Alright, so after the Man Utd game yesterday, as a glutton for punishment I watched the Arsenal game on video (Arsenal's E-Cup run 2 years ago had some BRILLIANT matches in it, so I wanted to see it) and here's what I thunk:
Kaka aside, Milan have got nothing. Gattuso and Ambrosini are average defensive midfielders; Pirlo is a nice passer but slow and lightweight and easy to stop; Inzaghi is Inzaghi; Pato might be a real threat in 2 years but isn't really now. The only half-chances they made came from near-post corners and the odd speculative 25-yarder from Pato when he bought himself some space. Arsenal had better athletes in every department, quicker and stronger and more energetic all over the pitch. Even Flamini, who is bascially in for his defensive ability, showed up Milan with his touch and vision. So Milan had hardly any of the ball, Fabregas ran the game, slapped the ball around and fashioned some lovely interplay with Hleb. And this was an Arsenal side with Eboue and Diaby wide, neither a natural attacking ball-player - Rosicky is out. Diaby gave little going forward, and was completely anonymous in the 2nd half. So I suspect that Walcott is going to get that slot (or the one up front with Adebayor) soon - he was just amazing fun to watch when he came on (to the extent that as a viewer I kept hoping he'd have a one-on-one over 40 yards all the time). Besides turning on the jets to make the second goal two bits of closing down were phenomenal - one on Maldini and one on Kaka, and he won the ball both times. I think the absolute worst-case-scenario for him is as a kind of deluxe Overmars (just pushing it down the line and sprinting), but he's so much better than that. In the next six months I predict he will make a massive leap forward.
Adebayor is one player who's improved significantly in the last year, and though he still makes poor decisions or doesn't read passes or wangs stuff over the bar Milan just couldn't cope with him physically. He was quicker AND stronger than every single member of their defence.
Arsenal's defending was really very impressive given that Kaka was playing - they didn't man mark him, instead just taking him with whoever was closest, and everybody did their job, with Clichy and Sagna both excellent. Arsenal's capacity for focused, intensely disciplined performances is exceptional (Liverpool are also good at this, and it's what Chelsea are losing), and I'd back them against any continental side now.
- I genuinely think that if the World Cup was played in cold weather (instead of the often-roasting temperatures that favour South American teams) England's chances of winning it would increase hugely, because Premiership players are used to the sort of intense, immensely effective, pressing game that Arsenal and United both won with this week.