The way I see it ? CSKA Moscow v Arsenal

Last updated : 17 October 2006 By Jason Hogan
Enforced breaks for internationals are the bane of my life as an Arsenal fan because I have seen how the detrimental effect they have had on our Premiership form in the past.

When you also throw in the fact that the Arsenal are never in anything other than a no-win situation at anytime in the Premiership regardless of whether we are playing home and away, regardless of whether are in form or not and regardless of the opposition, it's very easy to get a little twitchy.

I'm not saying that the Arsenal are under more pressure than anyone else in the Premiership to succeed as such. It's closer to the truth to say that Arsenal (a bit like England in a sense on the international stage) happen to be THE club that people (particularly in the press and the media) want to see fail above everyone else. When we win matches there is often at best a lukewarm, matter-of-fact attitude towards it but when we achieve anything less than that, then the press hacks are effectively running round donned in party hats with size ten hobnail boots on.

I will freely admit to you all that it used to be something that I was really bitter about but these days I tend to use it almost as an extra motivation to be an Arsenal fan and knowing the press and the media will use any excuse to discredit us as a club, I make a point of enjoying every little piece of success we have whether it comes in the shape of a major trophy or just three routine points.

For all that, I was still pleasantly surprised at how things actually turned out for us against Watford. I said in my preview that this lot are better than their position in the table suggested and I meant it when I said that the game wouldn't be a complete walkover for us.

Though it cannot be denied that the Hornets were soundly beaten in the end, they did have their moments and from what I saw of them in games prior to last Saturday, I have to say I wasn't at all surprised. I think they are a side with a better chance of staying up than people may think.

If the Hornets continue to make chances in games and if they can get a couple of home wins under their belt between now and the middle of November, then in terms of staying up in the Premiership, it would really be game on for them.

Other than the result, there were two other significant events that happened at the Arsenal last Saturday, wasn't there? Arsene was given the opportunity to receive a rapturous tribute from the 60,000 crowd for his ten years at the Arsenal though when he was given that red book to commemorate the moment, I do admit that I had visions of Eammon Andrews rising suddenly from the dead and popping up beside Arsene to say the immortal words "This is your life".

The second significant event was Theo Walcott making his full starting debut for the club. Through absolutely no fault of his own, the boy had spent the summer being the butt of jokes and an easy target for cheap jibes by all and sundry on the back of his inclusion in England's World Cup squad. Yet, after his exploits last week in Germany, he is now being touted in some quarters as the answer to England's problems at senior level in the wake of last week's fiasco in Croatia!

Isn't this so typical of the fickle mentality of people in this country? Are we THAT desperate for a national hero that people are focussing on what a 17 year-old kid might or might not do in the world of football? I honestly don't think I have laughed so much since Old Purple Nose said, notwithstanding the antics of Messrs Keane and Cantona over the years, that Arsenal's behaviour towards Cruud Van Horseface (after he had missed THAT penalty) was the worst that he had ever seen in football!

Let's get it right. Theo has proved in the last week, at least beyond a reasonable doubt that he can play and I for one was delighted with the contribution he made against Watford. But I just hope that the press and the media take their lustful pursuit of the next big thing they can build up and then knock down in another direction as far away from the Emirates Stadium as possible so that this boy can continue to learn his trade in the one place where people do genuinely have his interests at heart. I fear that pigs might start flying over The Grove before that happens though.

Anyway, it's time for me to have a quick look at Tuesday's game against the Russian outfit, CSKA Moscow.

It's fair to say that the break up of the old Soviet Union had far reaching implications not just for economy within the new countries that arose out of the old regime but all manner of things on social, cultural and indeed sporting levels.

The structure of football within Russia certainly changed and for a while, football in the region took a slump in standards. However over the last four or five years a revolution has taken place. Money has been ploughed not only into the structure of Russian football but directly into some of the clubs, particularly those based in Moscow.

CSKA are probably the biggest financial benefactors (not least through the investment of Sibneft, Abramovich's oil company, in recent years) and it has allowed them to cast their net far wider for players than was ever possible ten years ago. The idea of having South American players on the books of Russian clubs ten years ago would probably have been considered as being absurd- not any more.

In fact, at this very moment in time, CSKA can boast two fully fledged Brazilian internationals in the shape of Wagner Love and Daniel Carvalho for a start. Wagner Love is young, quick and strong striker who in terms of build is very similar to Obafemi Martins who is now at Newcastle. He was still a bit raw when I last saw him play for CSKA against the PRF the season before last, but you don't make it into Brazil's national squad if you don't have something about you so it's fair to say he has come on a bit since then. Carvalho is a skilful left sided midfielder who possesses a real shot on him. These are obviously two men we will need to watch as well as another South American lad who has the rather unfortunate name of Dudu.

CSKA also have no less than seven current Russian internationals on their books as well and if you throw in the fact that they helped to beat Sporting Lisbon in their own back yard 18 months ago to lift the UEFA Cup then we are talking about a side with a decent pedigree.

This, without question for me, is our toughest assignment we have in our group purely because it is genuinely a trip into the unknown. You may know it's going to be cold in Moscow but you don't know how cold and you certainly don't know how good the condition of the pitch is going to be either.

I remember when we went over there to play Spartak a few years ago and the one thing I will always remember is that the pitch was a cross between a cabbage patch and a toboggan run. And, in truth, we will be fortunate if the state of the pitch isn't similar on Tuesday.

We have yet to register a Champions League victory anywhere in the Baltic region. We have been beaten by Dynamo Kiev twice and we lost to Spartak 4-1 a few years ago. We did get a 0-0 draw against Lokomotiv on our last trip to Moscow though.

The one positive thing is that we couldn't be going out there in much better shape. Let it not be forgotten that we have lost just twice in our last 25 Champions League games and we have just won our last sixth matches on the spin.

I'm hopeful that we can get something from the game but it's a harsh, partisan environment we will find ourselves in and if we want a result out of this, only our best will do.