STONE COLD FRIDAY: From Russia With Arsenal Drama

At one point during the first half, I fell asleep thinking of Daniela Bianchi. The spectacular image of her Bond Girl character Tatiana Romanova being caressed and loved up by Sean Connery had to be better than whatever Arsenal were serving up at the Veb Arena. At least old Sean came back from Russia with love.

What of Arsenal? What is it about our ability to induce stress to an already traumatized Gooniverse. I mean, after Tuesday night’s heroics by Roma to hand Barcelona a new backside, did the Arsenal players even need a team talk? All they had to do was be professional, keep the Muscovites out for as long as possible, and maybe nick a goal for good measure.

But no, Arsenal just had to be Arsenal. My mind was rudely yanked from the gutter, images of Bianchi’s curvaceous figure saturating my head. What on earth our defence was doing giving Konstantin Kuchaevhad the freedom of the park on our right, I have no idea.

Both Monreal and Mustafi must have been with me in the gutter to even let Nababkin tower over the Spaniard and head the ball. Cech did his job, and you would think Mustafi would anticipate any CSKA predator. Hell, why not give Chalov a two-yard tap in.

What Was That You Said About Groundhog Day?

You knew what was coming. As if it wasn’t bad enough that we didn’t have a single shot on target in the first half, your mind was adjusting. You’re thinking, “where’s that damn sofa, I may need to hide behind it shortly”. Clearly, the Russians had the bit in between their teeth with Roma’s determination not to give up against Barca fresh in the minds of the CSKA players.

The Muscovite cat had most definitely been thrown amongst the Arsenal pigeons. The Gunners were still asleep wondering what on earth to do next when Kristijan Bistrovic’s rising first-time shot flashed past Petr Cech’s upright.

The script was written. Still can’t figure out what transpires in Arsenal dressing rooms at half-time, because we just love coming back to a mediocre and slow second half start. That young man Aleksandr Golovin again. You do remember his free-kick at the Emirates, right? Ramsey was poor, giving the ball away cheaply and two passes later Petr Cech was doing his Keystone Cops imitation with a 30-yard strike you’d expect him to comfortably deal with.

How on earth Golovin had a chance to shoot from that far out baffles me, and yet again, Nababkin must have thought Christmas came early, thanking Cech for a generous assist. You’re thinking, “I best move the sofa away from the wall an create some space to hide behind”.

Of Squeaky Bums and Hopes That Kill

I Can’t remember the last time Arsenal used 5 defenders and a defensively minded midfielder in Mo Elneny. Your screaming at the screen. “Go on and score you bastards, you’re playing away from home. Away goals count”. Our wheels tend to fall off when we park the bus, it’s just not in Arsenal’s DNA.

Another free kick from Golovin moves you closer to the sofa. It’s 25 minutes of more agony, the headlines and footballing eulogies for Wenger already being written. Surely, it was only a matter of time before CSKA complete the humiliation.

I got the sense Mo Elneny was on a mission to redeem himself from the red card he got against Southampton. Clearly, he took matters into his own hands, pulling the Gunners by the scruff of the neck. Haven’t we always wanted someone to do that?

Elneny had already been correctly denied a goal, Lacazette more offside than the Egyptian, but I liked his tenacity to do his part to redeem Arsenal. Excellent link-up play with Welbeck, a give and go from the Egyptian and Danny could smell the blood.

Sanity restored, though you did think “please, don’t have a howler like you had on Sunday from two yards out”. Elneny wasn’t done with playing his Ozil-esque role, sliding in Ramsey to break the Muscovites hearts in the dying seconds with the equalizer.

History is the story of things that happened long ago

And when it is written, it will say that Arsenal were in the semi-final of a European cup after a 9-year absence. Few will remember the lacklustre and abject performance last night, hopefully just a temporary state of insanity on the part of the Gunners. We get to know soon enough which of Marseille, Atletico or Salzburg we play. My heart tells me give us Atletico so we don’t sleep on the job, my head tells me, give us Salzburg. It’ll be nice to have a chance to get to a European final.

Mind you, do you remember those small town minnows from the middle of Sweden? The folks who beat us at the Emirates? It’s the semi-final. It doesn’t matter who we get. It matters that we don’t fall asleep on the job. 3 cup-finals to a European cup and the Champions League.

Surely we can, right? Just 3 mind-blowing games that will set us forth for the next season; that will give us bragging rights for the summer.

I know there’s folks who thumb their noses at the second rate European trophy. But hell, we can smell it. This is the Arsenal and we want trophies – well, at least it’s the Arsenal when we actually turn up.

And therein lies the big question: will we?

Have a great weekend good people.

