Arsenal took on AC Milan at San Siro on Thursday night in what was a crucial game for Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.
The Frenchman has been under increasing pressure following a dismal start to 2018, with the club’s supporters calling for his sacking during Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Brighton – a fourth consecutive loss.
The Europa League represents Arsenal’s last chance of silverware and securing a return to the Champions League next season, and they are on course for the quarter-finals after a 2-0 win in Italy.
Here, Press Association Sport focuses on Wenger’s impact on the last-16 first leg.
Unsurprisingly, the 68-year-old picked his strongest available side with Arsenal’s season on the line. He made three changes to the team beaten at the Amex Stadium, with Aaron Ramsey, David Ospina and Danny Welbeck coming in for Alex Iwobi, Petr Cech and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was cup-tied. Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Alexandre Lacazette were also unavailable which forced Wenger to go with an inexperienced bench.
Jack Wilshere played in a more advanced role behind Welbeck – the only senior striker available to Wenger – with Ramsey alongside Granit Xhaka in central midfield. Sead Kolasinac played at left-back and he linked up well with Henrikh Mkhitaryan as Arsenal targeted Milan’s right side. Mkhitaryan’s deflected strike – the first goal Milan had conceded in seven games – came during a positive start by Arsenal and Wenger needs credit for catching the home side’s in-form backline cold.
Wenger appeared agitated in the opening minutes as Arsenal conceded a series of corners but became more relaxed as his side began to cause Milan problems. He was more of a presence on the touchline, standing arms folded at the edge of his technical area for periods of the first half after being rooted to his seat for the match at Brighton.
Arsenal were understandably shaky early on but soon settled and went on to dominate the first half. Ramsey’s goal in the fourth minute of added time capped off a near-perfect opening 45 minutes for the Gunners. Wenger’s side were noticeably more together and played at a high intensity to keep their season alive.