Arsenal 4 – CSKA Moscow 1  European Night (So Right) Shows Where Wenger Went Wrong

Ramsey Runs Riot and Will Surely Follow the Ox Outta Ouch-senal.  Our Opponent Was No Good AND We Failed to Put Them Away. Etc., etc.

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How many other ways can Gooners find to ruin a fine display of Arsenal football?  There must be a million, what’s your favorite? Please join us here on Bergkampesque and tell us why Arsenal (and, you…) are miserable?  Or look for us on Twitter… #nosuchthingasahappygooner.

Ramsey, why are you smiling?  Has Klopp just called you with a contract offer?

I jest, of course, but, if you’re a Gooner and you cannot enjoy that match, why bother?

From the kickoff, when Arsenal got a feel for the pitch by stroking the ball around the with some longer passes, I had a sense that we’d have some time on the ball and that pitch-space was there for the taking. Nobody knows these CSKA players, but there were some good anecdotal reasons to fear the opponent. They were playing an extra defender, i.e., a back three of experienced (or aged) defenders ahead of a name between the sticks that I did know: Igor Akinfeev.  As such, scoring would be difficult. Nil-nil, however, isn’t the worst scoreline to take back to Moscow given the away goals rule.

Except, of course, this is Arsenal, so giving up an away goal or three–the number CSKA scored at Lyon in the previous round–is a given.  Oh dennis, this means we must go for broke. Anything less than three of our own won’t be enough. Or maybe four or five or six. If you’re a Gooner you’re gonna worry.  No.Matter.What.

But that’s all pre-match.  Now, with this one in the books what can we say?

Well, I’ve got several observations, I’ll pick a nice even number.  How about Eight? 😀

1. THAT was Arsenal Football.  Open, attacking, easy on the eye generally and scintillating at times.  That’s what Gooners should be able to enjoy.  Like the scoreline, it’s not perfect.  If perfection is what we’re demanding, however… Well, back to the hashtag, I say.

2. Arsenal have a core of players who understand spacing and can exploit it to make chance after chance and dominate matches.  Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, ostensibly starting as inverted wingers, know how to move wide, narrow and (even) across into each other’s “positions”  Once these patterns of movement have begun, the widest spaces open up for our fullbacks, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal, to bomb forward and aft. Aaron Ramsey (more on him below) does likewise in more central channels, of course, while guys who don’t quite have his engine–our other central mids, Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka–work smaller areas in the center of the pitch, but under less pressure, because, you know, there is more space. This TEAM game is the essence of playing attractive, attacking football.  Ozil can’t do it by himself, nor can our new guy, Mkhi, who helps k(h)nit it all together, nor can anyone else in the team. This is total football, Arsenal style, and, in my view, is something to be celebrated to the heavens.

3. We must now hope that Mkhitaryan’s injury is just a bruise; Mohamed Elneny and Alexi Iwobi are skilled enough to fill in for Mkhi, but do they have the vision to fashion space for themselves and their mates in the same sort of way?  There I go showing my Gooner colors; on this front, I AM worried.

4.  Moves must be finished, and, four times they were, in excellent fashion.  Ramsey’s 2nd goal will stand out, of course, but his first was executed just as well.  Just as the team will lament not making this one into a cricket score, Rambo will lament not getting the hat-trick with his late smash off the post, but his early (non) goal, taken off the scoreboard by the most marginal of offside decisions, had perhaps an even more impressive element: AR8’s burst of pace that broke Arsenal through the lines and onto the counterattack.  We need a fit Rambo. If he can take a lead role in another trophy–he’s hit key goals in 2 of those 3 FA cups we’ve won recently–he will deserve remuneration with a sizable new contract at our club.

5.  The other goal scorer, Alexandre Lacazette, as Steve Bould recently noted, is more than just a finisher.  His hold up work was notable on the fantastic 3rd goal, while he often popped up in good “false 9” spots to help keep possession repeatedly during the match.  The finishing, however, should not be ignored.  His penalty, his second in 4 days, was again struck into the abandoned half of the net with full force and commitment, while his off-footed out-swinger was unsavable.  There is a focus and intensity in Lacazette to match his lightning fast (and usually correct) decision making.  It’s only been 100 minutes of play since his return to action, but the issue that required surgery might have been worse than we thought.

6.  Other teams will score goals.  Arsenal’s defensive frailties will be highlighted for the goal we conceded.  Mustafi’s weird (non)clearance, Xhaka’s pop-up and Koscielny’s obvious and unnecessary foul will be cited but I think we should note the glory of Aleksandr Golovin’s free kick and twist things positively.  We have been linked with the 21 year old before, so GO (get us some) LOVIN. We are a big club and we could offer good wages and a nice transfer fee. In open play Golovin looked good enough, last night at least, to fit right in with our style of play.  I’d do it before the World Cup where surely Aleks will be a bright spot for the host nation. With the departed Alexes (well, Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) taking their strong right feet with them, the free kick ALONE makes Golovin a very intriguing transfer target.

