Arsenal 3 AC Milan 0: Lessons from a pride-restoring display

What did we learn from Arsenal's pride-restoring but ultimately fruitless 3-0 victory over AC Milan at The Emirates on Tuesday?

Champions League, 6 March 2012, Emirates Stadium
team1
Arsenal
3 - 0
team2
AC Milan

Arsenal’s bright start costs them in the end

Arsene Wenger’s men, so thoroughly outplayed in Milan in the first leg of this tie, came out all guns blazing in the first half. Laurent Koscielny handed the Londoners a deserved lead inside seven minutes. That goal acted as the building block to a stunning first-half display, as the Gunners took the initiative and doubled their advantage through Tomas Rosicky, before Robin van Persie fired home a third from the spot just before the break. But Arsenal’s energetic, high-tempo display in the first half appeared to prevent them from pushing on in the second half. Seemingly sapped of all energy, their only real opening came just after the break, when Van Persie tried to lift his effort over Christian Abbiati, who just managed to collect the ball.

Complacent Milan respond in the second half

Stunned by Arsenal’s flying start, Massimiliano Allegri’s side were hopeless in the first half as Wenger’s men ran their Serie A opponents ragged. But the Italian outfit deserve credit for shoehorning their way back into the game after the break as the home side began to fade. The visitors began to dominate proceedings as Arsenal ran out of gas – Milan edged the possession, with 53 per cent on the night – and should have put the tie well and truly to bed in the 77th minute – but Antonio Nocerino tapped his tame effort at Wojciech Szczesny when it looked harder to miss.

Wenger must address Arsenal’s lack of squad depth

In a game in which the Gunners gave so much early on, Wenger’s substitutions should have played a key role. But the uninspiring bench of Park Ju-Young, Johan Djourou, Carl Jenkinson, Marouane Chamakh, Ignasi Miquel and Oguzhan Ozyaku left a lot to be desired. The Arsenal boss will no doubt point to the Gunners’ lengthy injury list – Jack Wilshere is yet to feature this term and both Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey are notable absentees – but neither Young nor Chamakh, who were both thrown on in the second half, did anything to suggest they are up to the task at the Emirates. Andrey Arshavin, who is on loan to Zenit St Petersburg until the summer, could have added some much-needed quality and experience to a weak bench.

Oxlade-Chamberlain shines in the middle

One of the few positives from a turbulent season for Arsenal has been the emergence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Southampton youth product has gone from strength to strength since announcing himself to the Emirates faithful with a brilliant display against Manchester United back in January – and he once again impressed on Tuesday night. Deployed in central midfield in the absence of injured duo Arteta and Ramsey, the teenager showcased his adaptability with an assured performance out of position. He picked up a hamstring injury early in the second half and soon faded – but Gunners fans should be cheered by the promise the 18-year-old has showed this term. He is surely on his way to sealing a spot in the England squad for Euro 2012.

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