Europa League Once More
Arsenal are currently preparing for their first European quarter final in years, up against CSKA Moscow. This is their first foray against Europa League level opposition in the latter stages of a competition, so it will be interesting to see how Arsenal cope in this sort of environment, being the favourites to win rather than being underdogs.
Against Milan, who were certainly not favourites but surely considered more likely to reach the latter stages than CSKA, Arsenal won 5-1 on aggregate. They will be hopeful, therefore, to bypass the energetic Russian side with minimal fuss, before reaching the likes of Atletico Madrid in the semis.
Despite knocking out a Lacazette-less Lyon side in the second knockout round, CSKA were beaten 1-0 at home by the French side, meaning that their Europa League tally reaches only 4 goals in 4 games. Arsenal, by contrast have scored 23 goals in 10 Europa League games, including 9 in their 4 knockout fixtures.
This isn’t to say that the Russian side are blunt up top, as they have scored on average 1.47 goals per game in their domestic league. While Arsenal should therefore take them seriously, they will be buoyed by their superior attacking output, scoring 1.87 goals per game in the Premier League.
In Form Arsenal
The key for Arsenal, therefore, will be getting the first goal. Arsenal have scored 11 goals in their past 4 games, so will be confident of scoring first against CSKA.
Both sides have similar defensive styles, with Arsenal conceding 10.6 shots per game in the League, and CSKA conceding 10.7 shots per game. The difference between the two sides is the league goals conceded.
CSKA have conceded only 0.78 goals per game this year, a staggeringly low number for a side that are only third in their league. Arsenal, by contrast, have conceded 1.32 goals per game. While no one would argue with the fact that it is easier to concede goals in the Premiership, CSKA seem to defensively cope with their level of opposition better than the Gunners.
More Than Just Goals
Aside from current form, goals scored and goals conceded for both sides, Arsenals style of play suggests that they will be the dominant force in the tie. Arsenal average 59.3% possession in the Europa League, while CSKA averaged only 49% in Europe this season.
Arsenal also have a 10% better pass completion ratio in Europe this year, which again suggests that Arsenal will have control of the midfield in the tie. This may free up the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey to assist the attack, which can have delightful benefits for our forwards.
The Russian side have a significantly better aerial duel win ratio than Arsenal, but many teams do. The gameplan for Moscow should be the tried and tested possession and quick passing technique, and we should hopefully see our team reach our first semi final of the decade.