ARSENAL 0 vs AC MILAN 4
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger is often mocked for his apparently selective memory, but the Frenchman is urging his team to adopt the very same trait as they attempt to mount a titanic Champions League comeback tonight.
The Gunners welcome AC Milan for the second leg of their last 16 clash knowing that must score at least four times to have any chance of prolonging their participation in Europe’s top club competition.
Wounds from the 4-0 thrashing suffered in Italy three weeks ago are still fresh, despite encouraging wins over Tottenham and Liverpool since, but Wenger believes his players must block out that trauma if they are to achieve the improbable.
“There is a real possibility that we can go through. We lost 4-0 at Milan but they had five shots on target and we had 55 [per cent] possession when we did not play well at all,” he said.
“The best way is to ignore the first game and do what we did against Tottenham [nine days ago]. We were 2-0 down and we just kept going because we wanted to win the game. In the last two home games we have scored 12, so we know we can score goals. That is the target tomorrow.”
A gargantuan task is made even more difficult by the absence of several first-team players, with Mikel Arteta, concussed in Saturday’s win at Liverpool, one of several midfielders injured. Abou Diaby, Yossi Benayoun, Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin are also out, while Tomas Rosicky faces a late fitness test, severely restricting Wenger’s options if he sticks to his favoured 4-3-3 system.
Winger Gervinho and England Under-21 star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could start, while the Arsenal manager gave short shrift to suggestions top scorer Robin van Persie might be rested for a seemingly lost cause. “We want to have a real go, we want to make it possible,” Wenger added. “It wouldn’t be credible to say we want to score five goals and then leave Robin van Persie out. We won’t accept going out of the Champions League because we want to stay in. We will give it our best shot.”
Only three times in European history has a club overturned a four-goal first-leg deficit, but Wenger hopes the superior playing surface at Emirates Stadium will aid his team’s quest to become the fourth.
“If they can score four then we can as well, why not? We will try,” he said. “We know we can put a better performance in and you can tell Milan that tomorrow we will play on a football pitch – a real football pitch.”