Arsenal’s 4-1 first leg win over CSKA Moscow at the Emirates was one of the club’s best games of the season. Aaron Ramsey was dominant, Mesut Özil pulled the strings as only he can do, the combination play was fantastic, and the Gunners finished their chances.
And so the Gunners take a commanding lead to the VEB Arena for the second leg, but they cannot get complacent. CSKA managed 3 goals at Lyon in the last round to overturn a 1-0 deficit on aggregate and knock the French side out of the competition. The Koni have balanced scoring and play well at home. The away goal CSKA managed in the first leg might come back to haunt Arsenal, but then again if they blow a three-goal aggregate lead, they have bigger problems.
Arsene Wenger has never been one to park the bus so expect the tactics to remain mostly the same. The wing backs and holding midfielders will likely not play as aggressively to protect against conceding cheap goals on the break, but things should look familiar apart from that.
Arsenal received some bad news on the player availability front today - Granit Xhaka did not travel with the team due to flu. Mohamed Elneny, fresh off having his red card rescinded (which didn’t impact the Europa League anyway), should replace him in the lineup. Given the Egyptian’s recent strong run of form, the Gunners should not experience much of a letdown from the change. Xhaka is a better passer but Elneny is better defensively, which may work in Arsenal’s favor as they defend their aggregate lead.
Alex Iwobi should replace the injured Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the left. For more discussion of the impact of Mkhitaryan’s injury, check out the latest edition of The Fusillade. Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, and Nacho Monreal will all return to the lineup after resting at the weekend.
Blowing a 4-1 aggregate lead, even on the road, would be a massive disappointment. CSKA Moscow certainly have the attacking ability to score 3+ goals, and let’s face it, Arsenal’s defense has been porous at times this season. But even if the Gunners concede three, it’s hard to imagine they don’t score a few of their own as well. CSKA did not look capable of slowing down the Arsenal attack in the first leg and barring major changes that should continue tomorrow in Moscow.
WHAT: Arsenal at CSKA Moscow
WHERE: VEB Arena, Moscow, Russia
WHEN: Thursday, April 12, 2018 12:05 PM PT | 3:05 PM ET | 8:05 PM BT
US TV: FS1. Streaming on Fox Sports GO and ESPN3.
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