CSKA Moscow: Arsenal on the Brink – Of What Though?

Which Arsenal will turn up? The one which lost to Roma or one which salvaged the day with a last-minute penalty in the Bernabeu?

As if we’d score a penalty under those circumstances.

Three-goal leads are the new two-goal leads. Years of waiting for someone to overcome a good first leg gubbing and now everyone’s at it. Well, Manchester City aside. They took the whole European tradition and kept it alive by losing the second leg as well.

Michael Oliver, the Tin Man of European football, has a bag of trash for his heart. He ruined Gigi Buffon’s night by not only sending him off for dissent or violent conduct – either was applicable –  and awarding a penalty – it was – which knocked Juventus out of the competition in a heart-breaking way.

Oliver’s performance is cited as a reason why English referees aren’t going to Russia. One can only assume that the Spanish ref at the Etihad had a very bad night – an off-night – because he looked like he would slot right into the English game.

Look at me; mocking the Champions League, a competition Arsenal can now only aspire to. Arsène finally acknowledged what everyone else has known for months: our only route back is winning the Europa League. Now it’s “a big target”. Is that the same as the one painted on his back?

We travel to Moscow ruing the missed chances in the second leg, with a sense of dread at being 4 – 1 up from the first leg. According to Michael Owen last night, it means we won’t know how to plan for the tie. Do we attack? Do we defend? CSKA have one objective: three goals and a clean sheet. That makes their life easier while ours is just one big ball of confusion.

Business as usual.

On the Way the Paper Bag was on my Knee

Can we really lose 3 – 0? Of course we can. Better Arsenal sides than this have come unstuck in Russia and elsewhere before.

Focus shouldn’t even be an issue. Get onto the pitch and take control of the game. Kill their hopes with a goal. One goal means they need five; 4 – 1 sends the tie into extra-time and a penalty shootout. Better than going out at 90 minutes but nerve-tingling nonetheless. And brings no guarantee of success either.

Look at me talking about Russia and nerves.

Granit Xhaka has the ‘flu and didn’t make the trip. It means Mo Elneny will bring his good fortune to the pitch; he must feel unbeatable after the FA reversed his red card. Hell freezes over more frequently than that happening. I think he was playing anyway but it gives Jack Wilshere an opportunity for redemption.

Still at loggerheads over his contract, he needs a big performance to convince people he’s the Jack Wilshere of lore, the one who can drive Arsenal forward. Otherwise, it’s ‘ciao’ in the summer.

The team pretty much picks itself these days with the only real question hanging over who replaces Mkhitaryan. Welbeck grabbed a couple at the weekend but with Lacazette starting, it’s hard for Danny to be in the XI. Our options from the bench would be severely limited if he does.

Which really on leaves Alex Iwobi. He produced his best performance in some time at the weekend and in the heady days when we thought the goalless draw at Stamford Bridge was a good result last year, he worked hard. Tonight needs a combination of both; diligence defensively with good use of the ball in attack. Iwobi is climbing into the same boat as Wilshere and needs to find form to stop the questions.

Been Away So Long I Hardly Knew the Place

All of which brings us to the line-up. I don’t expect any surprises in the XI or any grand tactical innovation. It’s all business as usual and hope that we score more than they do.

Recent form will stand us in good stead but five of the six wins were at home. We need to replicate the start made in Milan where we were positive. It took a few seconds to twig that’s the match Arsène was referring to and not the home leg against Milan where we were over-run.

Although Mkhitaryan is missing, there’s no reason beyond our inconsistency why we cannot harness the energy of the last round. The XI tasked with that will be:

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Elneny; Özil, Wilshere, Iwobi; Lacazette

Which ought to be a good enough side to see the job through.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

82 thoughts on “CSKA Moscow: Arsenal on the Brink – Of What Though?

  1. I vividly recall us shipping 4 goals in a half at Newcastle a few years back. It’s am Arsenal thing that’s catching on.

    Juve were good last night. Allegri adding to his CV (we’ll have you Max). But it was a penalty at the end. Juve switched off and Oliver got the decision right. Buffon made a Buffoon of himself and deserved the red.

  2. Thinking it has to be Welbeck in place of Mkhi.
    First leg we harassed them in midfield and picked off errant passes that turned into transitions their defenders weren’t quick enough to stop.

    Circumstances tonight call for Danny’s energy to help win the ball and stunt CSKA’s attacking opportunities. Iwobi the better choice if we are chasing a goal. Both merit a start. But I’d trust Danny more to show up mentally.


