Arsenal, You Have Laid Your Bed, Get Ready to Lie on it

 

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Arsenal’s decision not to sign a new center back is suicidal

May 21, 2005.

Arsenal’s skipper, Patrick Vieira, scores the penalty that hands the Gunners the FA Cup trophy after a pulsating encounter against fierce rivals, Manchester United. The next season is really special for everyone connected with the club – the club are finally going to wave their goodbyes to their eternal home ground, Highbury, and will be looking to the future as they play at their new ground, Ashburton Grove, or Emirates Stadium, as we know it.

The Premier League campaign in the 2005/06 season was dominated by Chelsea with Arsenal battling hard with Tottenham for the final Champions League slot. The highlight of the season was undoubtedly the Gunners’ European campaign that ended up in heartache as they lose out to Barcelona in Paris. As the seasons progressed, there were near misses like the 2007 Carling Cup final loss to Chelsea, the unfortunate 2007/08 Premier League title challenge, the 2009 FA and Champions League semifinal stints and then of course, the excruciatingly painful Carling Cup final loss to Birmingham City in 2011.

Nine years without a trophy. The opposition fans taunted, abused and did everything they could to any Arsenal fan they could get their hands on. We persevered. But after a long wait, the Gunners had a date with destiny on May 17, 2014, as they played Hull City to get a great chance of winning that elusive trophy that would get the monkeys off their backs. They did it in grand style – coming from two goals down to win in extra time. The stuffs dreams were made of.

Belief was restored. The players gained some confidence as some went to represent their nations in the World Cup while others went for long holidays with loved ones. With the World Cup serving as a good distraction, it was glaring that Arsenal needed to do some business in the transfer window,

  • Lukasz Fabianski had joined Swansea in search of regular game time so a new replacement goalie was needed.
  • Bacary Sagna left for the petro-greens of Manchester City so a new right back was needed, except the manager had plans for Carl Jenkinson.
  • It was glaring that a “specialist DM” was needed bearing in mind that the Gunners struggled in that position all season long.
  • The club needed a new attacking alternative to Olivier Giroud, as the burden was too much for the handsome Frenchman to bear.
  • Thomas Vermaelen’s future was in doubt so a replacement center back was needed as the Gunners rode their luck with Per Mertesacker (52 apps, three goals) and Laurent Koscielny (46 apps, three goals) throughout the campaign.

From the listed points above, Arsenal needed at least five players that were to add to improve the squad but the fans hoped for qulaity as well as quantity.

Bam! In rather shocking fashion, Alexis Sanchez arrived from FC Barcelona. This got the players and fans alike buzzing alike buzzing at the prospect of such a wonderful marquee signing. His attacking instinct would come in handy, bearing in mind that he just came of a 21-goal campaign in La Liga.

Sanchez has scored twice for his new team

Shortly afterwards, Sagna’s replacement arrives in the form of Matt Debuchy that was the real deal while whispers about Serge Aurier and Seamus Coleman served as good smokescreens. With the Gunners linked with a move for Calum Chambers, one wondered what the future held for Carl Jenkinson and the fans got that answer when Chambers was signed and Jenkinson was booted to Sam Allardyce’s camp. Arsenal really meant business.

But hey, what about the goalkeeper, center back and DM we are clamoring for? Arsene Wenger answered the first part of the question by swiftly swooping for Colombian shot stopper, David Ospina, from OGC Nice. Young, energetic and ready to fight Wojciech Szczesny to be No. 1, not some Matt Poom-esque fella that would be content seating on the bench and earning a fat paycheck.

Then the defensive midfielder links started hitting the back pages with full force – Sami Khedira, William Carvalho, Adrien Rabiot, Morgan Schneiderlein, just to name a few. The fans waited and kept on clicking the F5 button on Arsenal’s official site hoping to see articles like ‘Arsenal signs Mr. X‘ but all they saw were stuff like ‘Wenger – Chambers can handle pressure’, ”Wenger – Giroud is getting better every year’, Szczesny – I’m relishing Ospina’s competition’ and the whole nine yards.

The preseason campaign started with full flow and with the World Cup stars given extended breaks from their exertions, the fans witnessed some hot and cold performances – a sign of things to come. Then out of the blue, the captain leaves for the sunshine of Spain, so signing a center back was paramount. However, Nacho Monreal played a couple of games in that position – little did we know that it was probably an audition for the position when injuries or suspension strike.

