Arsenal Player Analysis: Arsenal vs CSKA Moscow

It was a great outcome but a mixed performance from the Gunners, who were greatly helped by some strong individual performances by Mustafi, Xhaka and Ozil and some clinical finishing by Ramsey and Lacazette.

While Arsenal setup in a notional 4-2-3-1 formation prematch, they appeared to adopt more of a 4-2-1-3 formation in game.



Despite Arsenal winning the possession battle (57% to CSKA Moscow’s 43%), the Gunners had to largely rely on the transitional passing of Xhaka, the creativity of Ozil and the clinical finishing of Lacazette and Ramsey to breakdown their Russian opponents.

Defensively, while Arsenal’s goal wasn’t overly threaten in the match, with CSKA only managing to get 4 of their 11 shots on target, CSKA did showed their effectiveness at transitioning the ball via the dribble, recording 14 dribbles in total. That combined with the poor defensive efforts of Bellerin, Koscielny and Monreal threatened to expose Arsenal at time, with Mustafi coming to the Gunners’ aid on a number of occasions.

In terms of individual performances:

GK: Cech
It was a strong performance from Cech who produced 3 saves for the match and did well when called upon to deal with CSKA’s 17 crosses. In terms of the goal Arsenal conceded, there was nothing Cech could have done to prevent what was a beautifully struck free kick from Golovin. 7/10

RWB: Bellerin
It was another match in which Bellerin struggled defensively (2 tackles and 1 interception) as his opponent Schennikov repeatedly beat the Spaniard via the dribble (3 successful forward dribbles) and was allowed to attempt a number of crosses (5 crosses, 2 of which were accurate). Offensively, Bellerin was also very poor, showing no attacking intent with his dribbling (0 successful forward dribbles) and attempting just the 1 cross for the match (though he made it count with an assist for Ramsey’s opening goal). 4/10

RCB: Mustafi
It was another excellent defensive performance from Mustafi (4 tackle, 3 interceptions, 8 clearances and 1 successful aerial duel). While he wasn’t particularly challenged aerial by his opponent Musa and the player, on loan from Leicester, was able to attempt 2 shots, 1 of which was on target, and execute 5 successful forward dribbles, Mustafi’s accomplished defensive performance ensured the threat posed by the Nigerian was largely dealt with. 9/10

LCB: Koscielny
While he wasn’t overly challenged by his main opponent on the day, Wernbloom (2 shots, 1 of which was on target and 1 successful forward dribble), it was an underwhelming performance from Koscielny (0 tackles, 2 interceptions).  The Frenchman’s lack of aggression in his defensive approach allowed his opponent attacking opportunities that he otherwise wouldn’t have had.  Disappointingly, Koscielny also lost the aerial battle with Wernbloom (3 successful aerial duels to Wernbloom’s 6 successful duels). That said, the Frenchman did a great job of simply clearing his lines throughout the match, which is reflected in his 8 clearances.  After Chambers’ impressive performance versus Stoke, the pressure is on Koscielny to improve his defensive production to justify his ongoing selection. 5/10

LWB: Monreal
It was a quiet day defensively for Monreal (2 tackles and 0 interceptions) as his main opponent Kuchaev offered a  minimal dribbling threat (2 successful forward dribbles) and failed to attempt a cross during the match. My only criticism of Monreal’s defensive performance was that he could have been more intelligent in his defensive positioning to completely nullify the limited attacking threat posed by his opponent. Offensively, Monreal, like Bellerin was very poor, only attempting 1 forward dribble and failing to attempt a cross. 4/10

RCM: Ramsey
It was a mixed defensive performance from Ramsey, who struggling to contribute in term of tackling (1 tackle) but demonstrated improved defensive awareness (3 interceptions).  That said, Ramsey’s defensive positioning was poor as he failed miserably to screen the space in front of Bellerin and Mustafi (which put significant pressure on Mustafi in particular). In terms of Ramsey’s offensive performance, despite and passing the ball with very good accuracy (85%) and scoring two goals, as a consequence of abandoning his assigned central midfield position to occupy a more attacking midfield role, it was an underwhelming central midfield performance by the Welshman as he struggled to meaningfully contribute to Arsenal’s transitional play (2 accurate long range passes and just 1 successful forward dribble).  Ramsey once again demonstrated that he is far more suited to being deployed as an attacking midfielder as opposed to a deeper central midfield role.  While Arsenal weren’t burnt by his incorrect deployment versus CSKA Moscow, it has proved to be a different story versus higher quality opposition. 5/10

LCM: Xhaka
It was an underwhelming defensive effort from Xhaka, who demonstrated solid defensive awareness (2 interceptions), but was not aggressive enough in his approach (1 tackle). Xhaka’s defensive performance versus CSKA Moscow was a distinctly poorer showing in comparison to recent weeks and I’m hoping it was just a blip.  Offensively, Xhaka’s passing accuracy was excellent (87%) as was his transitional passing (7 accurate long range passes) which was the catalyst for a number of Arsenal’s attacks. The only criticism of Xhaka’s offensive effort was his failure to offer anything in terms of transitional dribbles (0 successful forward dribbles). 7/10

RCAM: Ozil
It was an excellent attacking performance from Ozil who notched 2 assists, executed 3 successful through passes from his 4 attempts, had 2 shot for the match, 1 of which was on target and recorded 3 successful forward dribbles. While Ozil passed the ball with less accuracy than normal (80%), that was a consequence of the German taking more risks with his passing, which was very much welcomed.  For the amount of wages Ozil is being paid, he needed to increase his volume of dribbles, shots and attempted through passes and he did precisely that versus CSKA Moscow. 9/10

CAM: Wilshere
It was a poor performance from Wilshere (0 shots, 1 successful forward dribbles, 0 attempted through passes and 73% passing accuracy). After his recent poor performance versus Stoke, I noted that Wilshere’s time at Arsenal should be coming to an end due to his lack of offensive production (attempted through passes, goals and assists) when deployed in an attacking midfield role and his lack of defensive production (tackles and interceptions) when deployed in a deeper central midfield role. His abject performance versus CSKA Moscow did nothing to change that assessment. 2/10

LCAM: Mkhitaryan
It was a mixed but underwhelming performance from Mkhitaryan (4 shots, 1 of which was on target and 95% passing accuracy but 0 successful forward dribbles and no attempted through passes). Mkhitaryan’s historical performances indicate that he is capable of much better than what he produced versus CSKA Moscow, particular in terms of forward dribbles and attempted through passes. The challenge for the Armenian is to replicate those historical performances on a consistent basis for Arsenal. 5/10

ST: Lacazette
A clinical performance from Lacazette with 2 goals from his 2 shots for the match, one of which was a sumptuous volley. While Ozil did his best to feed the French striker, the same couldn’t be said of Mkhitaryan or Wilshere. Until Arsenal’s attacking midfielders begin to regularly create clear cut goal scoring opportunities for Lacazette, Arsenal won’t see the Frenchman’s true value. That aside, it was an impressive performance from Lacazette. 8/10

Overall, it was great outcome for Arsenal and puts the team in a commanding position going into the second leg in Russia.

That said, Arsenal will need to improve their defensive effort as they cannot keep relying of Mustafi to come to their rescue. Similarly, in attack, while Ozil’s performance set the benchmark which he needs to strive to replicate on a regular basis, he cannot do it alone and his fellow attacking midfielders need to substantially increase their offensive production.


The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from

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