AC Milan 4-0 Arsenal: Swept Away

I have watched some Serie A this season - specifically, I wanted to watch a bit of Milan previous to this tie to get a sense of what we were up against. What I came away with was that they are a solid outfit, but nowhere near the vintage of their last two Champions' League winners.

No, seriously: This was the side that won the 2007 Final: Dida - Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Jankulovski - Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf - Inzaghi, Kaka

And, the one before it in 2003: Dida - Costacurta, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze - Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Rui Costa - Shevchenko (before he turned into a pumpkin), Inzaghi.

This outfit are not bad, but they've had some injuries and are not what they were. Had this Arsenal side gone to the San Siro and got their doors blown off by the 2003 or 2007 versions, then, well, shit happens. But, the sight of a listless and mistake-prone rabble in yellow getting annihilated by this version of the Rossonieri was as depressing a low for this side as there has been in recent memory.

And fuck me, that covers some ground, doesn't it?

There isn't much to say about this one, really. At no point did Arsenal ever look like they could even come away from this game with a salvageable scoreline, let alone an away win. Milan controlled from start to finish, without ever needing to exert themselves in any serious way.

The thing is, Arsene Wenger basically had two choices here - tank the game entirely and play with Sebastien Squillaci, Ju-Young Park and the rest of the guys who never get a game, or play for real and put our best lineup out there. Personally, I would have opted for the tanking option - as far as I'm concerned, our entire season is now down to winning the FA Cup and finishing in fourth that order.

The Boss, on the other hand, played this weird hybrid lineup where most of our starters were out there, albeit with Tomas Rosicky shunted off to the wing in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. In defense, Thomas Vermaelen was back in the center, Kieran Gibbs returning to the side (from now). As odd as that is, with Rosicky's main strength being his defensive capabilities in the center of the park, it ultimately didn't matter. The team selection is not remotely responsible for the hiding we got today.

Frankly, the team looked tired to the point of being jaded. There was no movement off the ball, no urgency, no desire to win. Passes dribbled to their intended target at 0.1 MPH, slowing play down to a crawl. Robin van Persie ghosted along at the periphery of the game, a forlorn figure waiting for the service that never came.

On the other end of the pitch, there was no defender that escaped castigation today. Man, they were awful. I mean, the post-mortem is shocking reading:

Milan 1-0, 15 minutes - Wojceich Szczesny tries to clear a backpass with his weaker left foot. His effort doesn't make it to the half-way line, and furthermore goes right to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish hitman plays it up to Kevin Prince-Boateng, who slices through the Arsenal backline. Gibbs was absolutely nowhere near it, and Laurent Koscielny couldn't make it over in time. Prince-Boateng hits a majestic half-volley into the roof of the net. It was a wonderful goal, but it doesn't happen if Szczesny doesn't shank his kick.

25 minutes: A weak header from Koscielny off a free kick goes tamely into the arms of Cristian Abbiati. That is the only touch of the ball the Milan keeper had in the entire half. Good goddamn.

Milan 2-0, 37 minutes - Ibrahimovic has the run of the left wing, having torched Bacary Sagna. He runs to the touchline and sends a purposeful ball across the face of goal. Koscielny had ran back, but was ball-watching and did not catch Robinho's run coming in right behind him. Vermaelen surely saw that run coming in, but did not think to shout at his compatriot to warn him. Robinho had an easy header, and the downward spiral was well and truly on.

Halftime: I told my roommate at this point: "I bet I can predict the final score of this match five minutes into the second half." Right before the half, yet another defender goes off injured, this time Koscielny. Johan Djourou comes on in his place, because THAT will solidify things. At the half, Thierry Henry makes his last-ever appearance for Arsenal in relief of Theo Walcott.

Less than five minutes into the second half - Milan 3-0, 48 minutes - Djourou has the chance to clear, and shanks a weak effort right to Ibrahimovic. He feeds Robinho, who takes advantage of Vermaelen slipping on the turf to fire into the near corner past a stranded Szczesny. What can you say? It was clown shoes all around.

Incidentally, my prediction was 5-0 at this point. Oh, and I started fast-forwarding around the 55 minute mark or so. You may call me a plastic if you wish, but I've had a remarkably awful week and this was the capper on it. Life is just too short, sometimes.

65 minutes - Arsenal had one chance to get back into it. If they had pulled it back to 3-1 and gotten an away goal in the process, that could have changed the entire complexion of the tie. In fairness to our guys, it was a well-worked chance that was repelled by brilliant goalkeeping by Abbiati. Alex Song played the ball in, and it was imperiously back-heeled into the path of RVP by Thierry last moment of absolute magic from him. The Dutch wizard had time and space to lash a ferocious shot towards the far corner. Abbiati got down very well to get a hand to it and tip it around the post. Any nascent show of spirit or drive from the Gunners was well and truly choked off.

67 minutes - Now the Ox comes on. Why? What's the point? We're not getting back into this one, and we may as well have saved him for the FA Cup at this point. This goes back to what I was saying before - this half-in, half-out stuff may end up coming back to bite us in both competitions now.

Milan 4-0, 79 minutes - Djourou is really just not any good at professional football. I mean, he's had good games here and there and he used to be solid, but for whatever reason his head is well and truly gone and he doesn't ever make a garden-variety's all "what the eff were you thinking, lad?" kind of stuff. Ibrahimovic destroyed him with a simple head fake and was past him. So, in response, Djourou responded with what looked like a failed attempt at a Rock Bottom. Ibrahimovic duly slotted home the penalty, Szczesny guessing right but not able to keep it out (there may have been a re-take if he had though....he was about 2.4 light years off his line).

Really, what else can you say about this? All four of Milan's goals were gift-wrapped to them thanks to remarkable bouts of defensive idiocy, often more than one on a given play. The midfield and attackers did nothing at all to help them out, as they were unable to hold on to the ball and had no energy to harry the Milan attackers. Poor old RVP was abandoned by his mates, and it still took one of the best saves of the tournament to prevent him from scoring. Thierry Henry goes back to New York, probably for the last time, with the memory of this as his last appearance in an Arsenal shirt.

It may be for the best so that we can concentrate on other things, but I don't know where the drive is going to come from at this point. If you can't get up for playing AC Milan at the San Siro in the Champions' League, how on earth are you going to get up for playing Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in the FA Cup.


The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 5, Gibbs 4 (Oxlade-Chamberlain N/A), Vermaelen 4, Koscielny 4 (Djourou 4), Sagna 5, Rosicky 5, Arteta 5, Song 6, Ramsey 5, Walcott 4 (Henry 6), van Persie 6

Man of the Match: It's damn near impossible to pick one, but the fact that Robin van Persie came within Cristian Abbiati's fingertips of scoring a goal in the wake of that team performance means that he wins this at a canter.