Following the fantastic Community Shield victory over Manchester City, the Gunners struggled to assert themselves against Crystal Palace. The dounle-legged tie with Besiktas was sandwiched in between an away clash with Everton but on the day the Gunners battled hard to earn a creditable draw, disaster struck – Giroud fractured his tibia and following a successful surgery, he was diagnosed to be out for at least four to five months.

Crocked: Olivier Giroud went down against Everton and he will have a second scan on his injured ankle

This meant that in addition to finding a replacement for the Verminator, the Gunners needed to also signing a new striker to deputize in Giroud’s stead and on the back of Yaya Sanogo’s performance against Leicester City, it became glaring that the Gunners needed a new man to line the line, as Wenger clearly lost faith in Lukas Podolski and Joel Campbell.

The transfer deadline day came upon us yesterday and Arsenal fans watched as players move to and fro with the biggest transfer news being Manchester United’s pursuit of Colombian goalscoring sensation, Radamel Falcao. The minutes turned to hours as the Gooners kept waiting. Would we do another Ozil? Which center back is coming in? Any slight hopes of that DM? Who’s Giroud’s replacement?

With speculation rising that the Gunners were keen on signing Danny Welbeck from Manchester United, the fans took to social networking platforms to air their mixed opinions and when I listened to Sky Sports report that the Gunners requested for an extension to finalize the deal for Welbeck, I was stunned. Seriously, with the club in dire need of a center back and a center forward could take the team to the next level, the best we could muster was a Manchester United reject?

But as we would have it, Welbeck is now an Arsenal player and as long as he’s now wearing the sacred Red and White, I’d give him my full support. He had his breakthrough in the 2008/09 campaign and he has scored 20 goals in 90 appearances for the Red Devils with 10 of them coming last season. He has also won 25 caps for the England national team, scoring eight goals.

With Welbeck now serving as the new attacking option in place of Giroud, one would wonder why the Gunners failed to secure a new center back with the departure of Vermaelen and Ignasi Miquel. Yes, the attacking options are ‘great’ but when things are still shaky at the back personnel wise, all the good works of the attackers would count for nothing. The first goal Arsenal conceded this season was a headed effort from Brede Hangeland and when you watch the goals conceded against Everton, you may want to rip off some parts of your hair from your head with your hands. The kind of space Coleman was allowed was bewildering and the way the defense imploded to that Romelu Lukaku-led counter attack raised a few eyebrows.

The defense did well in the double-legged tie against Besiktas but there were moments, especially in Turkey, when hosts carved the Gunners defense open but their finishing let them down. Just last weekend at the King Power Stadium, Koscielny suffered a gashed head and going for an aerial ball with Schlupp and if there was a “Vermaelen” on the bench, he would have replaced the injured Frenchman almost immediately but looking at only Chambers as his alternative, Wenger chose to allow Koscielny to stay on the pitch and play a role in the goal conceded before he took him out for Chambers eventually.

Leonardo Ulloa heads in Leicester's equaliser against Arsenal

Chambers has done really great since he joined but there have been moments when his inexperience has been exploited but as a young lad on a steep learning curve, things can only get better for him. But with the Gunners failing to sign Vermaelen’s replacement, it seems more than likely that Mertesacker and Koscielny are going to play a lot of games this season and we as fans can only hope that they would stay fit.

While I’d laud Arsenal’s transfer dealings early in the summer, I’d regard the club’s exploits on transfer deadline day as a failure as they failed to secure players in the positions that were obviously required to be filled. Bearing in mind with the way Arsenal’s rivals strengthened their own teams, one must wonder if the Gunners really have the squad that would challenge on all fronts this season.

Arsenal, you have laid your bed, get ready to lie on it.

Sayonara.

