What an exciting and challenging game we can anticipate tonight. A return to the scene of the European recognition of Fabregas’s genius (sorry GM!). That night is etched in the memory alongside so many other astonishing and unexpected Arsenal victories – win this and we may get a repeat of the TH inspired win in the Bernabeu!
Having won our group we could have drawn an easier opponent because let us be clear, this is not going to be easy. Milan are a much better and younger side than the one vanquished by our heroes in 2008; they are top of Serie A. Unfortunately, their injury crisis (13 players out in their recent win at Udinese) is rapidly improving, Nesta, Pato, Flamini, Prince-Boateng and Van Bommel return to the squad. Style of play? Allegri has said this of AC Milan’s approach “You can’t always dine on lobster and caviar, sometimes you have to have a ham sandwich”. Cantona-esque!
I would like to concentrate on just two of Milan’s pantheon of superstars, Ibrahimovic and Van Bommel.
Van Bommel is one hard Dutchman. I remember a Highbury night watching him kick lumps out of our lads when playing for PSV (2004 1-0). He was without doubt the dirtiest player I had seen and it was a miracle he stayed on the pitch. After that night I followed his career with interest because I felt he would be a fine replacement for PV4. Sadly, he moved to Barca where he won a CL winners medal and later moved on to become the first non-German captain of Bayern Munich. At 32 he moved to Milan and has been an integral part of Max Allegri’s squad. 70 Dutch caps, a league winner in 4 countries, WC finalist, CL winner – one could say he has had a successful career. Should he play tonight I hope Aaron is wearing extra shin and ankle protection!
Zlatan Ibrahimovich is one of the world’s great players. A man who has never received the respect he deserves from the British press. Scorer of some of the most spectacular goals ever scored (check out Youtube) the Swede has a phenomenal record – at the moment, Ibra is on a run of 8 successive League title wins in 3 countries with 5 different clubs! I think it would be prudent to have a little wager on AC winning the Scudetto this season. During his time at Barca he was the world’s highest paid footballer on €28m a year. Barca paid €70m for him and sold him 18 months later for €24m – which makes the Torres deal look sweet.
“you’ll never play for Arsenal”
In 2001 Mr Wenger tried to sign Zlatan from Malmo but he chose Ajax for a then record Swedish transfer fee. It beggers the question - who would have been sacrificed for him? Not Henry, so it must have been Wiltord who was going to be shipped out. Ibra has attitude and may have clashed with Thierry but what a forward line that would have been.
The loss of BFG is a major disappointment; he is made for games like tonight against a clever but not particularly pacy forward line. Fortunately, we have super replacements and TV is finally back in his natural position. It is ages since we have seen Gibbs get a run of games but he is a super player and a full International, he will not be embarrassed. I would start Arshavin ahead of the Ox, his experience and precision of passing will be important in what is likely to be a tight game. Expect a big game from Ramsey.
Inventor from Milan: Step forward Enrico Forlanini (if he were still alive). Born in 1847 he developed the world’s first helicopter (powered by steam!) and went on to pioneer the hydrofoil. Milan City Airport is dedicated to Forlanini.
Here’s Looking at You, Kid
Thierry Henry has scored in his final FA Cup game, his final PL home game, his final PL away game and tonight …… you would bet against it. Thierry, whatever happens tonight and in the future, You are The Man.
Written by Big Raddy