Arsenal v Besiktas
UEFA Champions League qualifier (2nd leg)
Kick off: August 27, 2014 7:45 PM BST
Injuries have never been kind to us and the same thing is happening at the early stage of this season. Olivier Giroud’s injury against Everton has given us a headache just five days before the transfer deadline.
The Frenchman – a striker with the best hold-up play in our team – will be out until 2015 which leaves us pretty short up front given that Theo Walcott won’t be back to full training before the international break, Yaya Sanogo also has problems with an injury and Alexis Sanchez has struggled to gain full fitness. Mikel Arteta is also out, Abou Diaby is always out and Kieran Gibbs won’t be back before City.
The reason why I mentioned our strikers first is that tonight we must score in order to progress (unless we want to keep the tie alive until penalties). We face Bešiktaš who have proven that they shouldn’t be underestimated.
The Eagles have a comfortable position in a way that they didn’t concede a goal at home in the first leg. We didn’t have too many chances – Giroud didn’t react well after Ramsey’s pass and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot was deflected to the post by Bešiktaš’ keeper.
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Demba Ba had three opportunities to score – he made an unbelievable effort in the very first second of the game, sent the ball wide from a promising position after Chambers’ mistake and was stopped with a lovely save by Szczesny.
We will need a quick opener to break the Turkish side and to avoid nail-biting moments in the rest of the match. The Turks are usually better when they play at their own venue so we should beat them at Emirates.
What Wenger will choose for tonight? Podolski up front, perhaps? He hasn’t been convincing in that role due to his poor hold-up play but he is a deadly finisher and can exploit his international partnership with Mesut Özil. The German playmaker struggled against Everton with terrible tracking of Coleman before the first Toffees’ goal but this time he should prove his worth and grab an assist or two. He has been much better at Emirates than in away games anyway so let’s hope he’ll make Turkish side suffer tonight.
There were reports on Alexis’ alleged injury. I don’t know if that’s true or not but he didn’t play well against Everton (not that his team-mates help him though) as a lone striker. Wenger points at the Chilean’s fitness as the main reason so Alexis might be on the bench for tonight’s fixture. Joel Campbell might get his first start for Arsenal in a competitive match – possibly as a central forward.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made some poor decisions in terms of shooting against Everton but he should be in the first team tonight. His pace can cause a lot of problems to the visitors, especially if Mathieu Debuchy repeats his second-half performance from Istanbul. That link-up might be the one that will break down our opponents.
Nacho Monreal might have another fine evening down the left flank if he gets proper support from his team-mates.
Santi Cazorla had a successful cameo against Everton after poor performances against Palace and Bešiktaš. Now, it’s a question whether the Spaniard will be in “on” or “off” mode tonight. Perhaps it would be better to use him as a substitution.
Mathieu Flamini is expected to take his place and a proverbial yellow card in the middle of the pitch. There is always an option with Chambers in the middle though.
The biggest short-term blow, of course, is the absence of our best player Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman picked up two yellow cards in the first match and won’t be able to perform one of his miracles in case things go wrong for us. That’s why Jack Wilshere should either step up or let Tomas Rosicky do that.
Mertesacker and Koscielny should be paired for tonight, provided that the Frenchman is fit. Demba Ba is one hell of a striker and Chambers – despite being our best player in the first match – should let the well-known partnership to do their stuff and keep Ba at bay.
It’s hard to say what should we expect. It can be an easy game – with an early goal and lots of them to come – or another slow start from us, possibly going down before saving our European season and financial record with successive goals.
I’d like to see a comfortable victory for a change. 4:1 for the Gunners with no need for come-back this time, please.
Debuchy Mertesacker (c) Koscielny Monreal
Chamberlain Özil Podolski
Arsenal 4 v 1 Bešiktaš