It’s now on to Russia (with love)…from a sound first-leg victory.
It’s often said that we don’t play sexy football anymore. That Wengerball is as extinct as the dinosaurs, the dodo, mammoths, and Neanderthals.
Well apparently, Wengerball made a Lazarus-esque comeback last night. Despite some poor defending at times, we tore CSKA Moscow to shreds.
And a chief component of this was our resident Welsh midfield man, Aaron Ramsey. After receiving abominable chants of “walking with a limp” on Sunday, he came back with a bang tonight and made both Stoke and CSKA in quick succession walk away from our ground limping.
From the off, we looked to pass sharply, and press into them from high up the pitch.
This culminated in some chances for Mkhi and Ozil, with Ramsey getting an offside goal, after good work from Bellerin on the right.
The first goal came soon after that though, with Bellerin again moving up in the area, and crossing towards Ramsey who finished nicely. However, this joy was short-lived, as Koscielny gave away a foul, and CSKA equalised from the resultant free-kick. It was an expertly-made delivery, which a keeper of even Cech’s pedigree could not save.
That said, we resumed our attacking prowess, and Ozil akin to the Stoke game managed to win a penalty, leading to Lacazette tucking away nicely.
Ramsey got in on the wondergoal train, which Ronaldo started of late, and his second and our third overall was a deft touch with the outside of his boot over the CSKA keeper.
The fourth, and Lacazette’s second, was a low left-footed drive from the penalty-spot, and CSKA simply couldn’t cope with our pace in attack.
The second half showed that CSKA were not up to it, as we continued to tear into them. If there is any failing here, is that we could have won this game by six, seven, or even eight goals. Iwobi, Ramsey, Ozil, and Lacazette all missed great chances.
I believe we’re 70% through to the semis, as it were. I cannot see CSKA beating us by three goals, but who knows? However, I think it’s unlikely, though we need to be disciplined in the Russian capital.
CSKA did well to beat Lyon in the previous round. Though tonight, bar their free-kick, they didn’t offer much. I was surprised at how poor they were, in frankness.
As for us, this game epitomised why we moan, and why fans of other clubs are starting to realise why we moan. Our attacking play is as good as City’s, or Liverpool’s. We’re just not consistent in applying it. We matched Liverpool’s attacking prowess this season at home, so we know we can do it.
Defensively though, we were poor, though this was as much down to CSKA’s bad finishing as it was our lack of shape.
Overall, it was a pleasing performance, and up there in entertainment with the Palace, Everton, or Spurs home games this season.
Cech (5) – Didn’t do much wrong, and the free-kick wasn’t really saveable.
Bellerin (6) – Did well to get an assist and for once showed his attacking prowess
Mustafi (5) – Positionally wasn’t strong
Koscielny (5) – Ditto Mustafi
Monreal (6) – Solid as usual
Ramsey (10) – Got a sound brace, and looked to attack when needed
Wilshere (4) – Very poor from Jack
Xhaka (6) – Looked to get the ball forward as much as possible, but positionally didn’t handle CSKA’s attacks well
Mkhi (6) – Was sharp in the opening periods
Ozil (9) – Excellent performance from him
Lacazette (10) – A great brace in his first start in months
Iwobi (4) – Looked to dribble in the right areas, but his decision-making wasn’t good ultimately
Welbeck (5) – Showed his usual high work rate
Elneny (6) – Was his usual tidy self
Can we win this competition? I don’t see why not. Atletico is possibly the team to beat, though even over two legs, we can do it.
It’s about time we won another European trophy. A club of Arsenal’s standing in the game has won far few European trophies, and another one this season would wrap things up pretty nicely. We’ve actually reached four European finals in Premier League, and only winning one of them (1994), which belies our need to win this competition.
Man of the match
Lacazette did well, granted. But Ramsey’s wonder goal edges it for me. Ozil played well also, but then Ramsey proved his value to us by getting a wonderful brace.