Tonight, Arsenal go to war in what has become the most important (two-legged) game of their season. The Europa League round of 16 against A.C. Milan.
We’ve seen these two sides do battle before in Europe over the past decade, however, as both clubs have slipped down the pecking order in their respective leagues this meeting won’t be accompanied by the classic Champions League anthem.
Despite both clubs being seen as ‘fallen giants’, the Europa League offers them a route back to the big time, something that should drive the players to create a great spectacle.
Over the last ten years, Arsenal and A.C. Milan have met in two Champions League campaigns with both conjuring memorable and electric displays.
One of these meetings saw Arsenal make history as in the 2007/08 season as thanks to a Cesc Fabregas screamer and amazing Theo Walcott burst to assist Emmanuel Adebayor, we became the first English side to beat both Inter and A.C. Milan at the San Siro.
The next time the sides met in the 2011/12 Champions League however, wasn’t so great for Arsenal. After getting thrashed 4-0 at the San Siro, the gunners did the typical Arsenal thing by giving fans hope by trying to mount a comeback. Getting up to 3-0 at The Emirates though, they weren’t able to level things up and it was A.C. who would advance.
With the results of those meetings seeing the sides share the glory, going into this game there should be a desire to get back on top of the fixture as well as get to the next round.
Furthermore, coming into this game off the back of such a bad run of results (four consecutive losses), such a huge occasion could help spur the players on to turn things around.
However, looking at the game realistically this could be a very tough ask for a struggling Arsenal side.
As well as losing four on the bounce, they will be without a few key players. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied and Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Alexandre Lacazette have all been hit with injury problems.
Going to the San Siro without these players in particular could open the door for someone else but all in all it’s not an encouraging sign for Arsenal fans.
Also, with the sleeping giants opting to bring in club legend Gennaro Gattuso as manager in late November following a slow start in Serie A, the fiery character has improved the side massively. After picking up three losses in his first six games, Gattuso has settled in well and hasn’t lost since, winning eight of his 12 games since.
Coming up against a Milan side in this form could be scary but if anything, knowing Arsenal anything is on the cards for tonight which may work in the London club’s favour.