Strength in depth fails Arsenal on big stage

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Perhaps lost in the smokescreen of a spirited performance in a Champions League last 16 second leg, but as Arsenal stuttered in the second period against a superbly disciplined AC Milan at The Emirates Stadium, it must have dawned on Arsene Wenger that the depth of his squad that may flourish against Carling Cup opposition doesn't have the quality required to make the next step.

Injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott left the Gunners short in midfield, but with only Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young in reserve, filling the void was a task beyond their capabilities.

Granted, neither have the attributes to replicate the performances of the substituted pair, but when it came to the crunch, they showed complacency rather than calmness and assurance on the ball to help Arsenal set up a grand stand finish

For that, Wenger must take a substantial portion of the blame. How can he profess to be fighting on four fronts, when the majority of his squad behind his first choice starting eleven is devoid of such quality?

Either the French boss is attempting to work within tight transfer restrictions, or he is simply miscalculating the ability of those in reserve. His blind faith is doing Arsenal no favours.

A number of injuries, eight in total, to Wenger's first team squad did contribute to the problems they encountered in the twilight of the second leg. However, when a greater amount of players were available to him in the first leg at San Siro, again they let him down.

That evening saw a number of players floored in the Italian night. Aaron Ramsey overawed, Alex Song overrun and Mikel Arteta overwhelmed. Tuesday evening's 3-0 win has earned Arsenal a reprieve in some quarters, but frankly it papers over the cracks.

In all honesty It would have been a travesty had Arsenal gone through over a dominant Milan. At home they strolled, and on the road, bar the three goals, they were largely untroubled by their north London opponents. For a team not bathed in the same experience like teams of yesteryear, they showed a pair of performances befitting of their illustrious name.

Arsenal did themselves no discredit either, but it appears to have passed many by that this is a results business. For all their resilience, they won't take their place in the quarter-finals. If Wenger continues to take a naive stance over his squad's progression, spirit might be all they have.

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