Europa League • Arsenal 3, Milan 1: Dignity

After slinking away from the San Siro last week having played a poor game and conceding two goals, it was good to leave Emirates stadium with our heads held high, despite being knocked out of the Europa League. How does a team leave a two-leg tie with their heads held high despite losing 5-1 on aggregate? Why don’t you ask Danny Welbeck. Or Jonas Eriksson, for that matter. But then again, neither of them seem to know anything about dignity.

"I could be in the Champions League Quarterfinals facing Real Madrid..."

Let me first be clear that I am not one of those people who believes that we might have gone through without the comedic stylings of Mr. Eriksson. We were already two goals down, and if our mentality wasn’t even strong enough to endure some creative refereeing, it certainly wasn’t strong enough to keep Arsenal off the board legally and score two more goals. Certainly, Arsenal didn’t need any help from the referee, but I guess Mr. Eriksson didn’t get that memo.

There were a number of egregious errors in reffing, the most egregious was obviously giving Arsenal a penalty in the 39th. It seems that Welbeck was so astounded by Rodriguez’s beauty, he couldn’t even stay on his feet. Ironic, too, that Silva was not given a penalty despite non-imaginary contact in the box in the 58th, and then Suso was booked for diving just three minutes later, again with the non-imaginary kind of contact. There were questions about am Arsenal handball in the box in the 40th minute, but at least the criteria of intent is a subjective call. I don’t like to complain too much about referees, but what did Milan ever do to Eriksson?

"How many fingers am I holding up, ref?"

Calhanoglu almost singlehandedly gave us our dignity back in the 35th with a screamer of a goal from distance, it was amazing. 1-0 Milan. Eriksson’s Welbeck’s penalty in the 39th tied the game up. 1-1 all. From there, Milan lost some mentality, which is unfortunate, but is also on us. Experience teaches players to not get mad, rather get even when injustice is served. And while we continued to fight, we were also clearly upset about the incident.

Montolivo aside, the team fought well and Gattuso’s subs were well timed and well chosen. The much maligned Kalinic came on and his first touch of the ball was a header on goal which Ospina saved. Borini played much better in his new right back role, even if we still desperately miss Conti. And Abate. And Calabria. Our mentality was worn down so much that by the 71st, it even impacted Gigio. After a number of great saves throughout the match, Xhaka’s shot from distance took a nasty bounce, and though Gigio parried it, the ball instead bounced and deflected into the net. 2-1 Arsenal. In the 86th, it was Gigio again the hero, parried a shot away point blank, only to have Welbeck come in and poach the rebound to make it 3-1 Arsenal.

Quality and dignity

If you listen to the podcast or read every post, you’ll know I never wanted the Europa League this year. So I am relieved that we are finally only in two competitions. The timing is great to be able to have fewer injuries, less exhaustion, and more focus on aiming for the fourth spot in Serie A. After hosting Arsenal last week at the San Siro, I was worried we would leave Emirates stadium as a sad football meme, with more people talking once again about how far Milan have fallen from glory. But Welbeck took care of the sad meme part, with an assist from Arsenal’s latest signing, Jonas Eriksson. Too bad for the rest of their team, they played well to end a slump in form and move on to the next round. And Milan didn't do enough without all of the controversy. So all anyone is talking about is THE DIVE. Which is fine by me. Milan fought to the end playing against all odds, and Calhanoglu’s goal alone showed we have quality again. That was more than enough for me. Maybe we exited the Europa League before some people wanted to, but at least we left with our dignity.

This post inspired by the music of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)”

Our next match is
Serie A Week 29
Milan vs. Chievo
Sunday, March 18 • 15:00 CET (10am EDT)

Europa League • Arsenal 3, Milan 1: Dignity Europa League • Arsenal 3, Milan 1: Dignity Reviewed by Elaine on 9:51 AM Rating: 5
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