Ramsinho and Ozil steal the show

I’m sure that footballers dream about games like last night. They spend all day doing boring drills and running laps so when they drift off to sleep it has to be to images of pastoral open spaces, perfect pitches, unmarked players, and about ruby red caviar passes and sapphire side-heel volleys. Only in dreams and the Europa League do such visions come true.

If Gooners were worried that CSKA Moscow might mark anyone or get close, might run around all elbows and hard fouls, those fears were allayed as Arsenal were allowed the freedom of the borough. Özil floated from space to space. Picking up the ball along the way, picking out a pass, and then floating off to another space to await the ball again.

The opening goal was credited to Ramsey and Bellerin but it was Özil who started the move, gliding in to collect and passing the ball back to Bellerin who whipped in a cross to Ramsey. Ramsey had been signaling “cutback, cutback, cutback” with semaphore arms for a minute or so before the ball came to him and this is apparently something coach Ramsey has been working on with young Bellerin.


The cutback is one of the most effective passes in football and something of a specialty for Özil. Wenger loves the throughball, Guardiola considers the cross to the near post a “half-goal”, and Özil loves the cutbacks. Another specialty of Özil is caviar. When he’s not serving up cutbacks, he’s sending out sumptuous servings of caviar to his teammates.

As much as Özil had the freedom of the pitch, CSKA also failed to mark Aaron Ramsey. Ramey didn’t barnstorm or even make big runs, he was just able to walk into spaces unmarked. A dream come true for any footballer but especially for a midfielder.

Leaving Ramsey unmarked was quite the feat from CSKA who were playing with three center backs and only had the one forward to contend with but they managed it time and again. Ramsey ended the match with seven shots, five of them right around the 11m spot thanks to CSKA’s elderly back line.

Marked or not Ramsey scored one of the best goals I’ve seen since Eduardo’s beach-volley against Burnley. Just like the Eduardo goal, Ramsey received a chipped pass from his teammate, but unlike the Eduardo goal, Ramsey still had a lot of work to do. Ramsey was facing backward and he sort of scorpion-kicked the ball over Akinfeev, who looked like a child trying to high-five a basketball player as he palmed helplessly at the ball. Even the Juventus supporters, back in their homes in Turin, stood and clapped when that ball went in.

CSKA did turn the match into a track meet for a little while in the first half and Ahmed Musa routinely made Arsenal’s back line look foolish. Despite the assist, Bellerin had another nightmare and was beat off the dribble 4/6 times in this match which isn’t quite the ringing endorsement for his recent switch to veganism that he’d like it to be.

Arsenal were also a bit lucky that after Musa beat them he typically went for the wrong option or his teammates blasted the ball well over the goal. CSKA have a clear problem with quality up front, which is as obvious as the fact that they have to play a defensive midfielder as a center forward.

That said the Golovin goal from a free kick was perfectly placed on a postage stamp. It was their one moment of quality in this match.

The famous CSKA “dirty play” turned out to be a few silly elbows and Pontus Wernbloom falling over on himself. And they spent a grand total of just 5 minutes or so pressing Arsenal, making just 14 tackles. It was a weak display from them but there was one comical moment when Blernwomb was challenged, screamed like he’d had his leg broken, rolled over grasping the leg, and then immediately popped up looking like that bulldog from the Tom and Jerry cartoons. Expect more of that, on snus, in the return leg.

With Ramsey and Özil free to do their work, Ramsey had the most shots (7), carried half of Arsenal’s expected goals, scored two beauties, and could have had a hat-trick. Meanwhile, Özil finished the match with the most touches of any player (101), most final third passes (50), most key passes (5), most assists (2), created a third goal by winning a penalty, and even could have scored a goal himself.

CSKA didn’t provide the threat they were billed to have and there’s a sense that this tie is over. But I’m not sure about that. I won’t be happy until Nacho Monreal scores Arsenal’s 8th.

I am sure that the wildness of these Europa League matches is a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see the next game.



  1. Ozilicious passing and Ramtastic finishing defined the first half. As long as teams with lower quality players (no offense to CSKA) go toe to toe to with Arsenal, play a high line and leave acres of space behind – I think we can all count on enjoying the kind of feast we enjoyed yesterday. I was surprised the CSKA coach didn’t take off one of the CBs and replace him with a MF to mark Ramsey.

    There was a pivotal moment in the first half, right after CSKA scored, when Ahmed Musa got the ball about 12 yards out, left Xhaka for dead on his arse and shot wide. If that had gone in, I wonder if they would have played a more pragmatic game.

