot on goal down the middle. This automatically reduced the goal threat. The line also fell very deep when Milan had a chance to cross which meant a number of their crosses ended up straight at Szczesny. The full-backs did well and didn’t let their man cut inside into threatening positions that often.

Song: Only attempted 42 passes, usually makes that many in a half or at max an hour. That was more a reflection on Arsenal’s approach than his ability. At times though, he could have  done with more composure. Played part of the game as a box-to-box midfielder with a number of sprints and the other part as an extra defender. Made 3 interceptions and was successful with all 3 tackles but was also forced into committing a number of fouls.

Rosicky: Took his goal really well. He only had a small portion of the goal to aim at and placed it in the corner deftly. Was the main driving force and was always looking for attacking opportunities. Made the most number of passes for the Gunners in the final third.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: The youngster was often the deepest of the three midfielders but used his energy well to make timely defensive contributions. Was also forceful when he got the ball. Picked up a good assist for the first goal and won the penalty for the third.

The midfielders were more like link players. They weren’t looking to sustain possession as much but were constantly trying to get the ball forward. Their direct approach was effective when Milan were caught off-guard and when they had the physical stamina to press. But over time the visitors took up a better shape and the Arsenal midfield tired. This was one area where I thought the Gunners could have done better and maybe having a guy like Arteta for this game could have made a big difference.

Walcott: Theo made a good run for the second goal, the intensity of which forced an error from the usually reliable Thiago Silva. He also put in some good balls from the Right but they didn’t find a teammate. Would have preferred to see him on the shoulder of the last defender more often but Arsenal needed bodies behind when they lost possession as the midfield wasn’t that strong defensively.

RvP: Took his penalty well. Hit the target with all four of his efforts. Could have done better with that chip but I thought he was expecting Abbiati to dive to his left. The Keeper did well to keep his eye on the ball till the last moment. These things happen. Once again ran all over the pitch and covered the most ground.

Gervinho: Made a couple of handy tackles deep in the Arsenal half on the Left and had one good attempt at goal but wasn’t as involved as one would have liked.

The front three were isolated and rarely worked any combinations. There was a lot of running and a couple of goals resulted from such runs but overall it wasn’t a cohesive effort.

Subs: Chamakh and Park didn’t really get any service. Arsenal really missed a midfielder but I would have preferred introducing Jenkinson and pushing Vermaelen, Koscielny, or even Sagna into the midfield. That way the Gunners would have had a greater chance of holding on to the ball late in the game.

Wenger: Full marks for motivation. Picked as strong a team as he could. Maybe there is an argument against losing control late in the game but his choices were really limited.

36 Responses to Arsenal 3 – 0 Milan: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. b johnson says:


    • cupsui says:

      you listen to the press too much…make an opinion of your own

    • santori says:

      he did get the ball across for Thiago to assist Rosicky.;)

      I think he could have been more effective had he been instructed (early) by the bench to run at (the rubbish) Mesbah and bring the ball into the box (much lke what Chambo did)

  2. lance (south africa) says:

    schezny made 2 errors. first was the pass which got gibbs booked.
    walcot,song,gervinho were awful and they were the difference between and good team and a weak team. we are a weak team.
    gibbs gets highly confused in the opponents half of the pitch and tracks back too slow. this exit is a blessing in disguise. we would have been knocked out in the next round. lets hope spuds and chelsea continue their poor form so we can grab that champions league spot. if that happens we need to have a massive clearout of deadwood. dont be fooled by last nights performance milan did not come to play.

  3. Dhruv says:

    Boys put on a great show, at least in first half. Pace is what put the Milanese team in trouble. Pressing high on the pitch is difficult when the team is tired, as they showed in second half. But overall beating Milan 3-0 is good for the team morale.

  4. Yang says:

    Honorable defeat, I don’t like this but no choice I guess.

  5. Jay says:

    Lance…Sorry to say but u are an axxhole… If Milan did not come to play, did they come to bang balls at the emirates…Wat a fxxker u are…Support your team man..if not fxxk off and go and support the spuds instead…we dont need u type of fxxked up supporters.