  3. Guess it just goes to show how far we have fallen when our ‘ambition’ is to qualify for a competition in which all the evidence tells us we’ll struggle in before having our arses kicked in a humiliating fashion the first time we meet anyone half decent. Ambition for a club of our stature used to be about winning the league. Not even the blindest of loyalists would suggest that’s on the cards in the near future.

  4. Good stuff Yogi.

    I said it yesterday but if the one thing that the CL showed us was not to sit back and defend but attack to get an early goal which essentially kills the tie.

    I want our boys to attack especially with Elneny in the team at the DM spot because he is really good at winning and recycling which is exactly what the team will need, well if they play up to standard which I think they will. Welbeck or Iwobi, I might go Iwobi but I understand going with Welbeck.

  5. Oliver may or may not have gotten it right but my problem ia that their were several similar if not identical situations all over the pitch and I don’t remember him giving a single one. Also, 2 or 3 times he told Ronaldo to stop diving in the box which means its a yellow. Shame really Buffon’s CL career with yet another shit reffing match.

  6. Is there an argument for starting Welbeck and Iwobi tonight and putting Laca on the bench?

    I think I could muster an angle for it

  7. Damon,

    Not in my eyes, though I’m open minded so I would listen.

    I think the stronger arguement could be made for Welbeck/Lacazette/Iwobi with Jack dropping and that is certainly something I wouldn’t at all be opposed to given Jack’s recent struggles

  8. Will always have a soft spot for Oliver for the sending off of DiMaria at Old Trafford in our FA Cup tie where Welbeck stuffed them. Remember thinking at the time brave decision for such a young ref although it was an obvious red.

  9. Great post yogi

    Controversial decisions by referees are certainly not unique to English football. The same issues with the speed of the game and the difficulty that comes from not always having the best angle of view and the nebulous interpretation of what is and is not a foul or a penalty or a dive are faced by referees all over the world. The fact that 2 knowledgeable people could watch the exact same play and have a completely different opinion about the call makes it impossible for games to be officiated in a consistent manner. Close offsides calls are a 50/50 guess by the linesman anywhere in the world.

  10. Yogi

    I suspect our habit of complacency will return and we will lose the game tonight but I am nearly 100% confident that we did enough in the first leg and our 4-1 lead will hold up and we will go thru to the next round.

  11. C from yesterdays comments

    “Mkhitaryan would stay wide, he does it for Arsenal, he did it at Dortmund but its not how or what Arsene clearly wants him to do because he put him in the Sanchez sort of role with playing on the left and cutting in on his right. Do you really think Pep would put Ozil outwide, for even suggesting that I shouldn’t even have responded.”

    In reality, I doubt Pep would use either Ozil or Mkhitaryan out wide on a regular basis because he has always had someone who is more of a goal scoring threat in all 3 forward positions. I suspect the first thing Pep would do if he came to Arsenal would be to buy a couple more goal scoring forwards and a DM. My guess is Pep would move Ozil back to central midfield and drop Mkhitaryan to the bench. The problem for Ozil moving to central midfield is he would have to play the high energy defensive role that Pep requires and that is certainly not a slam dunk at this point in Mesut’s career. Mesut would also have to be much more consistent on both ends of the pitch. Pep is not as forgiving as Arsene and I doubt he would tolerate the Ozil we have come to know over the last 2 years who becomes invisible more then 1/2 of the time.

  12. Is Oliver the first English ref to ref a big match like that in the CL? My mate just told me it was and it waz Oliver’s first big match lile that….which then makes you wonder why of all matches, that one on that night.

  13. C,

    Just think Laca only offers goals and I’m not sure that I want us to go with the approach of killing this off from kick off.

    Danny offers a lot of running and a bit of hold up play, which means we could play a bit of a happy medium between gung-ho, CHARGE! and 11 men behind the ball from the first minute.

    We’re short of options off the bench, so for me, one of the two has to be on the bench, as YW says.

    I also think that after doing well on the weekend, its a bit unfair to get dropped right away?

  14. Bill,

    Pep played Pedro there and nobody thought Sterling would score the amount of goals he has so lets put thr hyperbole away shall we. Other thing is, you always talk about Ozil not doing the defensive work, but how can you judge him based on a team that doesn’t press in Arsenal. I mean both Silva and De Bruyne were both never thought of as players that do the defensive work or play the high pressing game. Actually mate, if you watch Ozil, he actually does press high up the pitch but people try to kill him for not tracking back which makes ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING SENSE since thats not his job and if your going to make that arguement than we need to kill Xhaka for not being better goal scorer and Kos and Mustafi for not doing better on set pieces. Also, Ozil is willing to work, you saying he won’t yet he is in the prime years of his career.

