Arsenal ended their losing run of four matches with an excellent performance away to AC Milan in the Europa League. This competition has the potential to save the Gunners season and the commitment from every player suggested that they want to go all the way.
They were coming up against a team full of confidence under Gennaro Gattuso. Milan hadn’t lost a match since the end of December. The Serie A club hadn’t conceded a goal in six and had won five of those inside ninety minutes.
These sides came into this fixture in remarkably different form, but football is played on grass and not on paper.
Despite Milan having more attempts, it was Arsenal who created the better chances. They had a couple of half-chances early on before the opening goal.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has had a hot and cold start to life in a Gunners’ shirt, but he was one of the best players on the pitch in Italy. His goal was emphatically taken as he drove the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
It is important to capitalise when you are on top, especially away from home in European competitions and Arsenal did just that. As the first-half progressed, they continued to create the better opportunities. Both Danny Welbeck and Mkhitaryan had good chances to double the visitors’ lead, but they were squandered.
In stoppage-time of half-time, Arsenal scored a second to give them a commanding lead in the tie. It was a great move from the team and Mesut Ozil found Aaron Ramsey who coolly rounded Donnarumma before putting the ball into the net.
The first-half performance from Arsenal was one of the best that supporters have seen this season. They were better all over the pitch and showed the work rate that they had lacked in previous weeks. Milan pushed in the second half, but they couldn’t penetrate the Gunners’ defence.
Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were both excellent. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that both are returning to their best after some uncharacteristic errors in previous matches. The centre-back pairing made eight ball recoveries and were always in the right position on Thursday.
Patrick Cutrone is a teenager with a big future, but the young striker had no luck out of the Arsenal defence and that will encourage the manager.
Another player to emerge with credit is Danny Welbeck. The ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the injury of Alexandre Lacazette means that the Englishman started the game up front for Arsenal. It was a huge opportunity for him after being pushed down the pecking order at the club and he took it with both hands.
The Englishman worked tirelessly and caused problems with his movement.
Although his final product wasn’t great, he was a constant threat and led the defensive effort from the front. Welbeck will never be a leading Premier League striker, but he is effective in matches such as this one. He deserves more opportunities during the run-in.
It would be too soon to get carried away for Arsenal fans. There are still questions regarding Arsene Wenger and the work rate of the players, but this was an excellent performance that finally provides the club with positive momentum. They have had a miserable few weeks and the supporters can get excited about their team once again.
When the draw was made, a lot of supporters checked their expectations when it came to the Europa League. Milan were the overwhelming favourites, but Arsenal have taken a dominant position in the tie and should be able to finish the job in London.
If they can do that, they will move into the quarter-final stage. Although it will be difficult to win it, they will have as good a chance as any.
There have been many false dawns for Arsenal in recent years and this could be another one. That said, it takes enormous character to go away to a huge stadium like the San Siro after a poor run of form and win comfortably.
Considering the criticism that they have had for their lack of desire, few would have thought the Gunners to be capable of a result like this.
It is now up to Wenger to prove that he can get this level of effort and performance out of his players on a regular basis. The Frenchman remains in a difficult position with no margin for error. If he is going to keep his job, he needs to finish the season strongly and win the Europa League.
It won’t be an easy challenge, but this performance and result will give him hope that he can upset the odds to claim his first European trophy.
Would making a move for Gigio Donnarumma be a risk worth taking for Liverpool?
Liverpool are reportedly keen on the 19-year-old goalkeeping sensation.
There is no hiding the fact that Liverpool are on the hunt for a new goalkeeper this summer, after their current number one Loris Karius’s woeful Champions League final performance left the club questioning his ability to mix it with the best, and the Reds have been linked with a host of Europe’s elite goalkeeping talents since the transfer window opened.
According to Calciomercato, AC Milan’s teenage goalkeeping sensation Gigio Donnarumma has now been highlighted as a target by the Liverpool hierarchy and he could be allowed to join the Reds for a hefty £60million.
Liverpool’s pursuit of the 19-year-old has only been heightened this week after AC Milan were sanctioned by UEFA for breaching financial fair play regulations and banned from all European competitions next season.
This has seemingly given Jurgen Klopp the green light to go after the goalkeeper with the Italian giants looking to balance their books by offloading some of their top talents.
But would placing faith in the talented teenager be a risk worth taking for Klopp’s side?
Well, the Italian international already has a vast amount of experience for his age and has taken over the mantle from goalkeeping great Gianluigi Buffon to be his countries number one.
The £60million price tag the Rossoneri have placed on Donnarumma’s head is somewhat of a steal in today’s market, with the youngster still in the early stages of his blossoming career.
Donnarumma could prove to be a special bit of business from Liverpool, and there is no doubt that the Reds need to drastically improve their goalkeeping options if they’re to have any chance of enjoying Premier League glory next season.
