Emirates Cup Preview - Arsenal vs AC Milan

When Arsenal fans think back to past meetings between these two sides, most will remember the famous night in the San Siro on the 4th March 2008.  Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor were on the score sheet that night as Arsenal became the first English side to beat AC Milan in the San Siro.  Our boys were clapped off by the home fans as it appeared the young guns had finally put an end to the old guard of Milan.
2 years later AC Milan have been invited to play in the Emirates Cup.  Last year, the quality of opposition had lowered in my eyes but this year the big guns have been drawn in.  I am excited at Saturday’s showdown as I believe both teams will be out to play football.  It is a shame that we will not get to play Lyon as I think it would have been a far greater test than Celtic will be.  However, Milan will be the first opponent, so here I will look at the current crop of players donning the famous black and red shirt and how Milan have done over recent seasons…
Before a spirited push for the Scudetto last season, AC had been left in the shadow of their main rivals Inter who actually claimed their 5th successive Scudetto this season.  After a few unchallenged defences of their title, Inter were made to work hard by both AC and Roma.  In the end AC Milan finished 12 points behind Inter in a run-in reminiscent to that of the Premier League.  A three horse race quickly lost one fighter and Milan suffered in the same way Arsenal did.  Roma were left as the main challengers to Inter and it went down to the last day, just as it did between Chelsea and Manchester United.  With a bit of work Milan will definitely be back to challenge Inter’s dominance; hopefully Arsenal can do the same!
Milan’s team, as one would expect, does consist of some world stars, although many of them reached their peak a few years back.
In Alessandro Nesta they have a former contender for best defender in the world.  Nesta has been the rock at the back for Italy and Milan for many years and can still be relied upon when most needed.  He has not lost the ability to read the game well and as our very own Tony Adams used to do, he uses his brain to combat his lack of pace.  Next to him Thiago Silva is a quick, ball playing centre back and most importantly a good foil for Nesta.  He likes to bring the ball out from the back like his international team mate Lucio and definitely has the hallmarks of a Brazilian defender.
In midfield, Andrea Pirlo is still regarded as one of the best passers in world football.  His vision is unbelievable at times and his ability to pick a difficult pass has enabled him to be the heartbeat of the Milan side for a very long time.  He still has his best mate Gattuso next to him who still rages around in the fashion which made us all admire his passion, commitment and influence on the game.  Just like Nesta, these two midfielders have been regulars in the Italian side and were crucial to Italy winning the World Cup in 2006.
Two seasons ago Milan added Ronaldinho to their books.  This was a brave move considering Ronnie’s disciplinary problems at Barcelona.  It seems though that Ronaldinho has once again found a place where he feels loved and can express himself.  Last season, he began to find his best form once again and was given the freedom on the pitch to provide that extra spark for Milan.  He certainly was a crucial factor in Milan’s push for the title.
Milan’s wealth of options up front is also terrifying: Alexandre Pato, Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Marco Borriello.  The only problem has been the worrying form of Pato and the inability of Huntelaar to hit the ground running consistently.  However, when these players finally get it right, Milan’s front line will be trouble for anyone.  Borriello did a brilliant job leading the line last season but will require more help from the other two if Milan want to challenge for Serie A and European honours.
Expect Milan to try and play Football, that is the way the club has always looked to do things.  It will be an intriguing contest between Arsenal and the Rossoneri but overall, football will be the winner in this pre-season tournament.

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