The past few games have left the atmosphere surrounding Arsenal at a particularly low ebb. Losses in important matches and games that should have been wins has left an air of disappointment around the club that has been difficult to dissipate in the build-up to the first leg of the Europa League Last 16 first leg against the Rossoneri.

The Gunners were stuck in the doldrums - the last few matches have seen them fall behind irreparably in the first half, making for a torrid away record in recent times and indeed throughout the season. All of the signs were pointing to this being a tough night for Arsene Wenger and his men - perhaps even the French manager's last time on the touchline with the club if things went badly - so it is refreshing then, that his side managed to dust off the cobwebs and put an excellent performance in that seen them arise 2-0 winners on the night - with two vital away goals.

Milan have been a rejuvenated side in the past few months under manager Genarro Gattuso, and found them in good form coming into this match. They must have seen Arsenal's recent form and surely thought this was an inherently winnable game - the kind of game that could be won in the first leg - but that wasn't to be the case.

With the Europa League victory representing the final thing that could add respect to Arsenal's year, the season was well and truly on the line tonight - and the side delivered. A strong team performance seen Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey bag the goals that put there side in a great position for the return leg at the Emirates Stadium next week.

After the shock of Ostersunds at home, the back-to-back humbling at the hands of Manchester City and the desperate display in defeat at Brighton, few would have predicted Arsenal to come up with a result - and a performance - like this.

There was an early nervousness at the San Siro - understandable from a team that had lost four in a row in such an important game. While a Henrikh Mkhitaryan shot into the side netting signalled the visitors' intent to take the game to their hosts, a responding effort from the highly-rated and dangerous Patrick Cutrone was a reminder of Arsenal's frailty in defence.

Milan's hugely intimidating duo of veteran Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci and incredible prospect Gianluigi Donarumma were both caught out when David Ospina landed the ball up the field - after nearly giving a penalty away following a reckless slide towards Hakan Calhanoglu - which made its way towards the stand-out man in the Gunners previous away Europa League tie Mkhitaryan. He found himself in space, and his effort looped up and in off Bonucci, leaving the young Italian goal keeper with no chance. 1-0, a great start for Wenger's side but a long way to go.

Mkhitaryan was set up by attacking counterpart Mesut Ozil, who played the Armenian in with a lovely lofted pass, with the two having great joy playing together in Europe so far. It was the German playmaker once more who set up the second goal towards the end of the first half.

Ozil provided a perfectly weighted delivery for Ramsey, who coolly converted into the Milan goal on the stroke of half time. The Welshman made no mistake, and it was a goal that no doubt changed both managers’ team talks in a big way.

That's not to say that the second half of the game was of the utmost importance. For the first time in 5 games, Arsenal found themselves in a good position - there was still a lot to do, and letting it slip would have been devastating for the side and its supporters, but oh so typical.

Thankfully for the club, they did not buckle. Everything just clicked on the day - including out of form forward Danny Welbeck, who had his best game in ages. While the Englishman didn't get his name on the score-sheet, he had a big part to play and really rose to the challenege in the stead of the injured Alexandre Lacazette and the cup-tied Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.

He harassed the Milan defenders when they were in possession, and took the attack to them with direct runs with the ball at his feet. His fine through ball in first-half stoppage time should have been converted by Mkhitaryan, who smacked his shot against the top of the crossbar.



In the second half, the focus shifted to Arsenal's defense, which deserve respect, as they offered solidity and resilience. That was especially true in the final 15 minutes of the match. Time after time Arsenal found a way to break down the Milan attacks, coming up with six blocks in all. Only once this season in the Premier League have they produced more.

And that was that - full time, 2-0. The Gunners' last-16 first-leg victory in the San Siro meant they avoided the excruciation of a run of five straight defeats, which was last experienced all the way back in 1977.

After what he described as a nightmare week, Wenger, it was clear he was delighted with his side's performance after the game.

"When you have big disappointments you forget quickly that you have some qualities. In one week, you do not become a bad team or a bad player. Nothing is permanent in life," said the manager, taking stock.

"When you are knocked down it's a little bit like in a boxing match when you're half-knocked down you don't have time to recover and the next one comes again. That's what happened to us.

"But at some stage you know you have to respond. Your pride and desire to show quality has to come through in the game", he buoyantly said - And that it did.

Now with the confidence of a victory on board, speaking optimistically, there is the potential to build-upon the boost earned by the win in Milan and take it into the game against Watford at the weekend in the Premier League, and perhaps even more so, into the second leg to ensure there are no slip-ups.

In the previous round, the Gunners beat Ostersund 3-0 in Sweden and then lost the return fixture by a score of 2-1. There is absolutely no room for complacency at this stage of the competition, even if the first leg represents a fantastic result.