Milan must shape up to beat Arsenal
AC Milan fans are beginning to wonder whether any European Cup holders have played as badly as the Rossoneri have this season.Ajax, Marseille and Borussia Dortmund went into decline following their victories in the 90s as the soccer powerhouses in Spain, England and Italy reasserted their control. Liverpool have pretty much plateaued since their 2005 triumph while Porto were always going to struggle to repeat 2004’s success.
But for the sheer difference between form in a Champions League winning season and performances in the following campaign, there seems no match for Milan. Yet the squad is almost the same, with exciting teenage Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato thrown in.
For example, Milan will be dumped out of the Champions League by Arsenal on Tuesday if they play like they did in Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Lazio.
Domestically Carlo Ancelotti’s men have been woeful and are fifth. They believe they can raise their game for Europe but were hanging on when they drew 0-0 at the Emirates in the last 16 first leg two weeks ago.
Injuries have hampered their progress, Kaka looks set to return on Tuesday after two games out, but generally Milan have lacked bite all season. They have been especially dull at San Siro, where they have consistently failed to up the tempo in the first half before being sprung into action after going behind, just like against Lazio.
It is all a far cry from Athens last May. The most damning evidence is that Ancelotti has no idea what his best attacking options are. Even with Ronaldo injured, Kaka, Pato, Filippo Inzaghi and Alberto Gilardino could all play in various formations on Tuesday. Yet most fans and hacks could tell you at least 10 of Arsenal’s expected lineup.
You watch, Milan will probably ease to a 3-0 win and make me eat a lot of humble pie. For the worried fans though, it will be about time.
Mark Meadows, Milan
UPDATE: I’ve added a video taken after last night’s Arsenal press conference at San Siro. Let me know what you think.