The title says it all really? After the 4-0 drubbing it is key Wenger motivates the squad ahead of a massive game, potentially a season defining one. If we mess this up I believe it will take something special to make sure it does not happen in the league.
After we lost 5-1 to Spurs we went and won 4 consecutive games, scoring 11 goals in the process, conceding only one. How I would love to see something similar. Even though the team that started Saturday’s game is unlikely to start Wednesday’s game, losing to a rival so heavily hurts the squad as a whole and they need to prove they really have the “mental strength” and “hunger” Arsene Wenger has mentioned on so many occasions this season.
The last time we played an Italian team in this competition we faced Juventus at home and produced one of our best performances of the season to ruin Patrick Vieira’s return to Highbury. Another 2-0 win would do very nicely. I do not see Milan being as open at the back as Juventus were that night. What they will have is a far older side than the one from Turin and with our youthful energy we have the opportunity to carve them open.
We must play to our strengths: quick passing, clever movement and midfield dominance. The defence of Milan can be beaten as most of them are getting on. The movement of our strikers and midfield runners will be the key to this.
Milan are extremely strong in the midfield area and this will be the key battle. Like Flamini does for us they will have Gattuso to try and stifle and attacks with his constant running, harrying and strong tackling. The battles between Gattuso and Fabregas, and Kaka and Flamini could be the decisive factor. Milan will probably line up as so:
Pirlo will be more advanced than Gattuso and Ambrosini and will look to link the defensive six to the attacking 3. Kaka will be the main threat as always and Flamini will have to get close to him as much as possible. The wily old head that is Clarence Seedorf will still be one we have to watch. He must be closed down as his shot is as lethal as anyone’s in Europe.
I remember the Champions League final of last year and their second goal summed them up perfectly. With Mascherano off the pitch, Kaka was finally given space and with one fantastic defence splitting pass he released Inzaghi. The chance was not an easy one but he showed a cool head and made it look easy. They can burst into action at any time and will invariably take their chances. We must stay alert at all times or we could be punished.
That is enough of the Milan team but what about the Arsenal side. Almunia is likely to still be out but Lehmann was the only one who performed with any crediility on Saturday and he will want to show the manager once again he can do the business on the big stage. We cannot afford one slip up from Jens however and I hope he improves his goal kicks!
The partnership of Toure and Gallas failed horribly on Saturday and with Senderos looking good right now I hope we see Senderos back in the side. Gallas and Senderos have played well together recently and it seems wrong to fix something that is not broken. Clichy was carrying the injury that has the largest chance of keeping him out and Sagna is away grieving the loss of his brother.
All of us at insidearsenal wish Baka and his family our best wishes.
We must not push Sagna to return however much we need him right now. He may decide the best thing to do is get straight back on the pitch and try and win this game for his club, he may feel his brother would have wished as much. He also might feel it is too early and that is fully understandable. Whatever he decides he must have the full support of the squad and the fans.
Should both full backs be unavailable to return, Hoyte and Traore could be drafted in again. However, after such a horrid performance from the two of them against Man Utd I would prefer to see somethng different. They are likely to be low on confidence and we need to be as solid as possible for this game. Wenger could go with Hoyte alongside Toure, Senderos and Gallas; the latter at left back. I would like to see the same set up if only Sagna returns. If Clichy is fit to return but Sagna chooses to take more time with his family then I would like to see Toure moved out to right full back as he did against PSV last season.
To stifle Milan’s midfield Wenger could go with 4-5-1 but it would take away a significant part of our attack. Adebayor and Eduardo have developed a brilliant partnership and been scoring regularly when they play together in a front two. Whenever Eduardo is moved to the left he looks lost and has a reluctance to track back. He is wasted out wide so I hope to see him up front on Wednesday.
Wenger could put Eduardo on the bench and go with Gilberto in the midfield with Flamini and Fabregas. As the home side I feel we have to go for it and try and take a lead to the San Siro. Playing two midfielders who are defensive minded is a risky stategy, especially with the form Fabregas is in right now. He rarely ventures into the opposition box like he did at the start of the season and has not had the same spark lately.
Hleb and Eboue will be in the side also but I hope we don’t see a similar set up to the one from Saturday. When we had Hleb and Eduardo in the same team, I could not understand playing the striker in midfield and the midfielder up front. Wenger hoped Hleb could link the midfield to the attack but he did nothing of the sort. Hleb should play on the left where he can get at the full back with his clever dribbling and good passing. Eboue needs to do the same and show us a performance that warrants his place in the side.
EDITED 19th February
It turns out that Sagna and Clichy will be back which is massive news. It also gives Wenger a decision to make over who partners Gallas. Wenger said that Flamini and Gilberto will play but did not specify if it was from the start. In my view Flamini will definitely start the game but I can see Gilberto partnering him in centre midfield with Cesc out on the right ala Blackburn at home.
We need a massive improvement from Saturday and I feel that the addition of certain players that missed out on Saturday could be the key. Milan will fear the pace our team possesses and we must use this. We blew Juventus off the park two years ago with similar tactics and if we do the same we could be in luck.
It is the first big European night at the Emirates and we must make the atmosphere electric. Everyone, bring your scarves!