Arsene Wenger has “got his trousers back on again”, says former defender Martin Keown, with Arsenal offering the perfect response to their critics against AC Milan.
The Gunners, and their under-fire manager in particular, had faced plenty of uncomfortable questions on the back of four successive defeats which threatened to undermine their season.
With the Carabao Cup surrendered in timid fashion against Manchester City, the FA Cup exited at the hands of Nottingham Forest and costly defeats in the Premier League leading to an admission of defeat in a top-four battle, the Europa League is all Arsenal have left.
They appeared to be aware of that fact in the first leg of a last-16 showdown with Milan, as Mesut Ozil helped to inspire an impressive 2-0 victory at the San Siro.
Wenger, who had used an odd “naked” analogy to explain his struggles in the wake of a demoralising defeat at Brighton, had his mojo back in Italy, with Keown prepared to accept that the Gunners looked more like a side prepared to fight for a collective cause.
The former defender, who has been outspoken in his views of late, told BT Sport: “I’m tempted to say he’s got his trousers back on again.
“They managed the game well in the second half and AC Milan were poor, they offered nothing and [Gennaro] Gattuso will be disappointed. [Arsenal] played with expression and the confidence was back in the team.
“They picked themselves off the canvas there is no doubt about that because they were in somewhat of a hole coming into this. Everyone was talking about not if, but when, Arsene Wenger was going to walk away from this job and this is the first step back.
“They were competitive; they were more like street fighters. It’s almost as if people have been able to walk all over them but not tonight.
“But we can’t be sure what we are going to see next. We need consistency from Arsenal Football Club but it’s a really good night for Wenger and he can enjoy that journey home.”
The Gunners will get the opportunity to build some momentum and prove that they can be consistent when they welcome Watford to Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
They will then take in the second leg of continental clash with Milan hoping to book their place in the quarter-finals and remain on course for major silverware and Champions League qualification.