By Tony Attwood
According to a number of reports on last night’s game Arsenal were out and just sneaked back in.
It is quite hard to collate that with winning 6-3 overall, but that is the way it was presented on Radio 5. It was a curious point: somehow Arsenal were out, and only by the sneaky underhand approach of using the last 15 minutes of normal time and spot of added time to score two goals (a dirty trick if ever there was one) did Arsenal go through. Just. 6-3.
As one headline (this from the Telegraph) puts it “Danny Welbeck stops the rot as Arsenal survive early scare to stumble into Europa League semi-finals.” So a 6-3 stumble.
A similar approach would be to suggest that if a team scores a winning goal in the third minute of injury time in a league match, to increase their points take from the game from one to three, that is cheating. But it wasn’t even that. We stumbled through 6-3.
There were just two periods in this two-legged affair in which CSKA were going through, during the period when it was 1-1 at the Ems and between the 51st and 76th minutes in Russia. All the rest of the time it was either unclear who would win (as when the first game kicked off for example) or it was Arsenal.
And yet “Arsenal’s Europa League dream lives on – just” and “Danny Welbeck stops the rot.”
But let’s move on to the man who gave the pass that led to the goal that “stopped the rot”. Mo Elneny. Who was also the man of the match by some reckonings. The man who was described on TV by Paul Merson as “Nowhere near good enough” when he was signed.
On 8 March 2017 the Telegraph was back on the theme, having moderated it a little to say the jury was “still out” on whether he was “good enough for Arsenal.”
In November 2017 Martin Keown called Elneny “almost a passenger”. On 20 January 2018 there was one those little twitter outrages that the media love to encourage (so the journalist can just copy twitter gibber and not bother about writing a proper story). HITC reported twits (sorry tweets, although twits is probably right) saying
- Elneny is the worst, don’t think he ever makes a forward pass
- Elneny is garbage!!!
- I could have played Elneny’s role today. Passing sideways and receiving clearances on the half way line ain’t hard when your 4-0 after 20 mins.
Not everyone agreed, as one reader twotted
- Great performance but Elneny was my Man of the Match today. He was bossing that midfield like he owned it
To which the reply came in
- Why aren’t we selling welbeck n elneny
Which is interesting give that at one point last night Welbeck “latched on to a wonderful Mohamed Elneny pass to finish calmly 15 minutes from time.” And indeed Elneny won the man of the match award in some quarters for last night’s display.
It is, perhaps, fortunate that journalists and twotters don’t run the club.
The other teams through are Marseille who were behind in the first leg, Red Bull Salzburg who scored four in 20 minutes to knock out Lazio and of course Atlético Madrid who lost to Sporting Lisbon on the night.
The draw is today. Here is the Spanish table