  2. An excellent review, but for one omission, Lacazette. His cooly taken penalty and opportunistic goal wrapped up a very good night’s work.

    1. Good point. Lacazette’s finish was sensual, romantic, I like the way he caresses the ball.

  3. So hard to watch a game like that last night. CSKA are sooo slow. They didn’t seem able to handle the pace on the counter. I can’t even say we played all that well – so many times I saw us unable to make a simple pass to break the lines and we rely on these one touch flicks to keep the passing movements flowing; it’s not sustainable against better opponents. Ah well. I am pretty confident that we’ll lose 2-1 maybe in Moscow and progress.

    1. Oh just naff off, Jack.

      Such a tired schtick. You always look at an Arsenal win from the POV of how badly the other team played.

      Good grief.

      1. Yep, you’re right. I’m sure that CSKA team would finish top 10 in the Premier League. My bad.

  4. Oooh Pep just mentioned in his pre-derby presser that Utd offered Pogba and Mkhi to City. Hahaha. I’m sure that will help Pogba’s ever declining confidence under Mourinho.

    1. I think he said RAIOLA, not UNITED themselves, offered those players to City.

    2. That was a testy presser! “I’m a dog? You want to work with me, I’m a MUTT?”

  5. I’m sure we’ll progress, but with defending like that, no way we’re winning this competition. A better team will punish us for the stupidity and sluggishness that’s typical of our “defense.” Drives me nuts.

      1. Forget Athletico. I have serious doubts if we will be able to get past RB Leipzig. That’s a serious team who just beat Bayern a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t just a lucky win either. They played really well.

    1. Forget the final for a moment, but the way the semifinals are shaping up I’m already bothered. That said, it’s rare to get that far (semis) in virtually any knockout competition and not have to face top/toppish notch opposition.

  6. I’m with Jack. Despite the flashes of brilliance, we looked pretty sloppy in possession and porous on defense. CSKA couldn’t finish anything, and that really helped. At some point one of these European teams will press us hard and it could get ugly.

  7. Enjoyable moment – too many to name but Rambo’s second was sublime.
    Comical moment – the revelation that CSKA’s back 3 had a combined age of something like 105!
    Sad moment – JW not being up to the mark. He gave his shirt away at the end and I wonder if he’s already signed off. He’s been Arsenal through and through but, a bit like Theo, I’d prefer tomfollow him from afar in future.

  8. Jack was in the way of the pass to Laca before the first goal, he actually intercepted that pass and then hurried to pass it backwards as he didn’t have a plan with it, he was in the way of the pass to Laca on the 4th goal as well thankfully he couldn’t make it this time 🙂

    1. And then when Iwobi iwobied that magnificent through ball from Ozil Jack was darting forward to the box and for some reason he just decided to stop and ball just passed the exact location he must be to make a simple tap in
      Ironically, Laca was there pushed out of the optimal position to make a poor attempt

  9. I hope we get A.Madrid next so we can prove we are up to it. These wins aren’t fluke. The team selected is set up to win specifically managed….give credit where it is due. Results recently didn’t just happen…..

  10. This was such an interesting game because we looked shaky at the start but when it clicked we really went for the jugular offensively. Lacazette reminded me what the hype was about. Maybe the recovery and rest was the best thing for him. Hope we get a showdown between him and his compadre Antoine Griezmann.

    Took a while for the ‘Juventus fans applauding’ gag to land but when it did I chuckled. One of the classiest moves of the season from the Juventini. Have the Emirates crowd ever applauded a goal scored against us?

    1. Eduardo for Shaktar. But that’s different.

      The commentators were saying for the Ronaldo goal that they’ve never seen something like this before in their 30 years of watching football. I remember when the Real Madrid crowd stood up to applaud Ronaldinho’s hattrick. Honestly, Juve fans applauding was a nice moment, but Real fans applauding Ronaldinho was shocking.

  11. Sometimes they don’t even applaud our goals…

    I jest.

    But what do people think about Ox praising the Anfield atmosphere? Could be that he is just sucking up. Or maybe the crowd support really makes a difference to some players.

    As for the bus assault, I think Liverpool should have to play their next CL home game in an empty stadium.

    1. Uefa are not going to risk an empty stadium in a semi final. Which is why the verdict will be announced 5 days after the CL ends. An empty stadium for a group game next year. Not quite the same thing. But yeah. Maybe that’s what will happen.

      1. The only way to stamp out violence and racism in football is to adapt a zero tolerance policy , meaning kicking clubs involved out of the competition , or in a case of league play docking points.

