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Arsenal need to learn Champions League lessons

There is a lot that Arsenal can learn from Tuesday nights Champions League games ahead of tonight’s tie against CSKA Moscow.

The ultimate lesson is do not try and defend the lead.

Barcelona went to Rome with a 4-1 lead from the home league. They were in a similar situation as Arsenal face tonight. A 3 goal lead, but with the opponents having a crucial away goal.

Whilst Barcelona had the majority of the possession, they did little with it. Pass, pass, pass. Sideways, sideways, sideways. 57% of the possession resulting in just 9 shots.

Manchester City did similar with a 4-0 lead over Basel.

They were leading 4-0 from the away leg, but lost the home leg 2-1. Despite having 78% of the possession, and going 1-0 up, they were just not interested in scoring.

Liverpool in the first half against Manchester City on Tuesday was a similar story. They were defending deep, looking to hold on to what they had rather than increase their lead.

It was only in the second half when Liverpool decided to attack that the momentum of the tie changed. What was looking like being an incredible Manchester City come back ended up with Liverpool leaving the Manchester Commonwealth Games Stadium having won both the battle and the war.

Tonight Arsenal need to be aggressive. They need to come out and play their normal game. To attack. To not let CSKA Moscow get back in the game.

As we saw on Tuesday with both Barcelona and Manchester City, the first goal can change the complexion of the tie.

Manchester City scored in the first 3 minutes. This forced Liverpool even deeper. Had City’s second “goal” not been wrongly disallowed, I am sure they would have gone on to win the game.

Roma were similar. They scored in the 6th minute. And when Daniele De Rossi scored the second goal, Barcelona players looked scared.

In 90 minutes, it is the equivalent of being 2-0 up. You’re in control. Should cruise to the end. A few substitutes come on. Starting to relax. Then it is 2-1. It is hard to then get back on the front foot, get the mentality right, and often it ends up 2-2.

This is the same for Arsenal. At 4-1, we should get through, but we need to show the right attitude. We need to get on the front foot and ensure that we are dictating the game and being a threat. Just a single Arsenal goal in Moscow will change the tie, as it takes out the away goals. But to get that goal, Arsenal need to attack.

We saw is against Ostersunds.

A poor attitude led to sloppy defending which led to the Swedish minnows going 2-0 up after 23 minutes. Arsenal started the goal with the wrong attitude, thinking they could just pass their opponents off the pitch, and nearly ended up paying.

Against AC Milan, leading 2-0 from the away leg, Arsenal conceded first at home. Hakan Calhanoglu scoring from 30 yards looked to change the tie. Luckily Arsenal shook themselves down and responded quickly.

If we go 1-0 down tonight, we could be in for a long 90 minutes as the natural response will be to defend deeper.

Arsenal need to learn the lessons from the Champions League and come out attacking.

Be aggressive and we go through.


5 reasons Arsenal will beat CSKA Moscow + Starting XI

1) Arsenal are finally taking the competition seriously – Having limped through the group stages with a mixture of reserves and youth, Arsene Wenger has finally realised that the Europa League is the only way we will win a trophy and get back into the Champions League this season.

What this led to was a change of policy in the Premier League clash against Stoke City – where the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Granit Xhaka and Henrik Mkhitaryan were rotated out for not being 100%. Expect all 3 to start tonight

2) After a torrid start to 2018, Arsenal have hit form with 4 wins in 4 games. 11 goals scored and 3 clean sheets.

3) Can Moscow do it on a mild Thursday evening in Islington? They rely so much in the Champions League group stages of teams freezing in sub zero temperatures in Moscow, that playing them in April will be a different kettle of fish. It will favour Arsenal.

Even for the away leg, temperatures in Moscow will be positive, with them being as high as 17c next Monday.

4) Alexandre Lacazette returned to first-team action at the weekend, scoring a goal. His return is timely for the Europa League with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ineligible and Danny Welbeck no good.

5) Arsenal will be out for revenge on behalf of every citizien of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland after the horrendous state authorised attempted murder of British citizens in Salisbury

Predicted Starting XI:


Bellerin Koscielny Mustafi Monreal

Wilshere Xhaka Ramsey

Ozil Mkhitaryan