68 thoughts on “STONE COLD FRIDAY: From Russia With Arsenal Drama

  1. I wish it would be Marseille in the finals Delano. But how did you arrive at that permutation ? clairvoyant dreams ?

  2. A 4-1 home win and a 2-2 draw away and still there is hyper-criticism, Yogi.
    Enjoy the success and the fact that we have reached the semis.
    Going into the return leg 4-1 up, you could perhaps excuse an attitude of complacency.
    Remember that a team will only play as well as its opponents will allow. 😉

  3. Have to hand it to Elneny & Welbeck who dragged Arsenal through the mess last night. The rest of them were half asleep. Had the KGB nobbled them with Novichok pizza?

    Cech, Bellerin, Wilshere, Ozil & Lacazette should be ashamed of their performances last night.

  4. So we’re just meant to sit back let things work their own way out? I presume Churchill didn’t float your boat, Nicky?

    nicky:
    A 4-1 home win and a 2-2 draw away and still there is hyper-criticism, Yogi.
    Enjoy the success and the fact that we have reached the semis.
    Going into the return leg 4-1 up, you could perhaps excuse an attitude of complacency.
    Remember that a team will only play as well as its opponents will allow.

  5. Morning All
    Good write up, you summed up my emotions nicely.
    It’s odd how Elmeny divides opinion, I see him as a decent, hard working player, who never seems to stop, running hard even in the 85 minute. He always seems to get into a position to receive and circulate the ball, and has a good pass. I have no trouble believing with good coaching he could prove that £5m wasn’t wasted. OK, he may not be top top qualidee but the best we have for now. And of course great hair. What’s not to like?

  6. Marseille in semi with Madrid in the final…Costa scoring in last 10 mins to win it….Wenger getting new contract….and we all live happily ever after.

  7. On the plus side we either get to the final and have a great chance to win a rare European trophy OR we don’t and Wenger doesn’t get another excuse to save his ass. Tough choice. Short term glory or longer term improvement in AFC’s prospects.

  8. Phil,

    I tend to agree. Business end of a European Cup. You’ve got to beat a couple of teams with a bit about them to get your hands on the tin pot at some point.

  9. Athletico it is.

    Honestly, I know people will be all gloom and doom but Sporting had some really good chances and some spectacular Welbeck missing a sitter type misses. I actually think over two legs we have as good a chance as they do especially if Welbeck can continue at the very least putting himself about and yea Lacazette didn’t score but I fancy him to find form.

  10. I think we have more chance over a two-legged affair but if we’re honest, anything less than a 2 – 0 lead will make the second leg difficult.

  11. Good stuff Yogi and spot on about Elneny.

    Its such a shame that probably 80% of Gooners look at Elneny and look at what we paid for him and that most say his greatest strength is passing and have a preconceived notion and won’t open their eyes and actually watch him. What do you want from your modern DM: sits and shields the back 4, recovers and recycles, always available to keep the ball moving and rarely losing possession and is efficient and effective with a great engine…yup its what I want and sure he isn’t world class but we don’t need world class, we need consistent and do your job with the odd bit of brilliance in the attacking third should you find yourself there. Well done Elneny, long may it continue.

    Full credit to the boys too because we have seen this Arsenal side and over the past couple of days, the big sides in Europe absolutely crumble and yet our boys found a way. 100% agree Yogi, we are shit at parking the bus and protecting a lead so lets stop trying.

  12. I’ll say this, I saw Golovin when he was first linked with Arsenal and the potential was there but he clearly wasn’t ready and actually was either superb or utter shit. That boy has figured it out and he is turning into quite a player.

  13. The other thing is, we should have had another goal or 2 especially when Ozil played Iwobi in and for as much as I wanted him to bury it and it be another building block from Southampton, he somehow cocked it up and it damn near went for a corner on the other side of the pitch.

  14. Keane on Jack:

    “You need to be fit if you’re going to be a footballer and you want to play top-level games,” Keane said on ITV. “Every time I see him, he’s getting treatment or he’s carrying a knock.

    “Maybe people think I’m being harsh but I’ve never been a big fan of his. For an attacking player he doesn’t get enough goals or assists.

    “The guy’s career’s drifting, you don’t like to see it.

    “Has he been offered a contract? If I was him I’d sign it. If he thinks he’s going to have big offers in the summer I’d be surprised, because again, the big question mark over him — on top of what he lacks — is he never seems fit.”

  15. Elneny is a very solid player.
    Super engine,
    Presents
    And is now showing he can thread a pass. He just needs Wenger’s support.
    So I fully expect Xhaka to come staight Back into the team

  16. C:
    The other thing is, we should have had another goal or 2 especially when Ozil played Iwobi in and for as much as I wanted him to bury it and it be another building block from Southampton, he somehow cocked it up and it damn near went for a corner on the other side of the pitch.

