It goes without doubt that this season has been one of the worst for Arsene Wenger in his Arsenal career.
Currently in 6th place in the Premier League – ten points behind the Champions League places – and losing to Manchester City twice in the space of four days (both 3-0), one was which included Manchester City scoring three first half goals in under half an hour at the Emirates. For Arsenal to get back into the Champions League spot, they will first have to see off a well-coached AC Milan side in the Europa League last sixteen, a side who have yet to lose a match this calendar year.
Arsenal’s recent poor run of form has been well documented – exiting the FA Cup at the hands of Nottingham Forrest, and suffering away losses to both Bournemouth and Swansea before being humbled back to back by Pep Guardiola’s ManCity. This current form has put them well behind where they want to be, and it seems that they have no other choice but to put all of their hopes in the Europa League.
There have also been doubts whether they will actually get past the last 16 of the Europa League as they are coming up against an AC Milan side who are under the watchful eye of club legend Genaro Gattuso, and many believe that Milan are the favourites going into this tie, including former Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman. Though he believes that the games against Milan will be difficult, if Arsenal do somehow find a way past the Italian giants, then they have a great chance of winning the Europa League:
“If we can get through that, then we’ve got a great chance. But that will be a difficult game.”
Unlike Arsenal, there is a belief among the Milan players that comes from the top, and this may just be the difference. There is also no shortage of confidence in Italy as Milan prepare to face Arsenal next week, with the club director Massimiliano Mirabelli openly feeling sorry for the Gunners
“I’m sorry for Arsenal, who I’m sure would have liked to have continued in Europe…It would’ve been a nice final”
One can remember the last time Arsenal and AC Milan faced each other, in the 2012 Champions League round of 16, which saw Milan win 4-0 in the first leg before losing 3-0 in North London. One former player who believes it will not be a repeat of this fixture is Christian Abbiati, who the Milan goalkeeper the last time the sides met six years ago
“This is definitely not the same Arsenal as back then and we meet them in what is a positive moment for us, even if we’ve got lots of games coming up with the league and the Coppa Italia. Playing games like this motivates you by itself.”
All of the pressure will be with Arsene Wenger’s side, as this may be their last chance of getting a Champions League spot for next season.
Luke Holmes. Pundit Arena