Wenger's dream left in tatters by Milan

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Milan 4 Arsenal 0

San Siro

There have been some indignities visited upon Arsene Wenger this season, not least those eight goals conceded at Old Trafford, but being annihilated by Milan at the San Siro last night will rank right up there when they come to tell the gloomy story of Arsenal’s year of pain.

If winning the Champions League looked a distant prospect at the start of the week, the possibility seems laughable now or, in Wenger's own words, the hope of someone living in a "dream world". More pertinently, Arsenal face Sunderland in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday with the sobering reality that it is their last realistic chance of a first trophy since 2005.

The last two seasons they have been eliminated from the Champions League by Barcelona, and no shame in that, but last night they were taken to pieces by a Milan team that is at best average. Arsenal may currently be up to fourth place in the Premier League but given their unpredictability this could be the last we see of them away from home in Europe's premier competition for some time.

It was Thierry Henry's last game on loan and, as a second half substitute, there must have been times when he wished he was back in his Manhattan apartment rather than part of this humiliation. He left the pitch with his arm around the shoulders of his old Barcelona team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic who was, by some distance, the game's most influential player.

Milan's Mr Tempestuous finally had the game against English opposition that his reputation has long demanded. Granted it was a dreadful Arsenal team that he bullied last night but all the same Ibrahimovic created two goals and scored another from the spot.

Just to add to the pain, Manchester City's feckless former Brazilian Robinho scored two. The former Tottenham midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng got the first. Milan could scarcely believe their luck as they pushed again and again at the Arsenal defence and found the door open. If anything the home team should have scored more.

When Wenger comes out after the match and describes his own team's performance as "disastrous" it is evident that Arsenal have a serious problem. "Any hope for the return leg? Let's be realistic, we don't play in dream world," he said in the aftermath. "Realistically we will be out."

Ouch. When even Arsenal's hopeless romantic has given up the ghost there is precious little room for optimism from anyone else. "Shocking" was Wenger's description of his team on a night when he seemed to have little objection to hanging out his players to dry.

Via his Twitter account, Patrick Vieira, captain in the days when Arsenal were still good, said that the team had "a lack of leadership". Later he said: "You cannot only blame Arsène, the players must take some responsibility." He has a point.

The pity for Wenger is that he and this squad of players are locked in a deadly embrace, tumbling downwards and taking one another's reputation with them. Last night his patience was clearly stretched to the limit. Part of him could not believe the shambles that had unfolded and part of him was the same old Wenger, fighting the urge to put a protective arm around the team.

Arsenal did not deserve their manager's excuses this time and he did not try to give them. Indeed, having been offered the chance to blame the dreadful San Siro pitch he refused. The playing surface, with two crumbly tracts along the flanks, was not nearly as damaging to Arsenal's first-half performance as their own sloppiness.

When Arsenal won here in 2008, they held out until the last ten minutes and then hit Milan on the counter-attack. By half-time last night they were clinging on and re-arranging their defence with Laurent Koscielny off with a knee problem and Johan Djourou on in his place. By then the damage was done. Milan had been forced to bring Clarence Seedorf off with injury after 12 minutes, but the Italian champions had barely broken stride. The game was under their control and Ibrahimovic was pulling the strings.

The first goal came on 15 minutes when Arsenal gave the ball away too easily in their own half and Milan's left-sided midfielder Antonio Nocerino had the time to chip the ball over the away team's defence. Boateng had lots of space to steady himself but the half-volley he struck was excellent.

To make matters worse for Arsenal, Thomas Vermaelen was having a dreadful night. His poor decision-making almost allowed Ibrahimovic in on 23 minutes. Later he gave the ball away to Robinho and allowed him a run at goal.

The Brazilian striker scored the second. It was created by Ibrahimovic, who was played in down the left wing by Urby Emanuelson. Bacary Sagna was out of position in the first place and he compounded that error by stopping because he thought the Milan player was offside. By the time Sagna recovered, Ibrahimovic was away and clipped the ball back for Robinho to head in.

Wenger replaced the ineffective Theo Walcott with Henry at the break. The one thing Arsenal could not afford to do was concede again early on. They did so within five minutes. Ibrahimovic flicked the ball to Robinho on the edge of the area and the calamitous Vermaelen fell over, giving the Brazilian the space to beat Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal's best chance was a flick-on by Henry from Alex Song's cross from the right that Van Persie hit. Called into action for the first time, Christian Abbiati made a good save.

Ibrahimovic drew Djourou in for a clumsy foul on 78 minutes for the penalty and dispatched it sweetly. It was no less than he deserved. It was no less than Arsenal deserved.

Man of the match Ibrahimovic.

Match rating 7/10.

Referee V Kassai (Hun).

Attendance 68,257.

Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence