Arsenal v AC Milan – The Gunners seven best Italian Jobs against Serie A sides
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Arsenal take on AC Milan in the second leg of the Europa League round of 16. The Gunners stunned the football world with a 2-0 win at the mighty San Siro. But read on for Layth Yousif’s seven favourite Italian jobs he’s seen in the flesh.
1) Arsenal 2 Juventus 0 March 2006 – The King is Dead, Long Live The King
One thing people tend to forget about Highbury is how on those dark, evocative European nights the venerable ground came alive. In the darkness noise rolled around the place creating an atmosphere that was a match for any ground anywhere. Especially if it was an important game.
This game versus Juventus in the club’s final season at Highbury was an example of this. Arsenal started the first leg of the Champions League quarter final against La Vecchia Signora with no little trepidation and ended it in throes of ecstasy. This was the night 19-year-old Cesc Fabregas grabbed the title of midfield maestro from the previous incumbent: the legendary Patrick Viera, the most powerful midfielder I’ve seen at Arsenal.
The Frenchman playing his first game back at Arsenal since his move to Juve was in possession in the Gunners half before Fabregas dived in with a fearless sliding tackle that won the ball off the man who came from Senegal. To this day I have never heard a tackle cheered so loudly. It summed up the club’s new order. A generation of youth was to sweep away the Invincibles to even greater glory.
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Arsenal won the game 2-0 that night to ease into the semi-finals of the Champions League after a 0-0 draw in Turin and were 17 minutes from eternity in Paris. The future looked full of promise. If only we knew...
2) Arsenal 0 AC Milan 0 Super Cup 1995 – What a team. What a defence.
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Sebastiano Rossi, Mauro Tassotti, Paolo Maldini, Demetrio Albertini, Alessandro Costacurta, Franco Baresi, Roberto Donadoni, Marcel Desailly, Marco Simone, Dejan Savi?evi?, Daniele Massaro.
February 1995. Nine months on after one of the most complete destructions in a European Cup Final, namely Milan 4, Barcelona 0 the team that won that memorable night in Athens played at Highbury in the first leg of the Super Cup. I had been at the Parken Stadion as Arsenal had triumphed in Copenhagen the May before just as I would also go to the San Siro in the second leg of this tie – but as a young lad I naturally assumed European trophies would be a regular thing. Unfortunately more than two decades on many are still waiting to see their second European trophy win in the flesh.
That night what stuck in the mind after this 0-0 was just how organised and professional the Milan back line were. They were never pulled out of position; they held their shape and always looked composed. But what I will happily tell my grandchildren about the great Maldini and Baresi when they played against The Arsenal was that they simply looked as though they had all the time in the world. Great players have that ability to slow everything down, to make their movements look as though they have far more time and space than they do in reality.
Arsenal simply never looked like scoring, even if the stage was set for an emotional evening with the return of Paul Merson from his FA ban for telling the truth about his addictions. It wasn’t to be a fairy-tale ending for the Merse, still one of the best loved ex Arsenal players in our history but I will always recall that mighty Milan back line.
3) Arsenal 1 Torino 0 European Cup Winners Cup Quarter Final 2nd Leg, March 1994 – One Tony Adams
I had been out to Turin for the first leg of the ECWC quarter final – the first English team to play in Italy since Heysel. That trip is chronicled in my book The Miracle of Copenhagen. But we came away from that evening in the cavernous but soulless Stadio delle Alpi with a vital 0-0. Was it a surprise my two trips there over two decades with Arsenal both ended 0-0 when the ground managed to unite both Torino and Juve fans in their utter dislike of the stadium?
The scene was set for the famed Arsenal back line to defend against the ‘mighty’ of Andrea Silenzi and Beppe Signori – this was still in the early days of the Premier League when Italian players had a mystique about them magnified by the legendary James Richardson and his Football Italia at the time – still the best ever results round up show and magazine in the history of UK football programming. Although the Torino strike force was intermittently threatening the reality proved far less glamorous. Without forcing too many clear cut chances against our legendary back four a Tony Adams goal meant it was 1-0 to the Arsenal and a semi-final against PSG where the song was eventually born at half-time in the Park Des Princes.