    That even made glen Helder wince!

  17. Come on!

    This is Arsene’s Arsenal. We’ll win the semi with a sterling performance over the two legs and lose the final in some sort of neanderthal fashion

  18. I’m actually happy we got Athletico…..

    I’d rather play them now than in a final when they’re all riled up for it.

    I think we’re more than capable….Last 20 mins of last night is how we SHOULD have started that match. Tbh, Wilshere was letting us down last night, he seemed off pace, out of position and it further proves my theory that it’s very much Wilshere or Ramsey, not both. They both sit too far forward when playing together and it led to them winning every single 50/50 in that midfield as there was a huge gap.

    For Athletico, i’d be tempted to start Elneny and Xhaka with Ramsey ahead of them along side Ozil, Laca and Welbeck. My issue watching us recently is we’re sitting too deep with little pressure on ball, so teams are getting too many crosses into the box and it’s fairly well know we can’t defend.

    Athletico are favourites, but they don’t score that much in Europe….They are a tactically well balanced defensive team, we saw the performance in cup final last season Vs Chelsea, that’s the performance we need.

    We need a top form Ozil and Ramsey for this match, when they are in form all outlet’s come through them and their late runs into box cause teams so many problems. I’d be tempted to rest Ramsey between these matches ha!

  19. Thing is if we can pull it off, then i reckon it’s Marseille in final which we’re more than capable of winning as well….

    The obvious issue of course is, if we do win, will Wenger then decide to stay for his final year.

    But i’ll be honest, i don’t see any replacements for him out there right now. Lowe’s record at club level is mediocre, Simeone is not our style, too big a change…Tuchel at PSG now etc. There isn’t a lot of talent out there. Don’t think Ancelotti is the manger we need.

    And Allegri as well, can’t see him leaving Juve for the massive project that is Arsenal.

    Spurs look consistent now, and with a new stadium, Liverpool look stronger, Man City will no doubt spent another 100/200mil as will UTD, being honest i really think we’re falling behind the pack in terms of performances and getting capable players in.

  20. Damon,

    O you mean like Cech not handling a 30 yard shot only for Payet(currently at Marseille) tap it in with the final kick of the Final!

  21. C,

    Is he available? I’m sceptical of any ex Barca managers, they’re hard to judge because they all inherited Messi in their team.

    Tell you what, i’d take Golovin in the team though really impressed me over two leagues of tie. Having said that, we’ve no place for him unless Wilshere leaves in summer we’ve too many similar players. And we need a CDM, GK and CB next season…

  22. MesutsLeftFoot,

    He is available and the one thing I really like about Enrique is that he was the manager that changed Barca from Pep’s Barca to a more defensively focused countet attacking team.

    O, no doubt we need a DM and a GK though if we spent money on Oblak, Leno or Trapp at the expense of getting a DM, I wouldn’t mind seeing a manager put and let Elneny play similar to the way Pep uses Fernandinho because I think he could be brilliant there.

  23. We were complete shite for most of the game, only Elneny and Welbeck played well. Surely times up for Wilshere?

    Happy with A Madrid in the semi. I think over two legs we might edge it.

  24. I also don’t understand this notion that Liverpool are going to stroll over Roma….have people not been watching Roma and not only that but they get Nainggolan back who is arguably their best player in midfield and Roma’s defense is much better than Citeh’s. The other thing is, Dzeko has no problems and seems to thrive off of playing up top by himself.

  25. Great post Darius. We tried our hardest to lose it but in the end we got the job done. Full credit to Welbeck for scoring again. He has suddenly found his best run of form since he arrived. Elneny was the other player who stood out because of the pass that set up Welbecks goal.

  26. C:
    So after Iwobi’s miss of a great chance created by Ozil, me and my mate got to chatting and he found this video, imagine if even half of these chances that he created went in:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WYgwm_AOjuU

    C:

    U-tube scouting is part of the reason we over rate a lot of players. U-tube highlights certainly fooled us about Xhaka and made him look like the best DM in the world if you just watch a few of his best passes. Arsenal would look capable of winning the PL if we could put together a u-tube compilation of highlights from our best games this season.

  27. Bill,

    I think there is a difference between simply watching a youtube video never having seen a player but with Ozil people always talk about chances created ans with better finishers his assists would be much higher and then you look at some of Welbeck’s misses along with Iwobi’s last night and you realize that its true. You talk about Welbeck, no youtube video could do that because people know the talent and Xhaka was chased by several big clubs and was voted one of the best DM’s in the Bundesliga 2 years running by people in the league so it wasn’t just video, it was factual.

