This is certainly one of those moments where I wish I had been wrong, but in a way, it’s probably best that I was correct. While I pegged us for a 2-1 in away (which I am frustrated that it did not come to fruition), being spot on about the difficulty of the away fixture was accurate.
Besiktas battled Arsenal to a 0-0 draw at te Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul tonight, but it could have been far worse for us come the end of 90-minutes. Demba Ba had a host of chances (including this from the match kick-off), and probably should have bagged a brace to consign us to defeat. In truth, we were lucky to escape unscathed, but a further blow is an apparent injury to captain Mikel Arteta and the sending off of Aaron Ramsey; Rammer will miss the second-leg, and Arteta may as well.
Shots (total/on target) – Besiktas 14/5, Arsenal 10/3
Possession – Besiktas 52%, Arsenal 48%
Fouls – Besikta 14, Arsenal 14
Tackles – Besiktas 35, Arsenal 18
Passing % – Besiktas 78%, Arsenal 81%
Aerial Dual % – Besiktas 44%, Arsenal 56%
To be honest, I really have no idea where to begin, as to avoid this divulging into an incoherent rant of sorts. In regards to our movement going forward, Olivier Giroud yet again proved he’s a better impersonator of a Dam than a striker; his ability to hold up the play and then snuff out any forward progress is incredible, and certainly should be commended (please, note the sarcasm here). There were quite a few instances where Alexis Sanchez was visibly frustrated with the walking hair-gel billboard.
In regards to Sanchez, once more, you can praise his effort, but many will bemoan his inability to truly put his stamp on the match; yet again, his final product was not there. Clearly he’s still trying to not only adjust to life at Arsenal, but trying to find his niche in the side – still and yet, his work rate has been top notch in every appearance, and that is commendable for sure.
As for Santi Cazorla, he’s currently the prime example of how talent does not equate to the notion that you should be included in the XI. Yes, the little Spaniard has spent much time in other positions other than central attacking midfield during his successful years at Malaga, but he is not a viable option out wide for Arsenal in either the 4-2-3-1 or the 4-3-3. Bereft of pace, always wanting to come centrally rather than stretching the opposition defense and seemingly forgot that he has a brilliant shot on him, Cazorla is not the same player from the previous campaign.
With plenty of wide players at the club, Cazorla’s guaranteed spot in the side should come under threat, mainly from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who came on tonight and brought that pace and direct style to the side; he even nearly found a potential match winner, but his effort was parried away well by Tolga Zengin.
In a gritty contest that came down to the defensive and midfield thirds, Besiktas held their ground well, forcing the Gunners to fight tooth and nail for every inch, and winning much of the real-estate battle. Such a performance was to be expected, and while Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere put in the effort, we were unsurprisingly unable to control the middle of the park. With potentially out and the German’s returning to active duty this coming weekend, Arsene Wenger could well turn to Calum Chambers to feature him in the holding role.
Speaking of young Chambers, another fantastic performance from him again. That’s three appearances thus far this season, and he’s arguably been Arsenal’s best player in each of them. He did make a costly error today, but naturally that comes with the territory of being just 19 and making your European debut in a very hostile setting; he still did quite well.
Unfortunately tonight, Aaron Ramsey was not able to inspire us to the result we had all hoped, and his silly second booking that saw him earn his marching orders puts us in an interesting situation come the second leg. With Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker likely to feature, Wenger could return to the 4-2-3-1, and have Chambers and Wilshere in midfield behind Cazorla, Ozil and Sanchez; for me, not our best XI, but rather close.
On the whole, we did not produce the type of performance everyone knows we are capable, but in truth, a 0-0 draw is not the worst thing by any means. Coming back to the Emirates and not behind on aggregate gives us every chance in the world to turn it on and get through to the group stage. But, yet again, do not sleep on Besiktas, even if they will be away from home.
Lastly from me, and something for you all to think about (I will be doing a piece on this in the next week or two), consider the players we have at the club, especially in the attacking positions. Would it not make more sense for us to return to the days where we were the most feared counter-attacking side in world football? Let that stew for a little while.
To close out, let’s turn to Luke Duffy for his take on the match. While Luke covers Everton for us here at WeAreHooligans, he’s die-hard Arsenal and has had his say as well.
“Strange evening and a strange game! Took Arsenal a long time to get going, and ironically enough, looked more comfortable once Sanchez was removed. Defensively we were sound enough. Calum Chambers looked good again. Ramsey’s sending off was equal parts soft and silly; technically we’ve seen yellow cards given for his two challenges, but both were soft at best. The Ox looked lively when eh came on, and nearly capped it off with a goal. Hopefully he can start next week in the return leg. Didn’t deserve to win, didn’t deserve to lose. I would be more concerned if they were a more threatening side who didn’t rely a lot on Sahan, Ba and Ozyakup. An away goal would have been nice, but still expect Arsenal to get the job done next week.”