Wilshere turns in error-strewn showing as Arsenal salvage draw in Moscow
Arsenal flirted with disaster in their Europa League quarterfinal against CSKA Moscow before a Danny Welbeck strike stopped panic setting in, a 2-2 draw on the night enough to secure a 6-3 aggregate win.
CSKA needed to win 3-0 to progress and looked more than capable of masterminding another amazing turnaround in the mould of Roma vs. Barcelona after going 2-0 in front. Arsenal were rocking but Welbeck struck on 75 minutes, and with the sting taken out of the tie, Aaron Ramsey scored late on.
After a sterile opening 39 minutes, CSKA were in front when Fedor Chalov reacted quickest to snaffle a loose ball when Petr Cech made an initial save. Amid some tactical confusion on Arsenal's part, it was 2-0 on 50 minutes when Kirill Nababkin pounced on another loose ball from a Cech save.
But Welbeck eased Arsenal's nerves with a superb goal. The forward won the ball well on the left flank and then drifted into the box to receive a superbly judged return pass from Mohamed Elneny before firing into the top corner. Elneny then set up Ramsey for an unnecessary, but welcome second.
In a week of glorious chaos in Europe, where big upsets have been claimed, Arsenal made it through to the semifinals and that is probably all that really matters. Welbeck also continued his impressive recent run of form at a crucial point in the season.
In the first 75 minutes, Arsenal lacked any kind of character and seemed to have no clue about how to approach the game. They created few clear-cut chances, defended badly and were a tactical muddle as Arsene Wenger flitted between different formations. Panic was the order of the day until Welbeck intervened.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- The aggregate win was healthy enough, but that glosses over the fact that Arsenal could easily have gone out. After a poor first half, Wenger moved Elneny back into a back five, only to promptly bring him back to midfield after CSKA scored their second. It was all a bit of a mess, but Arsenal deserve credit for turning it around in the end.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 5 -- Made a decent stop to keep out Nababkin's header and would have been annoyed no defenders were on hand to stop Chalov scoring. But was more at fault for the second with a swat at Aleksandr Golovin's long-range drive.
DF Hector Bellerin, 6 -- Looked keen to get involved in the early stages, but he lacked a bit of quality in the final third.
DF Laurent Koscielny, 6 -- Not at fault for either goal but missed a great chance when firing over on 69 minutes. Helped see the game out.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 4 -- After his gaffe at the weekend, Mustafi was left standing and watching again for the opener as Chalov tapped in. Not good enough.
DF Nacho Monreal, 5 -- Didn't look great for the opening goal as he was beaten to a cross from the right.
MF Mohamed Elneny, 8 -- The most prolific passer in the Europa League became a centre-back in the second half as Arsenal switched to a back five, and then promptly returned to midfield after CSKA scored their second. His pass for the Welbeck goal was gorgeous and he impressed throughout, adding a second assist late on.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 7 -- His participation looked in doubt when he injured himself making a challenge in a disappointing first-half performance. But stayed the course and hit double figures with a superb dinked finish in the closing stages.
MF Jack Wilshere, 4 -- He took a nasty blow to the face when Mustafi headed a clearance straight at him early on. An error-strewn second half saw him removed as Arsenal added a defender. Not on good form.
FW Mesut Ozil, 6 -- Was unable to wield his usual influence but worked hard at times.
FW Danny Welbeck, 7 -- Lacked the necessary quality as Arsenal struggled to create chances for most of the match but sprung to life when starting the move for his goal and finishing with aplomb.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 5 -- Had one wildly hit shot from outside the box to show for his 76 minutes on the pitch. Poor.
DF Calum Chambers (for Wilshere, 68), 6 -- Helped to turn the game.
FW Alex Iwobi (for Lacazette, 76), N/R -- Had a shocking miss on 89 minutes.
Tom is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @tomEurosport