We may have gone into the game depleted and minus at least five first choice players but the ones who took the field in Moscow turned out to be more than good enough to do the job. (Have we ever had such strength in our first team squad?).
There were sterling performances by Vertonghen and Alderweireld in quelling CSKA’s most obvious threat, the giant Traore, by Davies and Trippier in providing width and making sure the attacking pressure was sustained, particularly after half time, and from all of Alli, Eriksen, Lamela and particularly Son who all buzzed around and prodded and probed until resistance was broken and we got the lead we thoroughly deserved.
Not that the display was perfect, on several occasions Moscow got behind our full backs and better quality strikers, like those possessed by Monaco for instance, might have made better use of the ensuing crosses. Well though Lamela, Eriksen and Alli played they all exhibited the frustrating sides of their games too often, they’re each capable of making the sublime look easy before immediately giving up possession lightly or making a hash of a simple looking pass. As for Janssen, he was useful without being inspiring. Offside too often and too obviously snatching at the ball like it was the last sandwich on the buffet, he needs to chill, there’ll someone out from the kitchen with another tray shortly. We’ve been through all this before with Soldado, Janssen offers much more however and will come good.
Despite the goals from Son, whose consistent match winning performances are starting to test how often the headline writers can go to the punning well (ahem), the lack of cutting edge is a repeating theme in this campaign. In all of the games against Everton, Palace, Sunderland, Monaco and now Moscow we’ve struggled to create chances and score as many as our play and possession deserved.
The stretching of first team resources meant that the bench looked thin but the introduction of NKoudou provided exactly the sort of impact Pochettino appeared to be after when he bemoaned our lack of variety post the game against Liverpool. The winger provided a pacy, confident outlet and also used his speed to quell at least one Russian breakaway. We can expect to see a lot more of him if this cameo was a typical display.
The international break means that it’s three weeks until the next game in this competition, a trip to Bayer Leverkusen. A couple of important domestic fixtures before then though beginning with a de Bruyneless City on Sunday.
Well done everyone. COYS.
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