        My guess is that the thugs who threw bottles and bricks at the City coach didn’t even go to the game, so why would they care if Liverpool play a group stage game in an empty stadium next year, or the club pay a stiff fine.
        When people get hurt , as it was reported, drastic actions by the governing bodies just be justified.

        1. The problem with hitting clubs with that harsh a penalty is that clubs can only do so much, and most of it is, like the authorities, post facto. it will surely face legal challenge. Plus, it will be prime grounds for some rival ultras to get a club thrown out by pretending to be their fans and engaging in violent and racist behaviour.

          I don’t think you can actually solve a social problem through the legal route, though that is obviously an important part of it.

          1. What about Heysel? That England got kicked out for years?

            Different era. Would never happen today. But the club(s) might get banned if there were deaths as a result of fan violence in the stadium. Hopefully it won’t ever come to that again.

      2. Liverpool supporters have always been fanatical, the atmosphere created in the ground couldn’t fail to encourage and inspire the players. Unfortunately that fanaticism can all too easily spill over into unacceptable behaviour especially when encouraged by the club itself, as in the invitation for fans to “welcome” the Man City team bus.

        UEFA need to take immediate action to stamp out what could very easily become a regular event. A fine for the club will do nothing to dissuade the hooligan element, closing the ground for a match or two might have the desired effect.

        The ludicrous idea that UEFA can delay any punishment until after the competition is over is totally unacceptable.

      3. Sure. I see why UEFA wouldn’t. But if you are Liverpool and you thought it helped, then why wouldn’t you ‘let’ it happen again?

        If you are an ultra why not amp it up? Maybe add some fire. Doesn’t have to be a molotov cocktail but burning tires make great barricades and then you could rush the bus, flip it over and give Real Madrid the fright of their life.

        If you are a broadcaster why not stir the pot? Do man on the street interviews and ask people if they thought it helped. If they’re coming back next time. Celebrate the PASHUN!

    2. The atmosphere at Anfield is legit amazing. Who would Ox need to suck up to and why would praising your own fans/home atmosphere be described as ‘sucking up’? Because it’s Ox saying it?

  12. Bad news about Mkhitaryan, possible medial ligament damage. He could be out for the rest of the season. 😢

      1. So funny that people who relentlessly abused Alexis Sanchez are sad about Mkhitaryan’s injury.

        Great game from him yesterday. Fate is a cruel mistress.

  13. One other deterrent that may well work, once the police have identified and prosecuted those responsible, the coach company should sue them for the cost of repairs and loss of business whilst the coach is out of commission.

    Hitting the miscreants in the pocket will have a salutary effect.

    1. Why are you obsessing over disciplinary solutions for an incident that’s so rare in top-flight English football as to be nearly irrelevant? It’s not an endemic issue, it’s a match-day policing one, and you can’t legislate for the minority of drunken idiots who live to cause trouble.

      Deter the culprits in this case and others will just take their place.

  14. Goodness, I’ve got a lot of man love for David Silva. He’s always, to me, the most eye-catching player on that fabulous team.

  15. Silva is simply fantastic, no doubt.
    It’s like watching the first place team playing bottom of the table dwellers, and not like two top teams in the league with comparable spending power.

    If I’m a United fan I’m embarrassed.

  16. Great comeback by United.
    Terrible finishing by Sterling cost City the game .
    Again, all marginal and not so marginal calls went against City two games running.

    Somebody need to tell Lee Dixon to brush up on the rule of the game that have changed significantly since he played.
    Getting a touch on the ball and taking the player out right after that, while the ball stays in play , is not “winning the ball”

    1. Clear penalty. Clearer red card. That dude is the most one-footed footballer I’ve ever seen. And he’s a right footer playing left-back.

    2. Is that who that was on the NBC feed…. I was getting so annoyed by him not being able to shut up about “nicking the ball.” I get it, he’s a defender, he played in another era, but I’m sick and tired of hearing about winning the ball. IT DOESNT FLIPPING MATTER if the tackle gets the player on the follow through, even a little, it’s still a foul!! The only things worse than the analysts in British football are the referees, and the only thing worse than them is Mourinho and his ever-shrinking cadre of admirers in the media.

      Yes, I’m bitter that City didn’t get to rub their first half dominance in Mourinho’s ugly face and that smug lickspittle got away with another game when his team didn’t show up and his goalkeeper and referees bailed him out. Just like against Arsenal. I wish he would flip off back to Portugal, or the moon, and never coach again.

      1. A bit harsh on Mourinho. All the poor guy did was to have a magnificent second half of football.

        You can get a piece of the ball first in the course of a dangerous challenge, and give away a foul. Logic says that, but better yet, the laws of the game say that. Shame on Dixon.

