All the major talking points from Arsenal’s convincing win over CSKA Moscow in the Europa League.
Goalscorers: Aaron Ramsey (9′, 28′), Alexandre Lacazette (23′ Pen, 35′); Aleksandr Golovin (15′)
Arsenal now have one foot in the Europa League semi-finals after a first-half mauling of CSKA Moscow during the Quarter-final meeting between the two sides at the Emirates last night. Arsenal asserted their home advantage and turned on the heat in the first half courtesy two goals apiece from Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette.
Ramsey found the back of the net as early as the 9th minute after getting on the end of a ball from Hector Bellerin to beat Igor Akinfeev in goal for CSKA. Aleksandr Golovin impressed during his first taste of the Emirates when he equalized through a thunderous free-kick six minutes later.
However, CSKA failed to push on from there and conceded a penalty that Lacazette converted to swing the tie in Arsenal’s favour before Ramsey completed his brace with a sensational first-time volleyed finish over Akinfeev, putting the Gunners 3-1 ahead.
Just 7 minutes later, Lacazette added the final goal of the game with a composed finish that handed Arsenal the advantage.
Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the major talking points from the game:
#1 Ramsey takes centre stage as Arsenal entertain
Arsene Wenger’s men played some of the finest attacking football they’ve played all season in the first half against CSKA Moscow last night. The Gunners were quick and direct in their approach and it did not take too long for their movements to disrupt CSKA’s rhythm at the back.
Aaron Ramsey, in particular, stood out as he took on the task of entertaining the Emirates when he broke free to open the deadlock early on. The Welshman’s performance in midfield stood out from the rest of the pack and the technique to lift the ball over Akinfeev with a sublime touch to grab his second goal on the night made it a night to remember for the player as well as everyone involved in the same.
Arsenal enjoyed themselves out there on the night and it has been a while since they’ve done that with such panache at the Emirates.
#2 Golovin shines
The 21-year-old has taken Europe by storm with his impressive performances for CSKA Moscow and it is believed that some of the top clubs in the continent including Arsenal are keeping tabs on the midfielder, who has already established himself as an indispensable part of his side.
Arsenal’s quick-fire start shifted the spotlight away from the youngster but he responded in style and smashed a belter of a free-kick beyond the reach of Petr Cech to put his side back on level terms in the 15th minute. Golovin looks like a tidy little player who can work his way through tight spaces and onrushing bodies which makes him a perfect fit at the Emirates.
However, Arsenal and other potential suitors for the Russian sensation will have to wait until the World Cup is over. Currently, the host nation’s chances of making a mark at the global stage partially rest on Golovin and his abilities.
#3 Lacazette finally makes his mark
Alexandre Lacazette has not enjoyed the best of starts to his life in England, due to inconsistency, injury lay-offs and, more recently, the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund on deadline day.
Aubameyang, who scored twice in the Gunners’ last outing in the Premier League, is ineligible for this competition due to his appearances for Dortmund in the Champions League during the first half of the season and that forced Wenger to present Lacazette with the perfect opportunity to regain his lost touch.
The former Lyon striker, who made his first start for the club since the end of January, scored twice in the space of 12 minutes when he converted a penalty from the spot after Mesut Ozil was brought down by Georgi Schennikov. His second of the night was a very well taken low left-foot volley into the bottom-left corner of the net from inside the box.
#4 CSKA will have to do the unthinkable if they are to qualify
It’s so nearly the end of the road for CSKA Moscow who will now have to overturn a three-goal deficit when the two sides lock horns in Moscow next week. Golovin’s goal in the 15th minute means that the Russians have an away goal to their advantage but it surely is Arsenal’s tie to lose after they romped to an impressive first-leg victory.
Arsene Wenger’s men look well poised to enter the penultimate knockout round before the final at the Groupama Stadium in France. Arsenal will know that Russia isn’t the best place to visit for a crucial knockout cup game, but then this performance surely proved that they have what it takes to avoid any slip-ups.
#5 Defensive frailties will concern Wenger for tougher tasks that lie ahead
The only negative aspect from Arsenal’s 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow in the first leg of the Quarter-finals was their vulnerability to quick counter-attacks that seemed to trouble them several times in the game. Ahmed Musa, in particular, caused a few problems simply due to the sudden burst of pace he provided during counter-attacks.
The fascinating fact about Arsenal is that while on the offensive end they are capable of beating any side remaining in the Europa League, if they remain vulnerable from counter-attacks, they will have a hard time keeping the likes of Atletico Madrid and several others quiet, assuming they will have to face each other at some point to be crowned champions in the end.
Taking into consideration performances like these, Wenger seems to have the ability to pull the rabbit out of the hat whenever he is under pressure and victory in this competition in order to earn Arsenal a route back into the Champions League will certainly be on the back of his mind.