That is Arsenal out then was the response when the little bit of paper was opened up shortly after 12-noon showing that Arsenal were to play AC Milan in the next round of the Europa League.
AC Milan, one of the big boys of Europe. A name up there with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Juventus. 7 times Champions League winners, 18 times Serie A winners. They are one of the big boys that we were told we would be competing with when moving to the Emirates.
There is no arguing that AC Milan are one of the biggest names in world football. But a bit like Liverpool, this is based on the past. In the present, they are actually a fairly average team. One that Arsenal should not fear.
Despite having spent nearly €200m this season on new players, AC Milan sit 7th in Serie A, 25 points behind leaders Napoli.
In the league, they are in a similar position as Arsenal, although an argument could be made that the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs are strong than the likes of Sampdoria, Roma, Lazio and Napoli.
Napoli are out of the Europa League, and Juventus and Roma are both behind in their ties. The Italian league is certainly not what it used to be back when Football Italia was on Channel 4.
AC Milan do not score enough goals, and concede too many. In 25 games this season, they have scored just 35 goals, and conceded 30. Arsenal have scored 16 more goals in just 2 games more.
Under former Glasgow Rangers midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, their form has got better, unbeaten in 7 games in the league, but they are still not very good.
In the last round of the Europa League, they played Ludogorets Razgrad. Having won the first leg 3-0 away, they limped home in the second leg 1-0 (yes, we lost). This a Ludogorets team that Arsenal put 6 past in last years Champions League.
Sticking in most Arsenal fans mind is the 4-0 defeat at the San Siro in 2012. At the time, it was Arsenal’s heaviest in European competition, and the first time in 222 European games (excluding qualifiers) that Arsenal had lost by 4 or more goals. This has obviously happened a couple of times since.
The AC Milan side that day contained the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Thiago Silva, Robinho, Clarence Seedorf, Mark van Bommel, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Philippe Mexès,
Ibrahimovic and Robinho, then compare it to their current forward line.
Despite spending so much in the summer, their two main strikers are Liverpool flop Suso and Fabio Borini, formally of Sunderland. No wonder they have not scored many goals.
The game is an ideal match up for Arsenal.
The big name of AC Milan should be enough for Arsene Wenger to take the game seriously and put out his strongest XI. The players should also be able to get motivated without much help.
Often the dangers in the Europa League are the lesser names who are up and coming, your Sevilla’s or Atletico Madrid’s of this world. Teams who are on an upwards trajectory. The best teams to often play are the big names who’s management, players and fans think the Europa League is below them.
AC Milan certainly fall into that category.
So the draw has not been unkind to Arsenal. It is not a trip to a dangerous lesser team, or to the cold winds of Russia.
And as a final thought, I imagine there is an AC Milan blogger who has written the exact same article as this, only detailing how Arsenal were not the team that we once were. How Arsenal are a team on the slide, who think the Europa League is something to not be taken seriously.
Play the strongest XI, we win.