Our 2-0 win last week over AC Milan has given Arsenal a great chance of progressing to the Quarter-Finals of the Europa League, as we welcome the Italians to The Emirates for the return leg.
The two goal advantage may well put us firmly in the driving seat, but Gennaro Gattuso brings his side to London knowing they must score goals, and they have nothing to lose.
This makes this tie dangerous, as we must decide whether we go for the quick kill and score a goal that will leave Milan needing three goals to progress – or do we choose to soak up the pressure and use our intuitive players like Mkhitaryan and Ozil to spark counter-attacks on a Milan defence that will push up.
It’s a decision that will decide the outcome of this two-legged affair, and we will need every bit of what we showed in the first leg to make sure of our passage to the last8.
Milan will no doubt name Suso, Cutrone, Bonaventura and Calhanoglu in their forward line, and it was the Turkish forward who could have made this second leg a far tighter affair had he taken advantage of two gilt-edged chances. The first especially, which was a minute before Mkhitaryan gave us the lead, would have given his side the lead, but Ospina denied him, and came close to conceding a penalty in the process.
It is these minute details that games are decided, and we must be switched on to deny the away side any hope on Thursday evening.
That will require a steady backline, something of a rarity, aside from our last two games. Laurent Koscielny should be fit, and will partner a far steadier Shkodran Mustafi in defence. It is Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal that are the doubts, and Calum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac will be in the side should they fall short of fitness.
Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey look set to continue in central midfield. Ramsey was rested for the weekend win over Watford, but both were superb in controlling Milan’s midfield and roving forward. Mohamed Elneny was effective versus Watford and could be an option should we look to shore things up.
Our attack is limited, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Alexandre Lacazette still injured, although the Frenchman should be fit after the international break that occurs after this game for two weeks. It means Danny Welbeck will lead the line again, and the striker was great in last week’s win. Eddie Nketiah will be the backup option from the bench.
We can go all out for this game, knowing there will be no crucial Premier League game this weekend. We will need the same outlook and positivity we employed in the first leg – if we can do that, then we should have our name in the hat for the next round.
Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Wilshere, Welbeck
Predicted Scoreline – 1-1 #UTA