Arsenal did what needed to be done on Thursday night when they took a 2-0 lead into the second leg of their Europa League tie against AC Milan.
The home fans were panicking early on when Hakan Çalhanoğlu sent a rocket into David Ospina’s net, prompting worries that it could be one of those nights for Arsène Wenger and his side.
However, moments later, Danny Welbeck salvaged some fighting spirit, earning his side a tension reliving penalty, albeit probably via a dive from the accounts of most.
After the equaliser, and the restoration of Arsenal’s two goal cushion, the Gunners found their stride and knocked a few more into the AC Milan net as a result of the Italian side’s need to play more risky football.
Here’s a look at some things we learnt from the match…
1. Arsenal Really Have Given Up on the Premier League
We already had an inkling that Arsenal have been focusing on the Europa League at the expense of the Premier League, as a top four finish is extremely unlikely now – but yesterday’s performance gave us even more proof that this was the case.
We have become accustomed to half-hearted Premier League performances from the Gunners over recent weeks, coupled with half empty stadiums.
Last night was nothing of the sort. A packed Emirates stadium symbolised the direction the club has taken itself and will continue to take itself as long as the Europa League remains on the cards.
The performance wasn’t too bad either.
2. Danny Welbeck Has Been Practising Some Things
After Arsène Wenger claimed English players are the new ‘masters of diving’, it would appear Welbeck has taken this claim as some sort of call to arms.
The out of favour striker gracefully hit the deck after Ricardo Rodríguez looked to brush him with his arm in what must be up there with one of the softest penalties ever given.
Regardless of the feather-like touch from the Swiss international, Welbeck looked as if he had been hit by a wrecking ball, so how could the ref not give the spot kick ?
3. Despite its Flaws, VAR Calls Continue to Grow
AC Milan fans would have been wishing the now infamous VAR system would have been set into use for this years Europa League after the Welbeck penalty incident.
When you have the referee in a great position, plus a goal line official standing thee yards from the incident, and yet still the wrong decision is made, there’s really only one way to turn. BOW TO THE ROBOTS.
4. Arsène Wenger Lives to Fight Another Day
While going out to AC Milan after securing a two goal lead would surely have resulted in a curtain call for Wenger, it is now clear that nothing of the sort will happen just yet.
The performance displayed by the home side expressed style, determination and above all a fighting spirit that wasn’t going to let anything stop them progressing to the next round.
Whilst the team may not be playing for Wenger in the league, Wenger himself may not be playing for his team, with everything focused on winning the Europa League and getting back into the Champions League.