THE SEMI BECKONS BUT ….. (CSKA MOSCOW 2ND LEG PREVIEW).
If we had 5th columnists in the CSKA camp the report they would secretly file to us would read something like this:
“…………………… CSKA Moscow know that qualifying for the semi-final of the Europa League is an uphill task after their 4-1 loss at the Emirates. But they have not thrown in the towel. They weighed their options and decided that their best bet lies in going all out for it. They plan to attack from the blast of the whistle knowing that 3 goals can do it for them. What Roma did to Barcelona, coming from a 4-1 defeat in the 1st leg to qualify has buoyed the spirit in their camp, no doubt.
They have identified the right side of our pitch as their best route for getting behind our back line. At the Emirates, Ahmed Musa repeatedly left Bellerin for dead. Only wayward finishing by him saved us from conceding some more goals. They are not thinking about our strengths. They are thinking only about our weaknesses ………………”
How do we respond to such a game plan? Go toe to toe with them? Sit back to soak up their pressure and hope to hit them on the counter? Or use possession to control the game while patiently watching out for openings to pick them apart?
A low scoring match of a maximum of 2 goals shared between the two teams in whatever manner qualifies us, and should give the cue to what our game plan should be. Emphasizing possession suits such a game plan and also happens to be very compatible with our playing style.
Jack has been poor in his last few games, more so in the area of turnovers. Is his contract situation weighing him down? Turnovers are what we don’t want conceding in this match. It would make good sense if Jack is positioned on the bench to give way to Elneny. A game of possession is a game for Elneny. His red card against Southampton has been rescinded and that should act as an extra fillip to him for the Moscow encounter. Jack, whose poor form coincided with his switch to the #10 role, should then revert to a more central midfield role in our EPL match against Newcastle on Sunday.
A midfield containing Xhaka, Ramsey and Elneny cries out for a 4:3:3 formation which very much would suit our game were we to aim at controlling the match through possession.
(The narrative has changed because Wenger just informed the press on arrival in Moscow that Xhaka is out with a flu. So Wilshere is back in my line up. Would this necessitate a change in tactics? I don’t think so. Maybe a little bit more offensive play to balance Xhaka’s tidiness in possession).
Who replaces injured Mkhitaryan? It’s a straight tussle between Welbeck and Iwobi. A tussle between Welbeck’s hard work and ability to pull apart defenders and Iwobi’s line-breaking-ball-carrying ability. It’s a close call, but for me the scale tilts in favour of Welbeck.
Do we bring in Maitland-Niles in place of Bellerin to counter Ahmed Musa’s pace? Is Maitland-Niles safer in possession? I’d rather play it safe by asking Bellerin to just stick to his man. Anyway, Maitland-Niles is rumoured to be not fully back from injury. And don’t forget that CSKA can pull one on us by switching Musa to their right flank.
I expect our starting eleven to be:
SUBS: Macey, Chambers, Holding, Kola, Nelson, Iwobi, Nketiah.
Control remains the key. If we succeed in controlling the game, trust CSKA to give us space and time to nick a goal or two.
The semi beckons …………. COYG!!!
By Pony Eye.