Arsenal’s official team sheet set up the team as a 4-4-1-1 however in game it was a clear 4-3-2-1 : Cech – Bellerin Mustafi Koscielny Monreal – Ramsey Xhaka Wilshere – Mkhitaryan Ozil – Lacazette.
Substitutions: Mkhitaryan OFF Iwobi ON (61) , Lacazette and Wilshere OFF Welbeck and Elneny (73).
CSKA Moscow 3-5-2 : Akinfeev – Ignashevich Bereztuski V. Bereztuski A. – Kuchaev Dzagoev Natkho Golovin Shcennikov – Wernbloom Musa.
Substitutions: Dzagoev OFF, Vitinho ON (65), Natkho OFF Milanov ON (74), Musa OFF Khosonov ON (83)
Float like Ozil, Sting like a bee
At the start of the game, Ozil and Mkhitaryan were deployed as wide number 10s who would initially take up wider positions. However, it is clear that Wenger does not expect Ozil to stick to his position and is given license to float around the pitch into various positions to pull the strings for Arsenal and it paid dividends. Ozil was finding himself in pockets of space all around the pitch getting in behind Natkho and making it a difficult night for the midfielder. CSKA Moscow were losing him all over the pitch and simply could not handle the movement. The German international’s roaming was pulling opposition players out of position which meant that when he got the ball, he could look up and put the ball in the space that the player had vacated which meant the player Ozil found could then stream forward with the ball into space. This forced that player to run back to position to close down the ball which once again, left Ozil free to receive the ball and manipulate it in the way in which he likes.
Also, Ozil’s runs in behind from deep was something that Moscow’s ageing back 3 was not able to deal with. When Mesut started running from deep, by the time he got to the back 3 he already had built up so much momentum that he couldn’t be caught by the old guard of CSKA Moscow which left Ozil with so much space to put a ball in or cut back in and shoot.
Arsenal’s Midfield trio
Arsenal’s midfield trio consisted of Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. Granit Xhaka was deployed as a deep lying playmaker who was instructed to stay in front of the defence as protection but to support the attack if Arsenal were undergoing a period of build up play. This added an extra number to the attack which was one more body for CSKA Moscow to deal with. Granit was the base of the attack , the ball would get passed back to him if there was no way through and he would proceed to switch it to the other side for who ever was on that flank at the time (Bellerin or Monreal) to start an attack down their side to see if they had any more luck than their colleagues on the other side.
Jack Wilshere was used as an Advanced Playmaker who looked to kick start attack with forward thinking and visions. Also, he had a job to take the pressure off of the defence when defending by winning free kicks to stop the game. This wasn’t Jacks best game by any means as he gave away the ball a lot of times therefore I wasn’t surprised to see him come off. His passes to kick start counter attacks were quite sloppy today which subsequently led to a lot of attacks being stopped at early stages. As well as this, I felt he dwelled on the ball in dangerous areas way too much and put us under unnecessary pressure which is disappointing as everyone knows Jack is much better than what he shown today.
Aaron Ramsey was used in his usual role of a box to box midfielder who makes late runs into the box to finish any loose balls into the box. Aaron has put in a lot of stellar performances this season and is statistically the best of his type in Europe. Today his first goal came from a trademark late run into the box with a Lampard-esque finish. His second was a thing of beauty as he made a run beyond the striker and met a beautifully weighted ball from Ozil and came up with a lovely bit of improvisation as he lobbed the keeper with an absolutely audacious back heel. The 4-3-3 formation is how to get the best from Ramsey as it allows him much more freedom to make the runs he makes into the box without having to worry about the lack of defensive cover behind therefore we aren’t exposed to a counter attack. Ramsey is truly an asset to Arsenal and his contract is the most important to secure as his numbers do not lie.
The first half saw the return of prime Wengerball as Arsenal were ripping CSKA Moscow apart with their quick passing and build up play. Arsenal were switching the ball from side to side which meant CSKA could get nowhere near. When the switch of play was quick, we would often have Ozil and a fullback 2 on 1 with CSKA’s full back as they played wing backs which proved a bad move. Also, Arsenal would undergo a lot of patient build up play, but pick their moment to get forward and the formation allowed them to do so comfortably. When they picked their moment it consisted of fast one touch passing which sliced open the midfield and defence of CSKA Moscow and they simply had no answer to counter act this.
Cech : 7/10
Koscielny : 6/10
Monreal: 8 /10
Xhaka: 8 /10
Wilshere : 5.5/10
Ramsey : 9/10
Ozil : 9.5/10
Iwobi : 7/10