The Breakdown

The Breakdown: Arsenal v CSKA Moscow preview

We’re back in Europa League action on Thursday when we welcome CSKA Moscow to Emirates Stadium for the first leg of our quarter-final.

Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox examines our opponents in more detail.

THE MANAGER

There are plenty of familiar names in the CSKA starting XI, but while few will be familiar with their manager, Viktor Goncharenko, he’s arguably the most fascinating thing about the Russian outfit. Still only 40, Goncharenko won five consecutive titles with BATE Borisov, and also masterminded one of the Champions League’s greatest shocks of recent years, a 3-1 victory over Bayern Munich in 2013. In charge of CSKA Moscow since December 2016, he’s proved himself a canny tactician.

FORMATION

CSKA play a 3-5-2 system when they hold on to possession. That said, they’re likely to play primarily on the counter-attack on Thursday, so this could look rather more like a 5-3-2.

STRENGTHS

CSKA can be lethal on the break – they use a two-man strikeforce, but in a way neither is a true centre forward. Ahmed Musa, on loan from Leicester City since January, is an electric winger who offers a constant counter-attacking threat, and in this system will look to make runs into the channels to collect long passes, perhaps in the mould of his ex-team-mate Jamie Vardy. Alongside him is Brazilian Vitinho, a brilliant all-round attacker capable of genuine moments of magic, and very adept at shooting from long-range. Arsenal must watch him carefully. 

DANGERMAN

Alan Dzagoev pushes forward from midfield into clever positions in-between the lines, and is a creative, attack-minded player who pushes forward to play dangerous through-balls into attack.

AREAS TO TARGET

In defence, CSKA still have the two Berezutski twins, Aleksei and Vasili Berezutski. Neither were particularly mobile in their younger days, but now need to defend close to their own penalty box because they don’t have the speed to cover in behind. The three-man defence is often completed by Sergei Ignashevich, now 38, who inevitably has a similar problem.
 

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