14 Mar Arsenal v AC Milan talking points
Arsenal face AC Milan on Thursday night looking to defend their 2-0 lead and advance to the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
The Gunners welcome their Serie A opponents to the Emirates Stadium having turned their recent poor form around.
But can Arsene Wenger’s side secure safe passage into the last eight? Here, Press Association Sport looks at the main talking points ahead of the clash.
There’s no place like home
Arsenal have not won a European knockout game at the Emirates Stadium in over six years. March 6, 2012, in fact. Their opponents that night? AC Milan. Even then a 3-0 victory was not enough to see the Premier League outfit through as they had been trailing 4-0 following a thumping at San Siro. Swedish side Ostersund could not be bettered here last time out and, although a 1-0 defeat would still be enough to see Arsenal through, breaking their duck would be long overdue.
As well as a poor home record in recent years, Arsenal have failed to get past the round of 16 stage in the Champions League since 2010. This may be a different, and lesser, competition but it is another monkey which Wenger and his players can remove from their backs if they can see off Gennaro Gattuso’s Milan on Thursday night. Wenger says he does not want to compare going further in the Europa League than he has managed in the Champions League of late but the Frenchman is all-too aware he needs a strong showing this season.
Start the fans, please
Arsenal have suffered from sparse attendances at a string of home games this season – especially in the Europa League. While some stay-away supporters continue to steer clear in protest against Wenger, the number of absentees has steadily grown as apathy towards another mediocre campaign sets in. A record-low attendance for the Emirates Stadium has been recorded twice this season – against Doncaster in the Carabao Cup, then the BATE Borisov group game in the Europa League. But fans have also kept away from the last two Premier League games, against Manchester City and Watford, so it remains to be seen if there will be standing room only for what could be a defining 90 minutes in Arsenal’s season.
Danny needs to do Wel
With club-record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and fellow big-money recruit Alexandre Lacazette still nursing a knee problem, Wenger is likely to once again put his faith in England international Danny Welbeck. The former Manchester United man failed to impress when he played as a striker in both legs of the previous round against Ostersund and, despite his endeavour in Milan last time out, he has scored only once in his last 14 appearances for the Gunners. He needs to address that to give Arsenal another goal-threat and cause Milan problems as they look to put the tie to bed.
Can Gattuso ruin the party?
Milan were heavy favourites for the first leg at San Siro given Arsenal travelled to Italy on the back of four consecutive defeats and the hosts were unbeaten since December. Gattuso had taken over in late November and set out to take care of the defensive problems first, Milan going six games without conceding before Henrikh Mkhitaryan struck to give Arsenal the lead last week. Milan returned to winning ways in Serie A at the weekend, Andre Silva scoring a last-minute winner to secure a 1-0 victory at Genoa that will give Gattuso’s men a lift as they head to London looking for the kind of display required to turn the tie on its head.