7.  I want to talk more about the Ox, but in a different context.  Our stadium was fuller, but still, plenty of empty seats were to be seen.  If you’re a ticket-buying Gooner who chose to miss this one you will likely find a reason (or ten) to rationalize your choice.  In my view, you missed some good football AND you’ve adopted an attitude which will not help your team. It’s your prerogative to demand entertainment and decide when none can be found.  Let’s check recent remarks, of the Ox, however, about playing for his new club. 

He doesn’t mention his previous club, but the silence about Arsenal is akin to the (near) silence in our home stadium and is very much at odds with the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” spirit at Anfield.  It will take individual decisions to form a collective atmosphere that turns guys like our (disappointing?) Ox into a player who makes special goals into parts of special wins. As supporters we have very little power over what happens on the pitch.  Nonetheless, our fine stadium–like any stadium anywhere, I believe–could be converted, into an Anfield-esque “terrible” place for opponents to play. Instead, it’s middling, at best, hardly a home for the type of football Gooners purport to desire. First, the stadium, next the Goonersphere.  Let’s turn this around. These places–our home stadium; our blogs, etc., etc.–shouldn’t be terrible for places…for us…

8.  Petr Cech is our goalkeeper.  Did he make a save last night?  I can’t remember one. Golovin’s free kick was just too good.  For the remainder of the match, Cech came off his line decisively on a few occasions and gobbled up balls or forced CSKA players to rush their shots off target.  With David Ospina’s injury now looking to be “at least a few weeks,” I think we’ve seen the last of the Colombian, although he probably has a chance to show his stuff at the World Cup this summer.  There are others out there with similar opportunities.  I’d expect a new keeper (young and very promising) to be brought in this summer to push Cech next season.

OK, as always, I’ve got more to say, so, observation number…

9.  This tie is not over, except that it is.  These two legged ties are games of four halves. We got our nil-nil in the 2nd after a fine 1st half of 4-1.  I GUARANTEE that we will do just fine in the remaining halves in Moscow to book our spot in the semi-finals.  When is the draw?  Worry all YOU like. We will score next Thursday in Moscow, meaning that CSKA will need FIVE goals to beat us.  Again, when is the draw?

Those are my observations/views.  What say you?  To me it was a good night and something to be enjoyed. It’s just one match (but on the back of a few other good results, 5 wins from 5, I think, and 15 goals vs 2 conceded).  I don’t want to over-sell things and I could find quibbles of my own to focus upon, if that’s where we feel we must go.  It’s a rainy day where I am, so come on out and I’ll play…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

17 thoughts on “Arsenal 4 – CSKA Moscow 1  European Night (So Right) Shows Where Wenger Went Wrong

  • Thanks Seventeenho,

    Just came back from London and too knackered to read your, no doubt, excellent 8+1 post. Will do tomorrow.

    AB, have not forgotten about you and your excellent post. 🙂

  • Excellent observations, Seventeenho.

    I agree with all of it, even though I am far less focussed on the support issues you (keep) highlight(ing). I know this is a big driver for you, though. 🙂

    Agreed that it looks like Ospina’s time is up. Not so sure about Rambo. I quite happily see him replaced this summer with Elneny playing in the box to box position – as a replacement or back up (not sure yet). Less goals but more solidity and discipline imo. I want to watch the whole game today and look at Jack’s role in the current starting eleven. For me it is key that the one who plays in the hole is the big driver of the midfield… and I don’t think that is the case at the moment. Did Rambo play more or less in the hole on Thursday?

  • HT, good post.

    One thing about me is that I let myself swing (slightly modulated though) with the swing in fortunes of the team. So atm am celebrating. Five straight wins, 15-2 goals in our favour. The past is nearly all gone for me. For me it’s all celebration and dreams, yes also tiny stings from the past.

    Unfortunately many cant rev up their enthusiasm. They are in the grip of the recent past. Well if they can’t celebrate our Stoke performance, they can’t possibly find any cause to moan about it

    Ozil was sublime. Laca is a boy for a bit of a game and I tell you something … Auba knows it. The two are staying put. Rambo’s back heel volley is so pretty I just don’t know what to say but that’s not my riddle. My riddle is how does Rambo just materialize in that box time and time again. And somehow his absence in the central areas has gotten less conspicuous. Am beginning to connect that he is the guy that gets the team buzzing.

    HT, I know you don’t swing as much, maybe not at all. I prefer me. Hey ho, let’s go!

  • Hi all.. Hi 17jt, nice post..
    I will start with the fact that our PL is already finished.. We won’t get our fourth spot, unless Spurs lose 5 times in the last 7 games and we win it all.. The best that we can be is shift Chelsea in the fifth position..

