AC Milan v. Arsenal match day

Huzzah, I’m still alive.

I just read yesterday’s post and can say in all honesty: it’s crap. I guess I wasn’t as “getting over this illness” as I had thought. In fact I’m still not as over it as I had thought I was. So this blog should be crap too!

Now that you’re laden with my excuses, let’s get on with the news.

The .com has interviews with each of Arsenal’s top players and if you piece them all together like a secret code you can see what our strategy for today’s match will be: no fear – mental edge – stronger – own game – force mistakes – width – counter attack – Ray Parlor. Also if they could win one for the Gipper, the whole season will magically fall in line and Arsenal will be the EPL champs. So there you have it… according to the .com this one match is the whole season and all they have to do is [not typing all that again] against AC Milan at home where they have never lost to an English team. Not too much pressure for a bunch of youngsters is it?

Of course it’s a lot of pressure! They are playing a team who for 90 minutes held Arsenal (one of the highest scoring teams in England) scoreless at the Emirates. Not only did Milan hold Arsenal, hell, they only ever looked bothered at the very death of the match. So yeah, Arsenal are a young team and they are under a lot of pressure.

I don’t know what the rest of the season holds, I’m looking at this one match, so let’s put aside the rest of the season stuff.  Right here in front of us is a match that pits a full strength AC Milan against a battered Arsenal.  Right here in front of us, we have Flamini, Cesc and Hleb versus Gattuso, Pirlo and Kaka — it’s very rare to see such a startling alignment of players. No need to look ahead to the rest of the season and all that crap when there’s a hell of a match right here in front of us.

My suspicion is that Wenger will look to keep their midfield contained and use our superior wing play to break them down and get the ball to Adebayor. Work it out to the wing, back to the middle out to the wing in to the middle: over and over until Milan loses their shape and Arsenal can force the ball through their vise-like defense. And yes, that will take no fear – mental edge – stronger – own game – force mistakes – width – counter attack – Ray Parlor.

Milan, on the other hand will try to use their superior midfield (yeah, I said it, Arsenal have not proved to have the superior midfield yet have they?) to deliver the ball to their triple pronged attack up front.

That means, if Arsenal can stay focused and not allow an early goal(s), the match should be a pulsing open affair with attacking play for 90 minutes from both sides.  Or Arsenal could get cut to ribbons, Man U did.  This is the match I was hoping for when they announced the Champions League draw: the two most creative, open teams in world football, going head to head, no draws.  Either way it should be a fun match.

As for team news, you already know that van Persie is in the squad, but it looks like Eboue is making the trip for Walcott, which is a real shame. But as strange as that was I read almost immediately after that William Gallas criticized the young man calling him predictable and telling him he needs to work harder in training. Now first off, if I worked with the guy I might tell him the same thing, only I’d probably do it in private and not hold a press conference. But second, all this makes me wonder what’s going on with Theo? I would think Theo’s creativity and pace would make him an excellent sub, but he’s not on the bench. I wonder if something is up?

It looks like Wenger is going to play the 4-4-1-1 (with Eboue and Diaby on the wings) which people love to hate. I think it’s been our most successful lineup this season and see no reason why Arsenal don’t play it in every match the rest of the way out. All you have to do is look at the record with the lineup and without it (which I haven’t done). Clearly it’s better. Actually I just suspect it’s better because it seems to me like when they adopt it they get a more solid defensive performance and they free Hleb up to be the central play maker that he really is. This weekend I promise to see if I can’t track the formations Arsenal have used this season and tie them to results.

And that’s all there is today from me. If you’re lucky and can get off lunch you should be able to catch the match at 11:30 am (pst) on ESPN2. Me? I’m the kind of lucky soul that gets to have a 3 hour training session today, followed by a one hour rolfing session (where he’s going to rolf INSIDE MY NOSE) and then I get to watch the match on tape. So, if you see me in the street and you tell me the score remember: Buddha told me to kill you.

Cheers!