    • santori says:

      The look on the mugs of the Milan supporters were priceless!

      They were shell shocked.

      Hopefully this sends a clear message to the team that they can beat anyone on the day (almost anyway).

      Like the energy around the club at the moment. Will give us a good push to finish off the season strongly.

  6. JJ Pittman says:

    This was a great watch, though have to admit I would have started the B team. Thankfully, it seems only Theo and the Ox were hurt, and unlikely both would start against Newkies anyway. AOC as midfielder was tremendous and Koscielny and Vermaelen are as good as any two CBs anywhere.
    11 games left in EPL. Third place seems very achievable.
    Victoria Concordia Crescit!

    • santori says:

      Injuries is the key issue.

      Excellent game and well done with restoring our sense of pride.

      BUT we must be wary of what it entails with regard our push in the PL.

      Thankfully, the game against the barcodes is not till MOnday and hopefully, those two went down to cramping rather than any more sinister hamstring issues.

      We will need both of them.

  7. cupsui says:

    Amazing watching and the sort of performance that only instills belief, pride and morale!! well done lads. So disappointing not to have won as the Gervinho/RvP chance was so good. But amazing spirit. Given the amount of games recently and injuries it was pretty much the team that had to go out there. I said before i would have liked to see players rested but wenger proved they was the wrong decision…
    BUT we gotta hope there are no new injuries cause every player was exhausted and rightly so with the effort and amount of running done, and a lot of limping from theo, ox, rosicky, gibbs and maybe even song although he could have just been pooped

    • santori says:

      I was expecting a 4-0 (RVP hat trick + Ibra og)

      I guess this was close. Ibra couldn’t hit the target let alone stay onside, must have been too much to expect him to score on his end even.:D

      • santori says:

        As it was, a silver lining I spuupose. Had we gone into extra time, I’m not sure we had anything left to score a winner and we would have been really decimated for Newcastle.

  8. Beekeeper says:

    Wonderful display by the team. If they play more direct the rest of the season, good things will happen. Arsenal often resorts to tippy tap tactics, trying to walk the ball into the net. This match was refreshing to watch. More desperation and sense of urgency in their attack will make Arsenal unstoppable for the remainder of the season.

  9. Beekeeper says:

    I forgot one more thing:
    GREAT write up Desigunner. Thanks!

    • santori says:

      Desi, think you may be right about pushing one of the defenders forward and adding Jenks when we took off Chambo and Walcott.

      We really missed a bit of zip in midfield and there were huge gaps.

      In fact we should have taken one of them off way earlier.

      The alternative I suppose was the young (and relatively green) Ozyakup.

      Simply illustrates though our lack of depth with Chamakh and Park.

  10. RedCore says:

    Good writeup Desi. Cant remember the last time I saw the gunners press as intently as they did in the first half. If we had had a couple more midfielders fit for this clash Milan would not have progressed to the next round. Anyway full marks to the team for a great performance.
    it is great to think that even without JW we have still managed to beat the Italian and German champions.

  11. VanTheManPersie says:

    A very hardworking display by the time. Reminded us of the 3-1 win against chelsea last season where we created goals because of our pressing rather than intricate passing. I thought rosicky was outstanding with only a few let downs like that over hit throughball to RVP which resulted in a foul on Abiatti. Overall I take this as blessign in diguise. To be honest at 70 min i was hoping for a 3-0 win with a clean sheet rather than 4-0 and extra time as i could clearly see the team running out of steam and we are already hit with injuries. Wenger said that Arteta should be back for the new castle game so thats good news. We just need to scrap through that one and hopefully we should be good. We can prolly need to show this kind of urgency and kill of games at the start against weaker teams in the EPL ,althought to be honest Milan’s defending at times was worse than championship teams. Van bommel for the first goal, mesbah for most of the game. All in all agreat win, too bad it was not to be but a blessing in disguise if we secure fourth spot.