    Anyways, there is no point in having this conversation because we have had it before and your not fond of Ozil so thats that.

  15. Damon,

    I tend to think Lacazette gives us good hold up play and is a more than willing runner. I think the other thing with Lacazette is that he offers the qualities he bring from being a winger and you see that in how he plays especially with the ball at his feet.

    I’m most certainly not saying lets go gung-ho, and while I do want us to kill the game off with an early goal, I do think with Welbeck and Iwobi either side of Lacazette we will get more work rate and defensive work than you would get from Jack. Its why I personally would go:


    Then bring Jack on to help keep control of the match.

  16. Strange as it sounds I think Pep has some work to do this summer. Their defense was really good the first part of the season but they have struggled in the the last few months. Ageuro is always a risk to pull a muscle and without him they are short of firepower upfront. Sterling predictably has really dropped off and he is not good enough to be a regular starter. Bernardo Silva and Gundogan don’t score enough to regular wide forwards. Sane is an excellent wide forward who can break down defenses and create chances and he can score goals but he is not a prolific scorer and can’t carry the team with his scoring. Pep needs to upgrade his defense and probably add a couple of forwards if he wants to win the CL. He probably should have added a couple of players last January to maintain the momentum he had in the first half of the season.

  17. Welbeck over Wilshere please. At least we know he wont be falling in positions that could leave us exposed and Danny always puts in a good defensive shift. I would leave Wilshere out of this match entirely. He needs to rest his knee, I would prefer he plays on Sunday against Newcastle. We could consider Willock at 70 minutes if we have wrapped up the game, as a substitute for Ramsey.

  18. Nooners gooners,

    I’ve always found it a bit strange when laca or auba are described as goal scorers and not much else. It’s strange because though it’s a really small sample size, I thought the quality of their play was obvious. I know the wizard see’s it, that’s why he $igned on 😉
    And probably why arsenal aren’t to bothered with a gaunt lookin Jack, especially with bosman max on the horizon. Or willock. Or Jeff…tbf after his outburst the other day, I’ve dusted off my hands. I’m done.

    Can’t really second guess the result, for me, depends on what the players are privy to.

  19. Team news:


    Subs: MAcey, Mert, Sead, Holding, Chambers, Nketiah, Iwobi

  20. I really like like Elneny in front of the back line. He’s there, tidy in possession, offers the back line an outlet and helps us in the build up.

    There’s many things there to like.

  21. Cech saves the header and defence just watches. Wtf, Mustafi, Kos, what are you doing watching?

  22. Sorry, but where are you? Yea you, the C&Bill show, Orson, Dukey, Damon, Cbob, Jonny et consortes.

  23. Come to think of it. Is this the apathy making itself known. Have Jonny vaporized into something liquid in the realm of better times🙂.

  24. You know, we are playing a game. Sort of important in the context of things. Seeing that’s the only one we’ve got left to win.

    No, no one interested? Ok, sod this, I go back watching AIK (nae, just kidding).

  25. Welsh Corgi Cardigan,

    I love Elneny sitting in front of the back 4, he just gets on with it and intercepts. He is really good at recover and recycle which is perfect in a team that has Ozil, Lacazette, Jack and Ramsey all pushing forward.

  26. Welsh Corgi Cardigan,

    I’m here, I was finishing up a phone call.

    As far as the goal, I think Cech should have pushed the shot wide but he literally pushed it back into the path of the CSKA player.

    Its funny when people say, anybody can pass when its clear the difference between passers and those who think they can or are inconsistent with it is clear. For instance, Ozil puts that pass right on Ramsey instead of too far infront of him.

  27. C,

    Yay, you’re back, good. Was beginning to wonder if the gooonerverse had suffered an apocalypse.

  28. AGAIN, CECH SHOULD HAVE DONE BETTER!!!!! I’m not saying catch it but FFS don’t push it back infront of your own goal!!!

  29. Welsh Corgi Cardigan,

    We are all still here. Apathy doesn’t describe it for me. I live in a strange twilight world. I want Arsenal to win but know that it will get us nowhere so losing somehow seems avceptable because I hope it will herald the end of this bloody awful situation that we are in.

    I can’t really describe how I feel. Angry, I suppose.

  30. I’m fairly sure we’re gonna get a pen against us pretty soon Following suit. Not sure if putting Chambers in is doing it for us.

  31. Who remembers when ‘The Romford Pelek was our worst player?

    He was bloody brilliant. Pissed or not.

