Arsenal’s March of the Never Rated

2-2 at full time; 6-3 on aggregate. On paper it looks as if Arsenal have cruised through to the Europa League semi-finals. The reality is somewhat different.

Arsenal survived a scare in Moscow. Trailing 2-0 and under pressure in the second half, a 3rd CSKA goal would see them lead the tie on away goals.

The up stepped Danny Welbeck in the 75th minute to give Arsenal the breathing space with the sides first shot on target.

That single goal by Welbeck turned the tie. Instead of it being 1 more goal for Moscow to go through, they now needed 2 goals just to take it to extra time. It knocked the stuffing out of them.

Welbeck is often derided by Arsenal fans. Deemed not good enough. A frustrating player. One who has all the physical attributes to be world class, but none of the ability. He struggles in front of goal – a massive problem for a striker.

But in the last 4 games for Arsenal, he has 5 goals and an assist – had he joined Liverpool in January, the press will be going on about how great he was, how much he has improved under Jurgen Klopp.

But he, nor Wenger, will get any credit. It will be labelled as “just Moscow”.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup tied and Henrik Mkhitaryan our injured, the role of supporting Alexandre Lacazette has fallen to Welbeck. And he has not disappointed.

In his last 2 second leg Europa League appearances, he has been the game changer.

Against AC Milan, trailing 1-0 at home, Welbeck won and converted the penalty to make it 1-1. He then scored if the 86th minute to put the tie to bed.

Then yesterday Arsenal were on the verge of going out. Shell shocked. It was Roma v Barcelona all over again. Then Danny Welbeck stepped up to the plate with his excellent goal.

Yesterday was actually his 10th goal of the season. If he can do that consistently, as 3rd choice striker, Arsenal have a decent contributor in the squad. Bit like Sylvain Wiltord.

Then we have the man of the match from yesterday. The stats speak for themselves.

During the game, some people began comparing him to Gilberto Silva in the fact that a lot of what he does you do not see.

I am not 100% sold on the comparison, but Elneny has a very simple and effective game. Win the ball, then pass it to someone who is in a better position to create. He understands his limitations and works hard.

Unlike Francis Coquelin; who always seemed to be frustrated and wanting to be involved in the build up, Elneny sits back, covering the back 4.

But he can also play. 2 assists yesterday show this. He might not be as good defensively as Gilberto, but he is better on the ball.

I would like to see him given the chance to play in the middle of the midfield 3 until the rest of the season. We still need a top defensive midfielder, but continual good performances by Elneny will give the manager another option.

Whilst Elneny goes about his business quietly, without much praise from the supporters, a fans favourite is struggling.

Jack Wilshere has a horrendous game. Not for the first time this season, he looked off the pace, his touch and passing deserting him.

He has been average this season, and last night showed why Arsenal are reluctant to invest in him. Whilst the likes of Elneny and Aaron Ramsey have stepped up, Wilshere has gone backwards.

He seemed to spend the majority of yesterday rolling about on the floor and complaining. It is also interesting to see the tide on Twitter turning against him. Many of those backing him to start earlier in the season now questioning his place in the starting XI.

Arsenal clearly think they can improve on Jack Wilshere. That the money he wants could go towards financing a deal on someone who is superior. Fitter. More consistent. And it is hard to argue against that.

The club might even feel that if they secure the right defensive midfielder, it will allow them to push Granit Xhaka further forward. Allow him to be the deep-lying playmaker with a man behind him clearing up.

It is the role he plays so well for Switzerland. The role he played in Germany before he signed for Arsenal. He has never been the deepest of the midfield. He has always played with someone more defensive minded next to him, or behind him.

Xhaka will probably be back this weekend for the game at Newcastle. If he is 100%, he should go straight back in the first team alongside Ramsey and Elneny.

Wilshere is clearly in need of a rest. It might become a permanent one.

So we are through thanks to those who people sit and moan about.

The draw is today at 12noon. RB Salzburg, Atlético Madrid and Marseille are our potential opponents. None of them fear me.

Up the Arsenal

Keenos

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