  12. Siva says:

    I was proud of the performance the team put in yesterday, I thought the feeling would change to disappointment today. But it hasn’t, I’m still pretty happy with the performance, as no one except AW & possibly even dared to belive that we would scare the sh!t out of AC. My only regret is the timing of the 3rd goal, as it happened before the break, AC had a chance to regroup & adopt in the 2nd half, start beliving that they only needed 1 goal to leave us repeating the first half performance all over again – repeat the miracle!
    Anyways there is plenty of hope that we have turned the corner and have a strong finish to the season – in 3rd place!

    • santori says:

      Better (if dictated by necessity) tactical set up by the boss. Somewhat surprise that he did go with Chambo in midfield but he was true to his word and the youngster made a massive impact with his energy an drive.

      But I’d like to say that it would be wrong to see our success in the contribution of just one player rather that we had two wings (plus Chamberlain running fom deep at them) working for us this time round.

      The first leg, we were I suppose hampered by the lack of fullbacks and Wenger effectively shut one of our wings down in the interest of defensive concern.

      That had a converse impact on the effectiveness of the other wing (Walcott) as the focus of MIlan’s attentions were simply switched to shutting Theo off.

      Gervinho therefore was more effective in this game than you rate him. The threat from both sides stretched the already culpable Milan fullbacks further and opened all sorts of space for us through the middle.

      Let’s not forget as well that Gervinho was the one who effectively passed to RVP for him to have a crack at goal and later it was his shot against Abiatti that presented RVP with the golden opportunity for the 4th)

      We should have used both wings in the first game which was our tactical error.

      And until we can get ourselves more effcient with our game, we will need this sort of speed, drive and energy not just from the wings (both ends) but also from the midfield.

      With that in consideration, the squad is slightly thin (Diaby, Jack granted) and we could do with one more technical wizard on the wings (who can also play across the midfield and in the hole) to compliment our more direct wingers currently.

      I’ll leave you to guess who this once in a generation short player from south of the low countries is.:D

  13. wenger says:

    where’s santory mate ???

    • santori says:

      Sorry…I’ve shouted myself hoarse…although thankfully I still have my fingers.:D

      tried to catch the match at my local Greek but then thought the better of it since I knew I would be going apoplectic through the match.

      I think my Tely is now officallly deaf.

      I’ve never been so nervous, angst and elated all at the same time! And dissapointment but tinged with pride.

      It’s like the feeling you get when you think of the great 82 Brasilian World Cup team that flattered to deceive but played some of the most mesmerising footy.

      Those that can only think of cups cannot understand this more profound and nuanced side of footy.

  14. Borntobeagunner(btbag) says:

    Well done Desi, if you check back on my comment for the tactical analysis before the match, i made mentioned of, if we are going out, we will go out fighting so, i expected that fight. I also talked of supporting all through if the fight is there and we are losing 4:0 at home, but will wait for the match to come off if we are losing 1:0 at home without a fight. We fought and won but went out. Couldn’t have asked for more, qualifying for quarter final would have been un-asked favour/bonus for my birthday gift. Equally happy as of that of tottenham trashing. Bring on the Newcastle, we own them one. As of Lance (South Africa), i sense you using arsenal as a scapegoat for your personal life frustration, come off it and you will be a real person again. Desi, once more well done.( A Nigerian Arsenal fan).

  15. Ade David, a Nigerian Gooner says:

    Beautiful analysis Desi. Well, well, well, what a beatiful performance by our team. We showed the whole world that we can beat any team. Anyone that is saying Milan did not come to play should have his head examined. The only thing that I can add is that they were not expecting such performance from our team. By the time they woke up from ‘all is over attitude’ we have hit them with 3 goals. I have said it some where, the laying of new turf just 2 days to our game in Milan was a deliberate attempt to frustrate us from playing our system, wing play. If the the stadium was good, there is no way Arsenal couldnt have scored one or two goals in Milan. Italian teams are dirty. We are out but proud of our performance. Up Arsenaaal.