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Leicester 1 Arsenal 1: Another Reason Why the Gunners Need a Striker

Sanogo struggled in the game. Arsenal needs a striker

Leicester 1 (Ulloa 22′) – Arsenal 1 (Sanchez 20′)

King Power Stadium (Premier League)

Player RatingsMatch HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

Following the nervy victory over Besiktas, it was expected for the manager to rotate the squad and with that in mind, Yaya Sanogo spearheaded the attack and Aaron Ramsey also returned to the starting lineup following his mid-week rest. With everyone connected with Arsenal hoping for the Gunners to sign a new striker following the unfortunate injury suffered by Giroud, Wenger offered Sanogo a chance to at least prove his doubters wrong. He did no such thing. *sigh*

Right from kickoff, Matt Debuchy tried to dribble his way through two Leicester players but he was fouled by the players closing him down. Arsenal swiftly launched a counter attack with Santi Cazorla but his pass to Sanogo was met with a horrible first touch from the lanky Frenchman, a sign of things to come. Cazorla had a half chance after Alexis was robbed off the ball but his effort went wide. Rayid Mahrez got the better of Nacho Monreal before sending an inviting cross for Leonardo Ulloa but his header was easy picking for Szczesny.

The next noteworthy moment of the game occurred when Laurent Koscielny and some Ghanaian – German bloke called Schlupp clashed heads with Koscielny coming out second best. It took a while for the French defender to receive treatment and with Calum Chambers serving as the only defensive option on the bench, many Gooners felt that it was time to give the lad a run-out in place of the concussed Kos but he returned back to the pitch with an unorthodox head gear – a move that somewhat proved costly as the game progressed.

The match opener finally arrived when Cazorla dinked the ball over the defense but Sanogo failed to capitalize on the ball. Luckily, it fell to Sanchez path that wasted no time in blasting the ball to an unguarded net.

2014/15 Leicester City v Arsenal -Alexis Sanchez

Two goals in a week for the Chilean

Sadly, the Gunners lead lasted for only two minutes as Schlupp surged from the left hand side before swinging a sumptuous cross that was headed home by Ulloa. Koscielny would have anticipated the ball but it was glaring that the defender was struggling from his head injury. He was replaced by Chambers shortly afterwards.

Leonardo Ulloa heads in Leicester's equaliser against Arsenal

A good header by Ulloa nonetheless

Mesut Ozil sent Sanogo clean on goal but his poor finishing could only yield a corner. Sanchez swung in the ball to the near post and it was attacked by Per Mertesacker but Sanogo’s effort was blocked by Morgan. Ramsey sent a cross-field ball that was controlled superbly by Alexis but his shot was blocked by Morgan. Ozil did well to win himself a free kick but he failed to get his shot beyond the wall.

At half time, Arsenal had made 15 goal attempts, which was more than the attempts on target they had in both games against Crystal Palace and Everton. At the start of the second half, King sent an inviting cross to David Nugent but his header was saved by Szczesny. It was end to end stuff as Cazorla latched on to Sanchez pass before firing the ball wide. Leicester almost went ahead when Ulloa made mince meat out of Chambers before curling the ball to the side netting.

Cazorla dinked another perfect pass over the defense to Ramsey but he inexplicably chose to head the ball to the goalie when an unmarked Sanogo was in a better position to score. With the Gunners pushing on for a lead, there were going to be the threat of a counter attack and they were terribly exposed when Mahrez, Ulloa and Nugent combined but Debuchy was on hand to make a superb block. Cazorla sent in a cross that was headed over by Sanogo and that turned out to be the final contributions from both players as they were replaced by the Ox and Lukas Podolski.

Late on, Ozil suffered a knock

With Arsenal battling for the all-important goal to seal all three points, their hopes were dashed when Mesut Ozil picked up a knock and struggled to make an impact. Right at the death, Leicester launched another counter attack and almost grabbed a famous victory when Vardy thought that his shot was good enough to find the back of the net but Szczesny made another spectacular save to keep the game tied.

The ref’s final whistle was very frustrating because the Gunners know that these were two valuable points that had been dropped. With the home tie against Manchester City coming up after the international break, Wenger and his team have to go back to the drawing board and the fans would be hoping for a better performance from the lads. Wenger was bombarded with questions about Sanogo’s performance and signing a new striker, and as expected, he handled them in his typical Arsene Wenger-esque style, which can offer hope as well as wiping it off.

Can we stick with him throughout the season? I think not

When it comes to answering some questions about transfers in the Press, Wenger reminds me of that doctor in the hit movie, ‘The Dictator’, that told that patient that he was “HIV Aladeen” with ‘Aladeen’ being positive as well as negative. So basically, the chances of Arsenal buying a striker on transfer deadline day is ‘Aladeen‘.

How you intend to react to that is entirely left to you.

