Football

Fabregas repeat unlikely against new look AC Milan

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Fabregas opened the scoring in Milan four years ago. (©GettyImages)
Fabregas opened the scoring in Milan four years ago. (©GettyImages).

Arsenal's victory against AC Milan in the San Siro almost four years ago was one of the most iconic of Arsene Wenger's 15-year reign in charge of the north London club.

A long range strike from Cesc Fabregas and last minute goal from Emmanuel Adebayor ensured the Gunners progressed to the last eight of the Champions League, and defeated a team littered with Milanese stars.

But what are the chances of a repeat performance by Arsenal in Milan on Wednesday evening? GMF takes a closer look at the teams of four years ago and their current reincarnations...

Goalkeepers

2008: Zeljko Kalac (Milan) v Manuel Almunia (Arsenal)

Brazil international Dida was Carlo Ancelotti's first-choice goalkeeper when Milan hosted Arsenal in 2008, but was forced to employ the services of Zeljko Kalac in his stead.

For Arsenal, Manuel Almunia was enjoying an impressive season in goal and, when the two sides met, the Gunners could boast the best custodian on display.

This became clear when the Gunners took the lead, with Kalac failing to deal with a speculative Cesc Fabregas shot from distance, which gave the visitors the lead.

Winner: Arsenal

2012: Christian Abbiati v Wojciech Szczesny

Christian Abbiati can boast ten clean sheets in 22 appearances for the Serie A leaders this season, and has established himself as Milan's No.1 after Dida left the club in the summer of 2010.

However, the Italian shot-stopper's direct rival in the last 16 of the Champions League is arguably one of the world's finest young goalkeepers in Wojciech Szczesny.

Despite a season of defensive inconsistencies from Arsenal, Szczesny continues to impress and is likely to remain No.1 at the Emirates Stadium for many years to come.

Winner: Arsenal

Defenders

2008: Paulo Maldini, Kakha Kaladze, Alessandro Nesta, Massimo Oddo v Gael Clichy, Phillipe Senderos, William Gallas, Bacary Sagna

Although Arsenal triumphed in the previous San Siro meeting between the two, Milan could boast a defensive unit far superior pedigree.

With Milan stalwarts Paulo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta as part of the back four, the Rossoneri had two of the finest defenders on display that Italy had ever produced.

Arsenal, meanwhile, had to call upon the services of much-maligned Phillpe Senderos to partner captain William Gallas in central defence.

Winner: Milan

2012: Djamel Mesbah, Thiago Silva, Phillpe Mexes, Ignazio Abate v Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna

Bacary Sagna is the only defender on display this evening who also featured in the previous encounter between the two sides.

The Frenchman does, however, form part of a defensive unit that has been dogged by injuries this season, with himself, Kieran Gibbs and Thomas Vermaelen all returning to the fold in recent weeks.

Arsene Wenger would consider tonight's four to be his first-choice defence, but they will be compared against a settled Milan unit that have conceded only eight goals this year.

Winner: Milan

Midfielders

2008: Massimo Ambrosini, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Alexandre Pato, Kaka v Abou Diaby, Cesc Fabregas, Matthieu Flamini, Emmanuel Eboue, Alex Hleb

Carlo Ancelotti's midfield at that time was one of the most iconic in recent years for Milan, with each player - bar Pato - featuring prominently when the Italian giants won the Champions League the previous season.

Arsenal, meanwhile, for all their inexperience possessed a group of midfielders far more dynamic and with a greater work ethic than their Milanese counterparts.

Over the course of the season, Matthieu Flamini and Cesc Fabregas had struck up a partnership to rival any in Europe at that time and travelled to the San Siro brimming with confidence.

Winner: Arsenal

2012: Massimo Ambrosini, Mark van Bommel, Antonio Nocerino, Kevin Prince-Boateng, Robinho v Aaron Ramsey, Alex Song, Mikel Arteta, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Both sides are likely to operate with three central midfielders this evening, while two more attack-minded players support the main striker.

There is very little to choose between the midfields of both Milan and Arsenal, with each possessing an ideal blend of players with a guile, craft and defensive endeavour.

Arsenal, though, have still not found a settled formula in midfield this season, and the experienced heads of Massimo Ambrosini and Mark van Bommel could win the battle for Milan.

Winner: Milan

Strikers

2008: Pippo Inzaghi v Emmanuel Adebayor

Pippo Inzaghi appeared to be reaching the end of his career when Milan and Arsenal met in 2008 yet, somehow, he is still plying his trade at the San Siro.

Even at the age of 34, the 2007/08 season transpired to be Inzaghi's second most prolific during a decade playing for Milan.

Emmanuel Adebayor, however, was at the height of his powers this time for years ago, and already had 22 goals for the season to his name when Arsenal travelled to Italy.

Winner: Arsenal

2012: Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Robin van Persie

Somewhat of an enigma to English fans, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has rarely failed to impress when facing a side from the Premier League, despite regularly exceptional domestic form.

The Swede is, once again, proving he is a goalscorer of some repute, and has netted an impressive 19 goals in 24 appearances this term.

Ibrahimovic is, however, up against quite possibly the finest striker in the world at the moment, and Robin van Persie can already boast 32 strikes this season for club and country. There is only one winner here.

Winner: Arsenal

Verdict

A vibrant Arsenal side impressively dispatched of ageing Milan in 2008, but will face a tougher prospect this evening.

And, when compared to Massimiliano Allegri's dynamic league leaders, Arsene Wenger's inconsistent and relatively inexperienced side are likely to come out second best.

Topics:
Arsenal
Football
UEFA Champions League
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