Thursday, February 21, 2008
Two factors worked against Arsenal’s youngsters facing experienced Milan
By 1970’s Gooner
I was very impressed with Milan’s defensive organisation and technique. They were always positioned correctly to defend the long balls from Arsenal’s back line and also the crosses to Adebayor.
They were also well drilled into defending their area when Arsenal went into that mode of passing the ball around probing for an opening, trying their one twos and generally trying to pass the other to team to death.
Milan’s average age was 29 and Arsenal’s was about 24. So I was expecting that Arsenal’s youth will in the end force Milan’s ageing team into submission. But this became evident only in the latter parts of each half were Arsenal gained almost total superiority.
But two factors worked against the young pretenders.
The first was the nervousness that seemed to engulf Arsenal’s players. They seemed a little bit overawed by their opponents, who are after all the Champions of Europe.
As such a lot of the first half performance was characterized by misplaced passes and snatching at shots. Arsenal could not find rhythm which is so important for teams who play a passing, patient game.
The second was the inadequate performance by Eduardo.
It has been said before of course.
You can’t carry passengers in the game of football.
And Eduardo’s input and effectiveness during the game was way below what we have come to expect of him lately.
The result was that tactically the team was slightly unbalanced.
There was hardly any decent play and penetration from the left side which Eduardo was detailed to occupy, especially as Hleb was venturing infield.
And of course Adebayor did not get as much support as his play deserved.
These two factors were corrected in the second half.
Adebayor somehow looked a lot more threatening when Bendtner replaced Eduardo. The nervousness also went along with the hand break which released the free flow football which the young guns know how to play well.
Fabregas along with Flamini and Hleb regained control of midfield and Eboue along with Sagna started to provide meaningful penetration from the right.
Most of Arsenal’s chances were created from that right side and Walcott who came on for Eboue in the closing minutes of the game provided the perfect cross for Adebayor to hit the bar.
Alas it nearly proved enough but it wasn’t to be.
The return leg is now very delicately poised. Obviously Milan have a slight advantage as they are playing home. But they will have to be a little bit more adventurous and this is where Arsenal have to be patient and wait for their chance.
If the forward line especially Eduardo and Adebayor are up for it then I can see Arsenal snatching a goal and a triumphant qualification.
But the focus now is the Premier League and the Birmingham game.
Wenger will come back at Old Trafford and win the league. Four reasons why