But I’d end today’s post with a quote from @I_am_OGB,

“If we can’t get the players we would love to have at Arsenal, we should try and love the players we already have at Arsenal”

Food for thought when the transfer window closes.

Sayonara.

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Leicester Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

Leicester v Arsenal

Rambo returns

Saturday’s football action showcased the excitement of the Premier League as Manchester United continued to struggle under Louis van Gaal. The most shocking result of the day was Mark Hughes’ Stoke City side going to the Etihad to grab all three points but no game on the day could match the enthralling encounter at Goodison Park with Diego Costa making his mark for his new club against the Toffees with two well taken goals.

Today begins with Aston Villa hosting Hull and this is followed with another Spurs versus Liverpool clash. Tottenham fans don’t have fond memories of this fixture because last season, Liverpool scored the goals that made the club dismiss their two managers but under the tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino, Arsenal’s fierce rivals has been on the ascendancy but I’m still certain that the Gunners would celebrate St. Totteringham’s Day at the end of the season. It’s as sure as death, taxes and England’s national team losing a game on penalties.

The football action will end with the Gunners taking a trip to King Power Stadium to play recently-promoted Leicester City. The team has acquainted themselves well to life in the big time as they fought hard to claw an equalizer from the jaws of defeat in their first league fixture against Everton but this was followed by a routine defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge despite Kesper Schmeichel’s goalkeeping heroics.

Schmeichel had a great game against Chelsea

Leicester had the best home record in the Championship last season, winning 17 of their 23 fixtures and only losing twice, averaging two goals per game in their run to winning the SkyBet Championship. However, the Foxes have won just one of their last 14 Premier League home games (D9, L4) – a 3-1 victory against Portsmouth on 8 May 2004. The last time both sides met was in the 2003/04 season where the Gunners went through the entire campaign without losing a game. The Gunners were a goal down thanks to a Paul Dickov strike but two goals from Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira placed Arsenal in the history books for years to come.

It’s also worth noting that Arsene Wenger has never lost a Premier League game against Leicester. However, he was in charge when the Gunners were ousted from the FA Cup fourth round in 2000 following a penalty shootout with the Foxes. The last time Leicester recorded a Premier League win against the Gunners was as far back as 1994 and in 15 games after that they have drawn five and lost 10 times to the Gunners.

This season, Leicester City would be looking to the vast experience of Argentine international, Esteban Cambiasso, that left Italian giants, Internazionale, after spending the best part of a decade with the club. At 34, he has seen a whole lot in his football career and he was an essential part of the class of 2010′ that won the Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League. However, with his paperwork not sorted out on time, this game will be too soon for him.

To team news, I don’t see the Gunners making much changes from the side that narrowly sealed qualification into the Champions League with a nervy victory over Besiktas. With David Ospina still nursing his mysterious thigh injury, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal. I really hope that the Colombian goalkeeper recovers in time to play Arsenal’s Capital One Cup third round encounter, or Emiliano Martinez would probably get the nod. The defense pretty much picks itself with Nacho Monreal deputizing in the injured Kieran Gibbs’ stead, Matt Debuchy on the right with the Mertesielny Axis of Awesome, according to Arseblogger, doing their thing in the heart of Arsenal’s defense.

Mathieu Debuchy's clumsy challenge on Mustafa Pektemek earns him a second yellow card and an early bath.

Debuchy put up a dogged display before getting sent off

The Gunners put up a rock-solid defensive display against Besiktas and their resolve was tested when Debuchy received his marching orders from a soft booking from the card-happy ref. Prior to his red card, Debuchy had a great game on Wednesday day and he’d be proud of his teammates that they held the fort when he was in the dressing room. Monreal is usually known for being tad erratic sometimes but credit has to be given when it is due. The Spaniard and his compatriot in front of him, Santi Cazorla, were awesome in their defensive output and he fed a lovely ball for the Ox that wasn’t finished off.

On the back of such a defensive display, I don’t expect the manager to chop things up at the back.

In midfield, Mathieu Flamini will continue to hold the fort in front of the back line and it was surprising to see him not pick a booking against Besiktas. With the fans still clamoring for that defensive midfield signing, they should bear in mind that the Flamster is what they have except Arsene Wenger swoops for a new DM between today and transfer deadline day. Jack Wilshere had a stormer in the box to box role against Besiktas and I see him retaining his place in the squad, despite the return of the Welsh Jesus, Aaron Ramsey, following his suspension.