For Liverpool, it is a no-brainer; a fresh, talented and proven goalkeeping talent who could be moulded into something even greater by Klopp is a mouthwatering prospect.
If the Reds do pull off a deal for the 19-year-old, it could prove to be one of the savviest bits of business from any club in Europe this summer, and it is certainly a risk worth taking.
Liverpool should rival Manchester United if Leonardo Bonnuci becomes available
The defender would be a serious coup for any Premier League side this summer.
Manchester United are reportedly interested in signing AC Milan captain Leonardo Bonucci, according to Yahoo Sports but, if he is available, Liverpool should rival their bitter adversaries for his signature.
Jurgen Klopp is still searching for a reliable defender to partner record signing Virgil van Dijk in the centre of defence, with Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip failing to lay down a marker when gifted opportunities last term.
And Bonucci would instantly inject the level of quality and experience the German coach is looking for. At 31, the Italian international is now at the peak of his abilities and is widely recognised as one of the finest defenders in world football and, alongside the Dutchman, the Reds would arguably boast the strongest defensive pairing in the Premier League.
Milan ideally would not want the ex-Juventus man to leave after just one season, but the report claims the club are facing an uncertain summer, as they might be expelled from European club competitions for breaching UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations.
Bonucci has not had his finest season since arriving at the San Siro, as his club finished sixth in Serie A. But his pedigree cannot be questioned.
His rare blend of technical quality in possession and defensive understanding would make him a sensational coup for Liverpool. And getting one over United would be the icing on the cake.
Patience required at AC Milan after a slow start to the season
AC Milan’s new board will have to exercise some patience early in their reign. The Italian outfit have four wins and four losses so far in the Serie A, leaving them in tenth position with minus one goal differential. It is certainly not the start that was hoped for but it was not out of the realm of possibility.
The transfer activity during the summer, sparked by a change in ownership, led to plenty of excitement and intrigue around the Rossoneri. AC brought in 10 new first-team players during the summer and a majority of those regularly start.
The lack of cohesion has been clear in the biggest games of the season so far, all of which have been losses. Sampdoria, Lazio, Roma and Inter have beaten Milan. The one positive from that is that only one of those games, against Roma, was at home.
We mentioned during the summer that Vincenzo Montella would be the most under-pressure manager in Europe. The pressure on the hot seat has definitely been turned up to 100 after the late defeat in the Milan Derby.
Montella’s side came from behind twice to equalise, yet another mistake cost them what would have been a well-earned point. Part of the problem is that the Italian head coach is yet to settle on his best team and formation.
Injuries and lack of form have played a part in that but the manager has not helped his players. The key player, where form and leadership is concerned, is Leonardo Bonucci. It was considered a huge coup for Milan when they stole arguably the best defender in the league from the champions, Juventus. However, the new captain has disappointed so far.
While a period of acclimatisation is expected for any player, Bonucci’s quality suggested an immediate upgrade would be on hand for Milan’s defense. Nonetheless, taking on the mantle of leader, without the likes of Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini beside him, has proven tough so far. He also hasn’t been helped by Montella’s formation tinkering and having to line-up with different defensive partners.
For Montella, a settled side, with or without a plethora of newcomers, would perform better in the long run. Milan have a number of options in defense and midfield but it is in attack where the focus will be, come January.
Carlos Bacca is on loan and seemingly on his way out as he does not fit Montella’s style of play. A quality forward needs to be brought in to replace him as newcomers Andre Silva and Niko Kalinic have shared the load so far this season, but the duo only have two goals between them in the Serie A.
Silva is one for the future and a solid enough option but he is playing his first season in arguably the toughest competition for attackers in Europe. If Milan want to meet their goals they need consistent quality leading the line.
According to AC’s sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli, who spoke to Radio Rossonera, Torino’s Andrea Belotti is still being considered as a target.
While the start to the season has been lukewarm it is not time for the new owners to panic. If Milan continue to win the games they have both domestically and on the continent then the season should be a good one.
The Rossoneri are undefeated so far in the Europa League and should continue that trend to make into the knockout rounds. How far they progress from there is dependent on Montella working out all the kinks.
If Milan continue to win the games they have domestically that should keep them within touching distance of the minimum goal, a return to the Champions League. One would expect that the quality of the likes of Bonucci and Lucas Biglia will help propel the club in the big games still to come.
Milan are now seven points away from a Champions League spot but that does not mean the axe should fall. Montella was given a vast upgrade in quality but, as with any other team in this situation, the new players will take some time to gel.
The board will be watching the team’s progress carefully and will be especially keen on the result of the next big game which is a home visit from Juventus.
At least Milan fans can be assured of one thing, if patience is not a concept for the new board then old favourite Carlo Ancelotti is available. Over to you Montella.
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