By Richard Clarke
Arsenal may never have beaten Milan but the memories of an outstanding win at the San Siro can spur them on tonight, according to Arsène Wenger.
In November 2003, the Frenchman took his side to Italy to take on Inter. They had been hammered 3-0 by the same side at Highbury in the opening group game and qualification hung in the balance. Patrick Vieira was absent so Edu and Ray Parlour filled the midfield roles. Pascal Cygan was paired with Sol Campbell in central defence with Kolo Toure employed as a makeshift right back.
Thierry Henry put them ahead but Christian Vieri quickly equalised. Freddie Ljungberg restored the advantage just after the interval then Henry, Edu and Robert Pires added goals in the final five minutes to complete a famous victory. Only the 1-0 wins at Juventus in 1980 and Real Madrid in 2006 can really rival that night as Arsenal's best away win in Europe. Wenger intends to use it as his template against Milan this evening.
"It is a big inspiration," he said at his pre-match press conference at the San Siro.
"We came here in a desperate situation and had to make a big score - and we made it. I believe we are highly focused again for this game and the team spirit is very high. We are confident and up for it."
Perhaps they should be because although Milan have never lost to English opposition in the San Siro, Arsenal have won all four of their European knockout ties against Italian opposition.
"I do not prefer to play Italian sides more than others," remarked Wenger. "At the time we were playing Italian teams, we also had a good team. That explains the results more than the nationality."Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 4 Mar 2008