        And oh, Sanchez. I tuned in late in the first half and didn’t even realise he was playing till the start of the second. But what a second half he had. Sub by Mourinho didnt make sense, as Alexis was one of the most dangerous players on the pitch at that point.

        1. I struggle to put into words how much I despise that man. Donald Trump levels of hate. I actually think the two are quite similar except Mourinho was legitimately really good at his job for a while whereas Donald’s only talent was maximizing his own publicity.

          1. That’s absurd. He’s a charmless man, but Trump levels? What’s he ever done to you? You need to give yourself a checkup, my man.

          2. I dislike Mourinho but nothing can ever reach the Trump levels of hate for me and I’m a white guy who’s benefited from his policies, at least short term anyway.

            Mourinho thought his team was in control in the first half.
            You just can’t make it up.

          3. He’s a self-obsessed megalomaniacal social climber more known for his egotistical soundbites than his actual coaching ability who has managed to utterly ruin his relationship with every major club he has been affiliated with because he uses everyone to further his own image and his own ambition and as soon as the chips are down he blames everyone but himself. He only cares about himself. He’s the shrieking adolescent demanding a drivers’ license and a Tesla at the age of 15. Then, granted his wishes, he proceeds to crash the car and blame you for buying it. Then he moves on and repeats the trick. To me he embodies everything that is wrong with the sport.

  17. Yea, former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon still stuck in the past.

    Atkinson is a terrible referee something most of Arsenal fans can clearly attest to, but at least he only got one look at the play, while Dixon had the comfort of three replays from three different cameras and still got it wrong.

    With my tin foil hat firmly on I’m ready to proclaim that City winning the league in the record time and rendering the rest of the season’s broadcast kinda boring, might’ve not been much to the English FA liking.

    Two key calls went against City.
    Smalling marginally offsides for United third and Aguero penalty shout, had they gone the other way , City might’ve been celebrating today.

    1. I felt the same Tom, not usually one for conspiracies but the chiefs at the FA must think it’s a bad look if the trophy were to be given out so soon and honestly I’ve hardly seen such a one sided refereeing performance as Atkinson in the second half. Appalling.

    2. Those two refereeing calls word have made absolutely no difference had not Stirling wasted five, that’s five, clear goal scoring g opportunities.

      As to conspiracy theories, how many can there be?

      1. As many as it takes when financial and promotional benefits in selling their product ( the PL) outweigh allowing the chips fall where they otherwise may have.

        Was Leicester winning two seasons ago a “feel good story” and a great promotional tool for the PL?
        You bet.
        I’m sure all those penalties awarded to them during that season (10 was it?) were strictly deserved and had no bearing on the final outcome in the tables, when Arsenal only got 2 if I remember correctly.

        By the same token there is absolutely no upside for the supposedly toughest and most competitive league in the world to have their title won by any club in record time with months left to go.
        This isn’t a knee jerk reaction on my part either and since I watch most top PL teams play , I can say with utmost certainty that I haven’t seen this many red card fouls go unpunished against anyone before as I’ve seen go unpunished against these City players the entire season.
        Maybe, but I’m too long in the tooth and too cynical to think that way.
        Follow the money is usually the right approach in trying to explain away things that seem just a bit cookie.

        Why else would the PL refs sign a NDA ( non disclosure agreement) upon receiving their golden parachute package from PGMO before retirement (allegedly).

  18. The only positive about Mourinho winning this one in the 2nd half is at least Man City will not be “The Almost Invincibles”, as that is two losses now in the league. Thinking three points were in the bag and already looking to Tuesday’s 2nd CL leg, City certainly looked like Arsenal in the 2nd half, handbrake and all.

    Still they will still set records this season. They need 12 points from the remaining 18 available to break Chelsea’s 2004-2005 points record. They’ve blown away Chelsea’s 2009-2010 record for for goal difference. Chelsea finished at +68 and City are at a staggering +84! (Man U have surpassed it as well at +71 and Liverpool will probably do the same as they are at +67).

    I guess this is what a billion dollar team looks like.

  19. I’m one of the least superstitious people I know but after the news about Henrikh Mkhitaryan, I am ready to believe that we are indeed cursed. I won’t go through the list, many of you know the names as well or better than I do but think of all the fabulous football talent that has crashed and burned at Arsenal.

    It’s beyond abnormal. It’s paranormal. Mourinho has a voodoo doll in an Arsenal kit with many pins in it. Or something, But this is some m$&#$rf@#king crazy s*&t.

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