    This shower? Pfft.

  32. That about sums it up. Welbeck, who wouldn’t have got near a good Arsenal side, does some decent stuff and saves the tie.

    I can’t get excited. It gets us nowhere except closer to another contract for our manager.

  33. As much as I like jack…isn’t he supposed to be playing for a new contract?! He has been way below his usual standard.

  34. As much as that pass from elneny was good, we are losing this game with him as our focal point, my point is when he is our focal point we struggle to gain three points…

  35. Dukey,

    Elneny does all the stuff the rest of our midfield doesn’t or won’t do like the defensive work and when pressed is able to keep possession which is massive for a side that wants to play possession futbol.

    No offense but its a shame Elneny doesn’t get the credit because he doesn’t do the spectacular all the time.

  36. Dukey,

    Not sure that’s Elneny doing. Think he makes us more fluid, better connected between the lines and make the team tick.

  37. Ozil puts it on an absolute platter and Iwobi hits it for almost a throw-in.

    Chances like that should be assists but instead they amount to nothing because of shit finishing….you see that Bill!!!

  38. Dukey,

    He isn’t our focal point, he is our DM and lets be honest, he is in the team to recover and recycle for the likes of Jack, Ramsey and Ozil to be free to attack and as you said Jack has been shit, Ramsey has been inconsistent and Ozil is playing higher up the pitch.

    You can’t blame Elneny for either goal because one was a whipped cross that Cech should have done better and the other was a shot from 30+ yards out that Cech should have done much better.

  39. Both RB Leizpig and Lazio get knocked out and those are two clubs that many thought could win it along with Arsenal and Athletico.

  40. Really good response from the boys though because we have seen the past couple of days teams fall apart and there was a bit of a response.

  41. Elneny has all the attributes to be a top midfielder…my problem with him is when he plays he never imposes himself on a game and we always seem to struggle.

  42. I know it might be unpopular but there is fucking no way in hell Cech should go into next season as a viable option as our #1. For such an experienced GK, both goals he should have done worlds better. Sure the defenders should have reacted a bit quicker but you don’t expect your GK to push it back infront of his own goal when he clearly doesn’t need or have to.

  43. Dukey,

    I thought he was good tonight especially defensively were he got no help from Jack (I agree, he is suppose to be playing for a contract unless he is already checked out like Ox)Or Ramsey. I honestly would love to see Elneny given a run of matches in that DM role and be given the same instructions as Fernandinho because I think he could do the role for us.

  44. Happy to have gone through though as we should have. Didn’t lose the 2nd leg so thats always a positive to.

  45. I was right about Jack and watch how we responded when Elneny went back into the midfield, two goals. I feel the same as Consolbob, happy the team’s won, but am worried about Wenger.
    Aside from creating the first assist for the premier league game this season, Elneny showed Wenger should play him in the DM role ahead of Xhaka. He was all out, running, intercepting and moving the team forward. His pressing in the final minutes slowed the CSKA players and we scored from a counterattack.
    Welbeck seems to be free from the spell that held him back. Iwobi missed a glorious chance and Lacazette would have scored that if he was still on the pitch.

  46. I pray the Welbeck transformation is final, caterpillar to butterfly, boy to man, mature striker mould in place.

  47. C,

    Think so too. Rather meet Atletico in the final when anything can happen.

    I’m firmly in the camp for change. No more of this. However in the light of us winning a European trophy I’m quite excited and I think it’s new and refreshing being in a semifinal compared to all those dull exits after group play in champions league.

  48. Welsh Corgi Cardigan,

    Agree with that. It might but the Europa but I’m pretty sure their are loads of clubs who would gladly swap with us. Plus, winning this propelled Athletico, maybe it can do the same for us under a new man.

  49. Well onwards we march.
    Lovely taken goals, and 2 good assists from Elneny.
    Would pick him over Xhaka every match.

  50. We tried to screw it up but in the end we got the job done. Full credit for not falling apart after we allowed them back in and it came to squeaky bum time. I expected us to play a poor game and I thought we would lose but hold on and go thru based on the big advantage we had from the first leg. Danny Welbeck is certainly on top of his game right now and credit to him. C’s man Elneny had a highly underwhelming game just got like the rest of the team until he made that really nice pass to set up Welbeck’s goal so he deserves credit for that.

  51. I predicted 1-1 so on the one hand I was right with a draw but frankly hopelessly wrong considering the manner of 0-2. Nice to just move on.
    I was in France for 2016 and watched a game in Marseille. Great new stadium and fantastic city to stroll around. Recommended trip if we get them…

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