This would essentially mean that Santi Cazorla would displace the Ox on the right flank with Mesut Ozil playing from the left, a position he’s obviously not comfortable in. In attack, the fans would be hoping for Alexis Sanchez to build on his first Arsenal goal and he would have to lead the line in Giroud’s absence until the Gunners sign a new forward.

Premier League Form

Leicester: D L (18th)

Arsenal: W D (5th)

Injuries

Leicester: James (shin), Upson (foot)

Arsenal: Arteta (thigh), Gnabry (knee), Gibbs (hamstring), Sanogo (hamstring), Ospina (thigh), Walcott (knee), Giroud (lower leg)

Predicted Lineups

Leicester City 4-4-2 football formationArsenal 4-2-3-1 football formation

This promises to be a good game of football and with teams like Chelsea and Swansea City, yes, Swansea City already notching up maximum points from their handful of games played, the Gunners wouldn’t want to be left behind.

Gooner Daily Prediction: Leicester 0 Arsenal 2

Sayonara.

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Thoughts on Arsenal’s Opponents in the Champions League Group Stages

Champions League Group D

Arsenal are paired with Dortmund yet again

After the hard work was done in the qualifiers with Arsenal edging past Besiktas on a nervy Emirates night, it was time for the UEFA Champions League draws and as expected, there were a couple of oooohs and aaaahs with each passing draw. However, Arsenal was the first seeded team in Group D and they have been paired alongside Borussia Dortmund (yet again), Galatasaray and Anderlecht.

Without further ado, Gooner Daily reviews each of Arsenal’s opponents, ranging from their performances in the previous campaign, the current campaign, players to watch out for as well as the final predictions for the group.

Anderlecht

As expected, Anderlecht won the Belgian Pro League last season (taking their tally to 33 titles) with Massimo Bruno and Aleksandr Mitrovic spearheading their attack. They had started the campaign with a Belgian Super Cup victory over Genk (Bruno scored the only goal) but as the season progressed, the Anderlecht fans suffered heartache in the Belgian Cup as the team lost on penalties to Westerlo in the seventh round of the competition.

Bruno celebrating with his teammates

The Belgian side also suffered a dismal Champions League campaign last season as they were paired in the same group with Paris St. Germain, Olympiakos and SL Benfica. They lost their first three games without even scoring to guarantee their elimination and to make things worse, they conceded five goals at home to PSG with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring four. Anderlecht managed to get a 1-1 draw in Paris and that turned out to be their only point of the competition as they lost their remaining two games to stay rock bottom at the group.

At the end of the campaign, Bruno smashed in 16 goals while Mitrovic followed him closely with 15 goals.

This season, Anderlecht fans were saddened to see their top scorer (Bruno) leave for Red Bull Salzburg but they began the campaign with a Belgian Super Cup win over Lokeren with Mitrovic picking up where he left off in the previous campaign. In five Belgian Pro League games played this season, Anderlecht is in pole position with Mitrovic leading the club’s scoring charts.

Mitrovic is Anderlecht’s main man this season

He may just be 19 years of age but Arsenal would ignore Mitrovic at their own peril. After plying his trade in the Serbian League, Mitrovic switched to Anderlecht last season and he scored 16 goals in 39 appearances averaging roughly a goal every two games. He’d be a player to watch out for in the group.

Galatasaray SK

The Turkish giants challenged on all fronts last season and they reaped their rewards with a Turkish Cup victory at the end of the season. There were managerial switches as well with Turkish legend, Fatih Terim, and Italian hot head, Roberto Mancini, getting some time in the dugout. Galatasaray began last season with a couple of preseason encounters, which included participation in the 2013 Emirates Cup. After winning FC Porto in their opening encounter, the Turkish side won the trophy through the help of their talismanic striker and Arsenal’s Kryptonite, Didier Drogba.

Drogba placing a penalty past Szczesny

Their Emirates Cup success was followed by a Turkish Super Cup victory over Fenerbahce with Drogba scoring a late goal in extra time which turned out to be the deciding factor between both teams. Galatasaray also featured in one of the hardest Champions League groups last season as they were paired with Real Madrid, Juventus and FC Copenhagen. Their match opener against Real was a horror show as Cristiano Ronaldo bagged himself a hat-trick. They went on to draw with Juventus in Turin which proved to be a pivotal moment in the group because a victory over the same opponents in a snow-laden pitch (second leg) was enough to book the Turkish side a Round of 16 berth.

