The Gunners progress to the semi-final of the Europa League on a 6-3 aggregate.
Arsenal qualified for the semi-final of the UEFA Europa League on 6-3 aggregate after holding CSKA Moscow to a 2-2 draw in the away leg of their quarterfinal. Arsene Wenger and his men were under high-octane pressure for the 73 minutes of the game, as they had given away their three-goal lead from the first leg, when the hosts raced to 2-0 within the first hour of the match.
However, one goal apiece from Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey not only ensured Arsenal’s progression in the last four of the tournament, but also extended their unbeaten run to seven games.
Here are the three things Arsenal did right in the game:
#3 Including Danny Welbeck in the starting XI
After Henrikh Mkhitaryan sustained an injury in the home fixture of this tie last week, a starting spot had opened up for the likes of Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, on the left flank. Both of them put in impressive performances against Southampton in the Premier League game of the weekend, and it was up to the manager to decide which one of them would start against CSKA in the away leg.
Wenger made the right call and went with the Englishman, who has now scored five goals in four matches for the club. He is in exceptional touch at the moment and looks high on confidence after a long, long time.
The Gunners looked in a preposterous position when they were 2 down and the Russain side required just one more goal to book their spot in the semis. However, Welbeck produced a brilliant turn and followed it up with a beautiful finish to tilt the scales in Arsenal’s favour.
#2 Substituting Jack Wilshere
The Arsenal fan-favourite has had a horrendous time on the football pitch for the last few weeks. He had made a thumping return to the first team of the North London club earlier this season, but seems to have lost his way in recent games.
His performance against Moscow was shocking, to say the least. He was unable to complete a majority of his passes, he kept up with unnecessary dribbling to get dispossessed too often, and the Russians ran past him in the midfield far too many times.
After Arsenal’s 3-goal lead was eroded to a one-goal deficit, Wenger switched Wilshere for Calum Chambers. The defender put in a solid shift in the remainder of the game and covered empty spaces in the penalty box. Suddenly, the visitors looked like a more composed side, and that helped them regroup and score two past Moscow in the last fifteen minutes of the game.
#1 Not giving in to pressure at 0-2
With Arsenal, the story of wilting under pressure is not uncommon. The team has gone on to lose games from extremely strong positions in the past and has the tendency to crumble under coercion from a spirited, low-key opposition.
Hence, when CSKA Moscow grabbed their goals in the game, it seemed all too plausible for the Gunners to lose their footing and throw away a European knock-out tie once again. The fact that Barcelona fell to a similar fate last week in the Champions League must’ve also played on the minds of the Arsenal players.
However, after Chambers came on to the middle and Mohammad Elneny started playing deeper to protect the defence, the visitors seemed to regain their composure. Welbeck’s goal eased the tension even further and all but secured Arsenal’s place in the last four of the Europa League.