I have to say I was shocked by Arsenal’s 2-0 win over AC Milan in the first leg of the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday night. The Italian giants head into the game in decent form, while morale was low in the Gunners camp.
However, first-half goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey gave the Gunners a very healthy lead for the second leg.
Last chance to make the Champions League
Winning the Europa League is Arsenal’s last chance of getting into the Champions League for next season. The top-four seem too far ahead in the Premier League, so Europe’s secondary competition has suddenly taken on huge significance for the Gunners season.
Arsenal are now second favourites to win the trophy at 7/2, due to the win in Milan and Dortmund’s shock 2-1 home defeat by Salzburg on Thursday night. Only Atletico Madrid are shorter odds to lift the trophy.
However, I have my doubts about Arsene Wenger’s side ability to win the trophy this season. They have already shown their vulnerabilities this season and there are still a number of good teams left in the competition to get past.
Arsene Wenger more likely to stay
If Arsenal wins the Europa League, then I do believe that under-pressure boss Arsene Wenger will try to make out that it has been a successful season. Winning any trophy is an achievement and the Europa League is not an easy one to win.
However, the Gunners domestic displays this season have clearly shown that it has been anything other than a successful season for the team from north London. The team has clearly gone backwards in recent seasons.
For me, Wenger must take the lion’s share of the blame for the Gunners regression. The veteran French boss has a lot of control within the club.
Let’s not get carried away
The victory at the San Siro was a good one and the players should be applauded for their display. However, why can they not play like that every game?
The players have obviously been underperforming this season, as there is quality within the Gunners squad. They can produce good performances, so why have they not done it on a more regular basis in recent months.
Most Arsenal fans will know better than to get carried away with one good result. However, the win has at least lifted the atmosphere until the weekend, when the Gunners host Watford at the Emirates Stadium.
Would winning the Europa League constitute a good season for Arsenal?