Former Arsenal boss: Players have to believe in Milan miracle

11:18 05 March 2012

AC Milan

AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates the fourth goal in the first leg as Arsenal's players stand dejected


Can Gunners overturn four-goal first-leg deficit? They have to think they can, says Terry Neill

Former Arsenal manager Terry Neill is hoping Arsenal’s resurgent Premier League form can give them hope of springing one of the biggest upsets in European football history on Tuesday night.

Neill was left speechless as Arsene Wenger’s side recovered from going a goal behind to win at Anfield on Saturday, following hard on the heels of the miraculous 5-2 north London derby win over Spurs.

That made it 12 goals in their previous two home outings – following the 7-1 rout of Blackburn Rovers – and the 71-year-old believes Arsenal’s old passing game has finally returned on the lush Emirates surface.

Next up in N5 are mighty AC Milan, the seven-times Champions League winners who are 4-0 up from the first leg of the last 16 clash. But miracles do happen, says Neill.

“Before the game in Milan I was actually very confident that Arsenal could beat them over two legs,” said Neill.

“It is a massive mountain to climb, but you have got to believe otherwise you may as well pack up and go home. If you don’t believe you can’t do anything.”

Belief seems to have returned with those back-to-back league successes that have put Wenger’s side within touching distance of Spurs who are just four points ahead now in third place. Now Neill says they are capable of unsettling Milan with a similar display.

“If that performance against Spurs doesn’t give them confidence and belief I don’t know what will,” adds Neill, who spent a decade at Highbury as a player before returning as manager – via Tottenham – in the summer of 1976.

“It is now up to Arsene Wenger, Pat Rice, Boro Primorac and Robin van Persie to try and convince the players they can run Milan close. The Italians will have watched the north London derby and been impressed, believe me.

“I don’t expect Milan to come to north London and attack. They’ll sit back whatever the result from the first leg. But I also don’t think Arsenal should go gung ho. We can have possession, get our passing game going, and take it from there.”

But with the pursuit of a top four place taking precedence over a virtually impossible Champions League dream, would Neill forsake some of his better players with important league games coming up over the next few weeks?

“No, absolutely not. I would play my absolute strongest XI on Tuesday without a shadow of a doubt,” he says. “You have got to keep the faith and give yourself the best possible chance. Even if they don’t go through they can still win – and win well – and put on a great performance for the fans.

“The pressure is off them because few would expect them to overturn a four goal deficit.”

One Italian newspaper described Arsenal as “unwatchable” in that first leg, while many reports described it as a “massacre”.

Wenger admitted he would never forget the humiliation at the final whistle and reportedly tore into his team at London Colney the next day.

Neill, 71, hopes those who played at San Siro will be stung into action in the second leg.

“You always want to atone for your errors. I think that is, generally, a basic human reaction. I hope those players remember what happened out there and want to make up for it,” adds Neill.

“I’d even like to think Rob the Arsenal chef would want to run out on that pitch in his whites and have a go. This is a time for everybody at the club to show some fight and go for it... if they give their best, who knows?”


Back in 2004, holders Milan looked all but assured of their place in the Champions League semi-finals after humbling Spain’s Deportivo La Coruna 4-1 in the first leg at San Siro.

However, in the second leg they went 3-0 down at half-time in Spain, and conceded a fourth goal in the second half to crash out 5-4 on aggregate. Miracles do happen.


Latest Sport Stories

Yesterday, 11:56
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho

Former Tottenham and Chelsea midfielder Micky Hazard says Blues manager Jose Mourinho has lacked dignity this season and believes the Portuguese could benefit from showing greater humility.

Yesterday, 10:51
Arsenal fans show their colours and support in the stands. Picture: Nick Potts/PA

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti suggests the sanctity of match-going is being replaced by passionate fan communities online.

Thu, 20:00
Mauricio Pochettino (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Harry Kane fired Tottenham into the knockout stages of the Europa League as they finally overcame stubborn Group J minnows Qarabag 1-0 in Baku.

Thu, 19:50
Maksim Medvedev of Qarabag challenged by Christian Eriksen  (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Spurs beat Qarabag 1-0 to qualify for the Europa League last 16 in Azerbaijan, here’s how we rated the players.

Thu, 18:36
Surrey winners of the Division 2 LV County Championship  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

English cricket will break with tradition in 2016 after the England and Wales Cricket Board announced a new rule which will see the forsaking of the toss.

Thu, 12:24
Haringey Borough manager Tom Loizou. Pic: Tony Gay

Jerome Martelli struck the decisive goal as Haringey Borough earned a crucial home win in Saturday’s basement battle against Heybridge and climbed out of the relegation zone in Ryman League Division One North.

Thu, 12:05
Andreas Sotiri scored a try in his first game for Haringey Rhinos. Pic: Tony Gay

Andreas Sotiri scored a try on his debut for Haringey Rhinos’ Under-14s as a side featuring a number of young players put in an encouraging performance, despite their defeat to Chingford.

Thu, 11:56
Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino

Baku, Azerbaijan. The Spurs squad are halfway through a 5,000-mile round trip and face FK Qarabag this evening just 64 hours prior to another London derby - Chelsea are the visitors for a midday kick-off on Sunday at White Hart Lane.

Most read sport

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


MAC Makeup

MAC are renowned for their flawless, fabulous make up that is used worldwide by the stars. You too can have the chance to have the perfect makeup to suit your needs with £1,000 to spend on all the glam goodies you like!


You are never far from an Argos, wherever in the country you may be. They are like a magical cavern where whatever you need they seem to have it out the back behind the counter. So why not put them to the test with this great MyOffers competition to win £1000 to spend in-store.

Digital Edition

Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder