Pride restored. Momentum gained. The Arsenal are officially back. Let us look at some of the things we learnt from the epic night of a near miracle.
1. There was not much between the two teams over two legs
The major difference here was, Arsenal were the better team on grass, while A.C.Milan were better on a ploughed field. Had the sides of the pitch not been re-laid at the San Siro, who knows what result we might have had. Here A.C.Milan didn't turn up on the night, not for the first half at least, and by the time they did show up the tie was hanging in the balance. Just like Arsenal didn't show up in Italy 3 weeks back, and ultimately paid the price for it. Taking the whole 180 minutes into consideration, one has to say the two teams were pretty closely matched and the difference was even lesser than what the aggregate score showed.
Arsenal will take a lot of heart from this, especially as their energy and momentum initially just rattled their Serie A counterparts. For all the stick we received for our performance in the first leg, we surely left the competition with our heads held high.
2. The OX is here to stay
Last night, some of my friends on twitter were adamant they had seen the closest ever thing to Wayne Rooney. Easy on that I say, too early to get the comparisons in. But, if his performances in the red and white are anything to go by, Chamberlain must go to the Euros.
With the absence of all bar two central midfielders, Arsene Wenger decided to deploy the eighteen year old in the middle of the park and boy did he fit in well. Constantly bombing forward on every opportunity, retreating back when not in possession, here is a player mature beyond his years. This, despite being unwell and carrying the flu.
Whoever picks the England squad for Ukraine and Poland, would be foolish enough to overlook a player with such versatility and directness. He looks raw, and exposure at the international stage will no doubt add to his growing stature.
With good crossing, movement and shooting, he could be make the difference for the three lions. Scary thing is, he is still learning. Suddenly the 12 million pounds for a seventeen year old seems such a bargain.
3. Arsenal are a united force
It was just two and a half weeks back, when there were reports of fallout within the dressing room. The media were screaming about wholesale changes for the summer, and how some older players must be shifted out as deadwood, after back to back non-performances at Milan and Sunderland.
Three games and three wins. Arsenal in crisis, eh? Nothing feels better than proving your critics wrong, and the Gunners are surely doing the talking on the pitch. Last night must have felt devastating, but the players left with their heads held high.
Three performances, and with each you see a different side to this team who displayed grit, courage, passion, bravery, unity and pride to wear the shirt.
As a fan, you can't ask for more. It’s such a proud moment to be a Gooner.
4. A stronger bench could have won us the game
With virtually all midfielders out injured, Arsene had no-one to call onto for the fatigued and ill Chamberlain. This not only resulted in AOC having to carry on despite not being 100%, but also helped Milan get back in the game. It was a crucial time in the game and Chamberlain's knock was highly untimed. This is when the Italians took over the game, possession-wise.
An Arteta or a Ramsey off the bench would have been ideal, considering how delicately the match was poised. The injured players were a huge miss, and might have given us the edge.
To be honest, I did miss Arshavin's presence off the bench. Having said that, Arsene did put out his best team, and they put in a shift that they would be proud of for their entire lives.
5. Zlatan is an enigma
The Swede had scored in each of his previous five Champions League games. What a contradiction he is. Absolutely world class on his day, he just goes AWOL during big matches. He was excellent in the first leg, creating, scoring, and torturing the makeshift Arsenal backline. But here he was just abysmal.
I’ve never seen him have such poor first touches as he did at the Grove. Kozzer and TV5 had him in their pockets. And then, you have the 14 minute hat-trick at the weekend, where he single-handedly demolished Palermo.
Oozing with talent, his attitude has often been questionable. Zlatan’s ego dwarfs even the €140m that has been spent on him by clubs to date. Keeping the stage-fear out, he’s such a brilliant player and could have been even better.