    So, we must concentrate full in UEL / UEFA Cup.. We can use our youngsters or our second players to replace our main players to give them more time to rest.. Lacazette, Ramsey, Mhkitaryan and Ozil is the most important players.. To make sure that they all can play in the second legs in Rusia.. The must rest for Soton..
    Elneny, Xhaka, Wilshere, Iwobi, Welbeck and Aubameyang can fill the post and we still have Nketiah, Nelson, Niles, Willock and Dragomir.. I wonder where’s Zelalem gone??
    With them we still can secure three points at home..

    And 17ht.. We sure can play as good as Liverpool do.. We have all the quality for that.. Hehehe..

  • Seems that Mkhitaryan has damaged his medial ligament in his knee, that could be, depending on the seriousness, anything between 3 to 8 weeks out.

  • With Ospina out for up to 3 weeks, it might be prudent to rest Cech this weekend as we’re gonna need his experience in Moscow next week.
    So will we see Matt Macey vs Southampton, a game which in essence is a dead rubber?
    Deyan Iliev on the bench?

  • But not that Liverpool off course.. Walcott almost bring Everton to a Victory..
    I love the way Everton did in the last 15 minutes.. Hehehe..

  • Working hard to get my fill, Everybody wants a thrill
    Payin’ anything to roll the dice, Just one more time
    (Journey/Don’t Stop Believin’)
    * * *
    When it comes up 7s? Enjoy that rush.
    If you can’t live in– and for– the moment–
    you’ve preconditioned yourself to be disappointed.

    That when there is joy in sport? It’s to be appreciated, not tempered against a backdrop of what happens before or after those 90 minutes.

    Thursday, I saw Arsenal figure out early-on how to unlock the expanse of the pitch– and the best traits of the starting XI. I was exhilarated for the first 33 minutes. Then, pleased for the rest of it– like I’d taken in a meal of favorite foods. Comfortably sated.

    Can’t be critical of any of it. Arsenal delivered the goods on Thursday.



  • 2/2

    I’m concerned with Mkhi’s injury. The contact that caused it– a measured collision, was a message from a CSKA defender. Timing is the difficult part– with regard to Europa League. Mkhi’s style just fits. Hoping that Iwobi shows more of the fluidity he displayed after subbing on. Though no results in form of a goal or assist– I thought he looked pretty good. Had some threatening moments. Very close to assisting on a Laca goal for hat trick.

    The differences I’m seeing in both CL and EL I’ve been watching– and the PL? Is that nobody seems to pressure the player receiving a pass– instead closing in numbers on possession after. Arsenal have made a both (an in-form) Milan– and CSKA (playing well in EL away) look harassed by applying pressure on the ball immediately. That’s why neither have played up to their advanced billing IMO.


  • jw, I like your 1/2
    The poetic rhythm
    The me swinging
    But never escaping
    The gravitational pull.

  • jw, I like your 1/2
    The poetic rhythm
    The me swinging
    But never escaping
    The gravitational pull.

  • Hey guys, thanks for the comments… The post itself is rather on the sloppy side… I actually got writing most of it while on hold with the phone company (multiple times) trying figure out my cell and television issues (the companies are now combined)… The whole business took so long that I had to run when it was all over. Apologies…But I think folks get my point(s)… which I appreciate…

    Mhki’s injury is a major concern. To me we look soooooo different with movement off both wings than we did with “stand (give me the ball) and (I will) deliver, Alexis. It’s hard to say who is the better guy out on the left for getting results, but I know which sort of football I prefer to watch… 11 on the same page, I think, is a revolution…and, OMG, if we could get 12 (the fans…) there’s no reason we can’t play with anyone… TA, to me it looks like it’s #10 (or in-the-hole) play by committee. I really don’t want to bad-mouth anybody in the squad, but (no surprise here…) JW is not up to that role, IMO, while Rambo does best given the freedom of the whole pitch. Xhaka can act as an anchor so maybe it becomes more of a 4-1-4-1 sort of thing.

    That said, we NEED Wilshere (along with all the rest who played on Thursday) to play at his best. The team is VERY thin right now and reinforcements (in numbers) are needed (this summer)…What about Go(ing) and getting some lovin?… Shorter term, gotta pray Mkhi’s OK and that we get no new injuries. Perversely, I think this means we can’t really afford to rest too many in the PL matches (and the dead rubber 2nd leg in Moscow). IMO we need to cross our fingers (and hold our breath…) and continue to drill the squad as a unit. The first 15 or 16 guys, in my opinion at least, are the ones who need to get us all the way in (to the final there in Lyon) as well as helping us finish on some sort of not too ugly points total in the league. I really doubt we’re going to see youth teams in these matches, but, as always, what do I know?

    Curious to see what happens in this Manc derby, and what sort of celebrations might take place given the mountain to climb in the CL match on Tuesday… Kompany has just put City a goal to the good…

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