  16. santori says:

    Fantastic display by the lad. Excellent job by Wenger to have rallied them into believeing that it was possible and how close we were but for the fact I felt we wanted it a bit too much when we were going for the 4th.

    This is the fourth time Milan have crumbled and thrown away a lead (although they got away with it this time), after the finals in Istanbul, United and I believe Deportivo.

    After their pronouncements on expeensive players and spending money, seems they don’t look quite as extraodinary against our panic buys when played on a proper pitch.;)

    OTOH, injuries are the main concern (Chambo and Walcott) as we’ll need to be fully focused on Newcastle coming up.

    Hope that the team will have sufficient time to recover as they look throughly spent (several players are way over the red zone)

    And unfortunatly for us, we were depleted on the bench.

    The ineffectual introduction of Chamakh and Park shows up exactly the fact that we are but 1-2 quality players away from being extremely competitive.

    Just imagine if we had had a Hazard and Pdolski to throw on instead of the Morrocan and the Korean (no offense to them they are perfectly hardworking players but lacking the extra edge). Milan would not be able to live with us, nor I suspect many teams.

  17. santori says:

    Shout to Rosicky.

    He is in his renaissance (the one he missed some years back due to injury):D

    He did what was needed, turned and ran at the opposing defenders and moved the ball quickly to the wings.

    His passion for the club is palpable and we should now seriously consider holding him at least for another 2 seasons to add the maturity and depth of character he so readily displays.

  18. santori says:

    Shout to Koscielny too. MOnster of a game.

    I keep seeing a lot of chatter on the boards holding Diaby to the own goal he scored in the game against UNited and branding him useless.

    Well, here is Koscielny who has scored his fair share of own goals (@Liverpool most recently) but I wouldn’t trade him at the moment for any other defender out there.

    Diaby has been effective for us in controlling midfield. The pity is his entire career seems now in jeopardy because he just can’t seem to shake off the issue with his legs. shame.

    We play a very open game which makes it that much harder for our defenders to close the space down when we are turned over.

    I thought the defense were brilliant yesterday with the massive pressure on their shoulder not to concede.

    Song was absolutely tireless although he was a bit wanton with some of his distribution toward the end but I think he was well and truly spent.

    Szsc must have given everyone a heart attack when he passed it to Ibra. I know I had one! BUt well done form the young Pole. Excellent keeping otherwise and great passion for the club..

  19. WOLF says:

    Wow some people really need to relax. We were completely out of the tie and Wenger was being extremely generous saying we had a 5% chance. Everyone did their part, the coaches, players, and especially the crowd, they really got behind the team and their belief that we could do it really made it a special night. So for anyone who watched yesterdays match and all they have to say are negative things, fuck off.

  20. nickinportugal says:

    Well I said play the B team and Arsene picks his best team,.first half magnificent display, beaten by fatigue and injuries, last three games have been great watches, good analysis as always from Desi. Newcastle team at this point difficult to see, hope Theo and the OX are ok, Arteta back and at the Emirates Rosisky is the king recently, we need to win that game and I am sure we can but they are a lot stronger now than they were in August, dangerous upfront…

  21. Chikezie Chinke says:

    What a performance! I know Arsenal did not make it into the next faze of the champions league, even though nobody gave them a real chance to go through. To be truthful i never expected a 3 nil victory, i was actually looking at a 2 – 1 score line. Never the less they lost out of the champions league, but they won the match, keeping up a consistent winning mentality, which is what is required to finish in a more comfortable position in the league. Keep it up boys and keep the boat rolling.

  22. Jeff says:

    I just can’t believe what Rosicky has been doing.. Oh my God,it’s very entertaining when he runs through 2 or 3 defenders.. his passing n creativity is just as fantastic.. Rvp said that only a few can match his quick thinking in the world & i must agree with that.. It’s a shame he doesn’t get his chance during the half of the season.. Wenger must have regretted that.. haha..

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