AC Milan vs. Arsenal: 8 Things Arsenal Got Wrong in 4-0 Loss
A Robinho brace, and further goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and former Tottenham Hotspur man Kevin-Prince Boateng downed the stricken Gunners, with the Rossoneri all but assured of a place in the quarterfinals.
In a night to forget for the Premier League team at the San Siro, here are eight mistakes Arsenal and Wenger made against the Serie A leaders.
Playing High Tempo
The biggest mistake Arsene Wenger probably made was setting his team up to play at their usual high tempo.
In theory it was a good idea to keep the tempo high as the general pace of Serie A football can be quite slow, but AC Milan are masters of Catenaccio, so the higher the tempo, the more vulnerable Arsenal would be on the break.
And that's exactly how they got hurt, with quick attacks which left their defence disorientated, out of shape and very much open.
Sticking to Their Passing Principles
Arsene Wenger chose to keep his Arsenal team sticking to another of their principles, their tiki-taka passing play.
The Gunners kept building up the play from the back, with Alex Song, Mikel Arteta, Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and the centre-backs all keeping play mostly along the ground.
It made them much more susceptible to the interception, and whilst it allowed them to play their usual high tempo, it didn't allow the team to play the ball upfield as fast as they should have done. This made them more vulnerable on the counterattack, and couldn't work the ball forward before AC Milan got their defenders back in place.
Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey were the two main culprits here, at times displaying exceptionally poor decision-making.
Ramsey was dispossessed twice and Arteta once as they dribbled forward too many times, while none of them made a key pass. They picked out the wrong options at the wrong times, especially where it mattered in the final third.
They were meant to be the two main players pulling the midfield strings for Arsenal, and they very much underperformed.
Not Using the Wings
Theo Walcott had just 20 touches of the ball in this match, and made just 13 passes.
After Thierry Henry replaced him at halftime, the Frenchman only had 14 touches, and also made 13 passes.
Not only did Arsenal use the wrong wing mostly—Tomas Rosicky had 79 touches—they failed to exploit AC Milan's narrow game, and made their main attacking players a non-threat throughout the match.
The re-patched pitch on both flanks at the San Siro did make it hard for the Gunners—Inter Milan struggled there at the weekend—but nonetheless, they should have definitely had more width to their game.
Not Starting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should've started in place of Tomas Rosicky for Arsenal on that left wing.
As Kieran Gibbs was back from injury and the team's best option at left-back, Arsene Wenger chose to start with Rosicky so the Gunners wouldn't be too inexperienced on the left.
That move made little impact as Arsenal, of course, lost 4-0, with Rosicky making no attacking threat for his team.
Oxlade-Chamerlain, a more attack-minded player who likes to exploit slow full-backs, immediately improved the side (albeit slightly) when he came on.
Given how narrow the Rossoneri play, the game was calling out for a player like The Ox, who when called upon proved he wasn't overawed by the San Siro atmosphere.
Not Starting Thierry Henry
Arsenal needed a greater presence in the final third against AC Milan, and Robin van Persie needed support up top.
Arsene Wenger's hope no doubt was that Aaron Ramsey would provide that help, but the midfielder's poor decision-making throughout the game meant he couldn't deliver the ball often enough to the centre forward.
When Henry did come on and support Van Persie, the two linked up well, and the Gunners kept the ball in Milan's final third for longer, pushing their team back and creating more goal-scoring chances.
If Henry had started his farewell match, it could have been a happy (or at least better) ending for the Arsenal legend.
Not Man-Marking Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic won a penalty, scored the penalty, made two assists and created five other goal-scoring chances.
He deservedly won the Man of the Match award as the Arsenal defence couldn't cope with him.
Arsene Wenger probably thought he wasn't important enough to deploy a man-marker on.
Letting the San Siro Dominate
It was very clear in this match that the San Siro atmosphere got to Arsenal.
A big game, big audience and big noise—and the Gunners couldn't cope with it.
Uncharacteristic mistakes, nervy passes, lack of concentration—all symptomatic of the Gunners' performance.
More work with the psychologist was no doubt needed before this match.