This season has sucked.
There is no other way to label what has occurred within Arsenal and on the pitch the last seven months than that. It’s sucked, and unless they emerge victorious over AC Milan - their opponents in the Europa League’s Round of 16 - Arsenal’s season will sink lower than ever before. After all, as we were told at the start of the Europa League last fall, Arsenal represented one of the strongest sides in the competition, thus an easy path back to Champions League football. Losing out to a fellow European giant working its way back from its own dark and unusual depths would be a failure of expectations and another indictment on Arsene Wenger’s ability - or rather, inability - to lead this club past this current season.
Milan come into these two legs reinvigorated by a coaching change (insert thinking face emoji here). Former Milan midfielder and captain Gennaro Gattuso has reversed early season failures under Vincenzo Montella with a record that positively highlights how players respond to a new voice of instruction, way of thinking and approach to setups and tactics, and their results speak for themselves: Milan’s last loss came on December 27th, 2017; they’ve won five-straight matches by a combined 10-0, and they’re currently sitting in 7th in Serie A with 44 points, having started out gaining a mere 20 points from 14 matches.
If Arsenal are to move past Milan and into the next round, they must find a way to effectively build up play through sustained possession against a side that’s shown an ability to withstand opposition attacks - something Arsenal has struggled with as of late. Getting away goals, obviously, are key. As we know, however, Arsenal away from the Emirates has been an exercise in futility. In other words, they must find a way to reverse a season’s worth of evidence that suggests tomorrow will end very badly for them.
WHAT: Arsenal at AC Milan
WHERE: San Siro; Milan, Italy
WHEN: Thursday, March 8th, 10:00 AM PT | 1:00 PM ET | 6:00 PM BT
US TV: FS2 and ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN (in Spanish)
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