Arsenal 4-3-3 : Cech – Bellerin Mustafi Koscielny Monreal – Elneny Wilshere Ramsey – Ozil Welbeck Lacazette
Subs: Wilshere [OFF] Chambers [ON] 69, Lacazette [OFF] Iwobi [ON] 77
CSKA Moscow 3-1-4-2 : Akinfeev – V. Berezutski Ignashevich A. Berezutski – Bistrovic – Nababkin Dzagoev Golovin Kuchaev – Musa Chalov
Subs: Dzagoev [OFF] Vitinho [ON] 38 , Bistrovic [OFF] Natkho [ON] 72, Chalov [OFF] Milanov [ON] 79
Arsenal’s Deep defensive line
One thing that everyone picked up on from the off was that Arsenal were defending a considerable amount more than the first leg. Of course this is natural as they have a 3 goal lead to protect, however inviting pressure on by dropping so deep put the tie back into the balance. Defending is definitely NOT Arsenal’s strong point however until they went a goal down, it seemed as if the game plan was to defend for the whole game. Mourinho-esque. It doesn’t take a genius to see the flaws in that plan as we concede many sloppy goals as it is so defending would in fact play to their strengths. It could be argued the deep defensive line was to counter act Musa’s pace, however that should of never of been the plan as a deep line invites crosses into the box. Something that Arsenal have never looked comfortable dealing with in the past 6 years let alone with the back line we currently have. The emphasis should of been our midfield trio closing down the CSKA midfield aggressively and quickly, giving the likes of Golovin(who was outstanding) no time what so ever to look up and pick a pass. To Elneny’s credit he was trying to put the pressure on but Ramsey and Wilshere were not on his wavelength in terms of putting on pressure so Elneny looked a bit silly doing it on his own and consequently CSKA just passed it round him like a year 7 trying to retrieve a ball from the year 11’s.
Ozil as a winger
In previous months Ozil has been playing the role I like to call a ‘wide 10’ where he starts off more central than a winger, but more wide than a 10. This gives him license to operate in pockets of space around the field to pick his passes. Today however, it seemed like he was deployed as a winger, with Wilshere getting the license to roam. The problem that lies here is Ozil does work hard(despite what Graeme Souness and the rest of the media tell you) but he does not offer enough cover defensively. He will track back, but wont actually stick a foot in. More often than not he jockeys which makes it very easy for the attacker to skip around. This left Bellerin (who isn’t great defensively himself) exposed to the likes of Vitinho who always seemed to have the time and space to drop the ball where he pleased which caused a lot of problems. I believe Wenger did see this which is why for the last 20 minutes of the game, Ozil was deployed as a striker with Welbeck going to the flank as he offers more defensive support which Ozil doesn’t bring.
The change to a back 3
In the second half, Calum Chambers came on for Wilshere who was having a poor game and to be honest, is in quite poor form. It signalled a change in formation as Arsenal went with three central defenders and two wing backs either side. This gave Arsenal much more defensive stability and allowed Arsenal to get a foothold in the match in a period where we was doing little more than holding on. The addition of Chambers saw Arsenal outnumber the attack of CSKA therefore limiting the danger and threat posed to Cech. It also allowed Elneny to ‘attempt’ to put pressure on the CSKA midfield which should of been done from the start of the game. Also, it meant Monreal and Bellerin didn’t have to tuck in when crosses came into the box as Chambers is much more equipped with his height and physique. This meant that the wing backs could focus on starting the counter attack which ultimately gave Elneny the ball to slip through Ramsey for an ice cold finish
Elneny 8.5/10 [MOTM