Highbury was delirious, gorgeous George was delighted and the team ploughed on through the Cup Winners Cup that offered arguably a stronger quarter final line up than the Champions League – even if the AC Milan team that triumphed was far and away the best team in Europe that year. Mind you in my young eyes the Arsenal’s exploits in the ECWC weren’t far off it – even with a midfield of Hillier, Jensen, Morrow and Davis. (*Eyes moisten thinking about that Cup run even now.*)
4) Arsenal 3 Sampdoria 2 ECWC Semi Final, April 1995 - Safe Hands
I still shake my head now thinking about that game. Against the might of Zenga, Vierchowod, Siniša Mihajlovi?, Lombardo, Jukovic, Roberto Mancini, Ruud Gullit and, er, David Platt we triumphed 3-2 in a tempestuous, rip-snorting game under the Highbury lights with the unlikely Steve Bould scoring two goals and Ian Wright, Wright, Wright the other.
Mancini was quoted afterwards as saying: ‘to lose 3-2 is a good result as we are formidable at the Luigi Ferrari’. In the end, in a game that sorely raised our collective blood pressure, we saw Arsenal win on penalties after losing 3-2 on the night. Sat high up in the Italian end that night after all manner of travails with Genoa’s carabinieri (don’t ask) we celebrated long and loud after an evening that went into the annals of Arsenal’s European history.
5) Arsenal 2 Lazio 0, CL, Group Stage, 2000 – We love you Freddie...
This game sticks in the memory purely because Arsenal were so dominant. Freddie ran a lethargic Lazio team ragged scoring both goals. The Lazio players looked intimidated and wary. The return game ended 1-1 in Rome after a late Robert Pires equaliser that saw Arsenal fans toast him late into the Roman evening.
6) AC Milan 0 Arsenal 2 CL Round of 16, 2008, second leg – 2-0 in the San Siro...
There was a 13 year gap between the next clash between the Gunners and the Rossoneri, this time in the Champions League round of 16.
Again the first leg in North London was goalless before the travelling Gunners pulled off one of the greatest European results in their history by beating the holders 2-0 in Milan.
Milan’s star studded line-up included Balon d’Or holder Kaka, current Rossoneri boss Gennaro Gattuso and captain Paolo Maldini – the only survivor from the first meeting with Arsenal in front of a sell-out crowd of 81,879 on March 4, 2008 –with Wenger including Cesc Fabregas, Eduardo and Aleksandr Hleb in the side.
A tight first-half was followed by a Gunners dominated second, with Emmanuel Adebayor missing chances to put Arsenal through.
Arsenal knew they would have to make history, by becoming the first-ever English side to beat Milan at the San Siro, to progress to the quarter-finals.
The game ebbed and flowed throughout as both sides created plenty of chances to score. With 84 minutes on the clock Fabregas stunned the Milan crowd into silence as around 7,000 travelling Arsenal fans high up in the gods at the majestic stadium celebrated wildly.
Bursting past two players in midfield, the future Gunners captain fired a low effort from all of 30 yards, finding the bottom corner.
As Milan pushed for the all important equaliser the away side wrapped up the game when substitute Theo Walcott broke free down the right, squaring the ball for Emmanuel Adebayor to tap home with just seconds left.
Arsenal had triumphed against all the odds, even if they were to cruelly lose to Liverpool at Anfield on a never-to-be-forgotten match which had the visitors through on away goals at 2-2 at Anfield with only minutes remaining before two late goals crushed North London dreams.
7) See Thursday, March 8, 2018 – 2-0 in the San Siro redux
We all know what happened last week – but can they get through on Thursday evening? Only time will tell, but if the match is anything like any of the above it will be a cracker...
Parts of this article by Layth have been published by Sabotage Times.
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