To be honest, I had low expectations for this first leg of the Europa League Round of 16. Milan has been far from perfect in Serie A this season, but they were on a 13-game unbeaten run, which is nothing to scoff at. After 4 defeats in a row for Arsenal, it was fairly clear who had more confidence going into this game. I was pleasantly surprised to watch Arsenal control the game from start to finish and head into the second leg with a clean sheet and 2 away goals. Our best away performance of the season came at the perfect time thanks to Mkhitaryan and Ozil leading the charge. Let’s see how the players did…
David Ospina – 7
He only had to make one true save but he also made two great calls to run off his line and disrupt a run on goal. His distribution was also better than usual.
Calum Chambers – 6
He had one bad error early in the first half that almost resulted in a goal. Thankfully, besides that, he performed pretty well, even taking a shot that just curled wide. A definite confidence booster for someone who struggled in the last match sitting in for Bellerin.
Shkodran Mustafi – 6.5
While we invited a ton of pressure in the second half, we made up for it with our positioning and defensive tenacity. Mustafi was back to his usual self-making interceptions, blocks, and clearances all over the place.
Laurent Koscielny – 7
He had the most interceptions and clearances in the game. He helped lead the way to our first clean sheet in almost a month and our best defensive performance since beating Spurs 2-0 in November.
Sead Kolasinac – 6
Another improved performance from a second-string wing-back. While his defensive level still hasn’t reached high enough to fortify a starting role, his attacking movement is getting sharper. He was decent enough to allow Mkhitaryan more freedom running forward.
Aaron Ramsey – 7.5
His play leading up to and executing the goal was world-class. He made a great back-heel pass, spotted the space, motioned to Ozil while staying onside, and then made Donnarumma look like a fool with a great fake to get around him and notch it into an empty net.
Granit Xhaka – 7.5
Maybe it is possible to fit Xhaka, Ramsey, and Wilshere into one side. Xhaka once again looked great in a midfield three (Wilshere might’ve been in the 10 position but he played deeper than Ozil would’ve). He was solid when he had to help defend and had 95% passing success! That’s a feat for any player, not to mention the one who made the most passes on the team. And, contrary to people on Twitter, most of those passes went forward in either the midfield or final third.
Mesut Ozil – 8
The team was hitting on all cylinders as Ozil had his best performance in some time. Clean and decisive passing resulted in 2 assists for the German.
Jack Wilshere – 6
One of our weaker performers on the night. He still tries to do too much (a la Alexis) with the ball when he doesn’t need to. He was able to pull off some good dribbles, but more often than you would hope, he would get surrounded, spurning what could’ve been a good attack if he simply dumped the ball off to Ozil, Xhaka, or Ramsey.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 9
Finally answered his critics playing at a level similar to his Everton performance. All of his shots came from a similar position, looking to cut back on that left side. He had one off the post, one saved, and one deflected in for the goal. He looked dangerous on the wing all night.
Danny Welbeck – 6
Besides an uncharacteristically, beautiful through-ball for Mkhi that resulted in a shot off the woodwork, he wasn’t able to get any truly dangerous looks on goal. Still an improvement though.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles – 5.5
He had two halves to his game after coming on in the 62nd minute. He was solid in defence, keeping the attack from his wing at a minimum. But then he lost possession 3 times in just 28 minutes all in our half (even one just outside the 6-yard box). With Kolasinac going off injured, he’ll need to be cleaner with the ball if he ends up starting this weekend.