Arsenal will have to channel the spirit of Spartacus at the Emirates today
Arsenal vs AC Milan at the Emirates, CL 2nd leg @ 2:45 PM EST
This month Arsenal are being celebrated as the comeback kings. In January they couldn’t crumble quickly enough. Arsene Wenger sees the victories against Spurs and Liverpool as evidence his side that can pull rabbits out of a hat which is why he’s so gung ho about the AC Milan second leg despite being four goals down. Here is the manager:
“I don’t live in a dream world,” he went on. “I know we have not created an easy situation. We have a five per cent chance – because if you look at the history of results that have been changed at that level, it would be around that.”
Wenger has been further emboldened by the 2004 Deportivo Coruna shocker against Milan going down, 4-1 in the first leg to bounce back 4-0 in the second leg. But that was an exceptional result. Only three other teams have managed to overcome such adverse first legs.
Does Arsenal have a chance to progress to the quarter-finals? They stand a very good chance to win the match at the Emirates but pulling off the above said is a very different proposition. Wenger is mustering his best team sans injury to test his 5% theory. At this point to try and overcome a 4 goal deficit against a physical Milan side with Mark Van Bommel sure to play a huge part today risking further injury and fatigue is not good strategy. The eye on the prize or “trophy” in Arsenespeak should be achieving that fourth place in that Premiership.
We have a match on Monday against Newcastle, yet another fourth place contender to see out and new manager Roberto Di Matteo will be keen on turning things around at Chelsea. There is now a good chance that we maybe able to overtake Spurs to avoid the CL playoffs. However, this month once again underscores our physical frailty as a squad with 13 players including most of their midfield in questionable physical shape. Our priority should be to keep them as injury free from now to the end of the season.
Tomas Rosicky has a niggling groin problem, Yossi Benayoun is down with a virus, Mikel Arteta is out with a concussion, and Abou Diaby’s Liverpool cameo set him back another two weeks with a hamstring strain. There is no Aaron Ramsey or Francis Coquelin available either. In their absence, Wenger could suit up the Ox to play in centre midfield.
Our season rests on the health of RVP. It is as simple as that. To expose him to potential injuries in a match that most sensible observers have given up for lost is risky. But Wenger is willing to overlook that possibility, “I would not be very credible to tell you we want to score five goals and then leave Robin van Persie out,” said Wenger. RVP being the competitor he is would like nothing better than making a statement to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Arsenal wannabe. But he’s also surely cognizant of how invaluable he is to the team in the long run.
Wenger should give a call out to all those players he seems reluctant to play. Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu Young could see this match as an invaluable opportunity to prove themselves. The backfield could be bolstered by Ignasi Miquel and Nico Yennaris. No guts, no glory is a great bumper sticker but so is to win the war you sometimes have to lose the battle.