    People watch youtube who have never seen a player or only watch to see what a player can do.

  28. PL has put out a statement saying they will only do ‘advanced testing’ of VAR but WILL NOT use it next season.

  29. Well, Diego Costa has been confirmed to have a hamstring injury but Athletico haven’t given a time frame or severity but it did force him off against Sporting.

  30. C,

    Who are you going to believe?

    Bill, or your lying eyes?

    There’s a misconception that I think needs to be cleared up.

    Using creative players does NOT necessarily mean deathly slow build up play.

    That’s only in Italian football and Wenger’s world.

    Watch Ozil’s speed of thought and quick movement.

    With a coach who actually ensured speed and running off the ball to create space, even the willfully blind might begin to understand what truly creative players are capable of.

    Ozil sees a pass before he even gets the ball.

    Ramsey has to turn through around 720 degrees whilst staying in the same spot whilst he thinks about it before passing to an opposition player.

    That’s the difference.

    One day this might become apparent to some.

  31. Here is a question, does Arsene go Elneny or Jack? Personally its Elneny especially now with Jack looking like bit player and Elneny showing yet again DM is his perfect role in this team.

  32. C,

    El Neny, another player whose role and contribution to the team in the game completely escapes people.

  33. I think its unfortunate that we have to play Atletico in the semifinals. Its easier to beat a better team in 1 game then it is over 2 games. I think our chance of winning last years FA cup would have been significantly decreased if the semifinal against Man City or the final against Chelsea had lasted 180 minutes instead of 90 minutes.

  34. Was Mustafi ever a quality defender?
    Each week there are costly mistakes.
    He just stood there last night and let them score.
    On the weekend he tried to shepherd the ball, waiting for an unprepared Cech to come out.
    It was his kick over his head that lead to Kos giving away a foul from which they scored in the Home game.
    So he has 3 assists in the last 3 games.

  35. I always thought we paid way overs for Chambers, but he is improving as a CD.
    I personally would still start Holding over Chambers an Mustafi.

  36. Ok, Atletico is is. Sorry, late to the party. Bulllshit amount of things to do and only now realized we’d drawn Atletico.

    Though as Andy said, that’s pretty good. It’s a win win situation. We either get our arses handed to us and it’s quite clear that Wenger tenure has been too long our we win a European cup. What’s there not to like ( yea I know I’m being silly optimistic 🙂).

  37. Jack was shite yesterday but he wasn’t a month ago. I think he has hit the proverbial wall and is burnt out. He hasn’t played a ton of football the last few years. he needs a breather. I still believe he’s a very decent squad player on a top team.
    Arsene, it is time to give Mo mo’ playing time.

  38. DALM,

    Don’t be ashamed mate. i professed the same upon his arrival from Basel having seen him a couple of times be absolutely brilliant in Europe for them.

  39. Another positve from the match though was Bellerin defensively. Sure he didn’t attack like we know he can but he did his job really well and Musa was a non-factor.

  40. Cech
    Bellerin—Mustafi—–Kos—-Nacho
    ———Xhaka——–Elneny——
    Ramsey——Ozil-_———Welbeck
    —————-Lacazette

    Thats who I would start every match (bar injuries) in the Europa League moving forward and actually it could transfer into a sort of 41212/4222/442 hybrid that looks like

    Cech
    Bellerin—Mustafi—–Kos-__–Nacho
    ——————-Xhaka—————
    ——Elneny——————Ramsey
    ——————Ozil
    Welbeck—————–Lacazette

  41. I stand by my belief that Elneny is a world-class DM and Welbeck is a 30-goal a season striker (with a decent coach)! Elneny reminds me so much of busquets it’s not funny except that he’s a lot more athletic. He would slot beautifully into the barca team (replacing Busquets). Great players don’t have to do great things, they just do good things over and over again.
    Unbelievable that Wenger was trying to push Elneny out the door at the beginning of the season and waits until the season is buried before he starts to play him. The man is a 10 million a year moron.

  42. Dukey,

    Not with Wenger’s tactical “genius” you wont.

    Get a better coach, heck, ANY other coach, and a number of players’ qualities will become more obvious.

    Get a coach who realises that players who aren’t capable of one or two touch passing at speed kill off other players’ interest in making runs because they just get closed down before they get the ball, and suddenly we’ll start to see how good many in the squad actually are.

    Play to players’ strengths, where possible, work on weaknesses, otherwise avoid them.

    Dont, ala Wenger, have a “philosophy” that just forces square pegs into round holes because “that’s how (in his mind), it should be”.

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