In the Round of 16 clash against Chelsea, talk of Drogba’s return to a place he once called home dominated the back pages but the Ivorian’s performances over the course of both legs was very shambolic. Maybe he was overwhelmed by the sense of occasion and the way the fans sang his tunes. In the Turkish league, Fenerbahce sealed off the threat of their rivals to win the title with Galatasaray finishing in second place but with the club facing a ban from UEFA, Galatasaray took their slot.

This season, Drogba returned to Chelsea leaving the goalscoring burden for that season’s top goalscorer, Burak Yilmaz. With a new coach in the form of Cesare Prandelli, the Turks lost their Super Cup tie to Fenerbahce on penalties with Selcuk Inan, Felipe Melo and Yekta Koutulus missing their vital spot kicks.

Burak Yilmaz will be a threat

With Drogba gone, the Galatasaray’s goalscoring burdens rests on the capable hands of Burak Yilmaz that is coming off a campaign where he smashed 18 goals for the team. The goal haul is nowhere near the 32 goals he scored in his debut season with the club but Yilmaz is a player I really admire because of his keen eye for goal and predatory instincts. Let’s hope that the Gunners would do their but to keep him in check.

Borussia Dortmund

Since Bayern Munich’s return to dominance, Dortmund has played the role of second fiddle as they lost out in the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal Cup to the Bavarians last season. However, Dortmund began the campaign well as they instilled the first defeat to Pep Guardiola in the German Super Cup but Bayern showed their superiority in the league leading Dortmund with a whooping 19 points as well as scoring the goals that broke their hearts in the German Cup final. To rub salt to Dortmund’s injuries, Bayern snapped their top scorer, Robert Lewandowski, on a Bosman, which didn’t go down well with the Signal Iduna Park faithful.

Dortmund also locked horns with Arsenal in the group stages last season with the Germans winning at the Emirates and the Gunner returned the favor at the Signal Iduna Park.

13/14: Dortmund v Arsenal - Aaron Ramsey

However, with the Gunners losing to Napoli and Dortmund beating Olympique Marseille, it went down to the wire with the Italians crashing out of the competition despite having 12 points. Dortmund eased past Zenit in the Round of 16 but they couldn’t replicate their 2012/13 heriocs against Real Madrid and they were outsed from the competition.

This season, Dortmund began the new campaign like the previous one, beating Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup but the game will be fondly remembered for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Spiderman celebration, a style he also used from his St. Etienne days.

 

Aubameyang has already netted three goals and Dortmund would seek to exploit his raw reserves of pace in their bid for silverware this season. Arsenal’s defense has to be mindful about him.

Qualification Prediction

I’m no Paul the Octopus or soothsayer but judging from the qualities of the teams in this group, Arsenal and Dortmund will have enough in the tank to see them through but they’d have to be careful about the threat Galatasaray will pose. With no disrespect to Andrelecht, but the Belgian side is here to ‘complete the numbers’.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 1 Besiktas 0: Alexis Fires the Gunners into the UCL

The marquee signing finally opens his Arsenal goalscoring account

Arsenal 1 (Sanchez 45′) – Besiktas 0

Emirates (Champions League)

Player Ratings (via the Mail) – Match HighlightsWenger’s Press Conference

This was a game of utmost importance to the Gunners and the fact that no goal was scored in Turkey made things a bit uncomfortable at the start of the clash. In recent times, Arsenal had played six qualifying Champions League double-legged and have always excelled into the group stages but this game served as a real test of the team’s nerve and character.

In the space of one week since the last fixture between both sides in Turkey, the Gunners had lost Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud to injury while Aaron Ramsey sat the game out due to a suspension. Per Mertesacker also retained his place with Calum Chambers relegated to the bench. Arsenal almost drew first blood when Jack Wilshere showed great movement to evade two markers before teeing up the Ox. The winger accelerated with the ball before drilling a cross that was blocked.

Sanchez showed off his work rate to win the ball before threading a neat through ball for Wilshere but the maestro’s shot missed by a lick of paint. Besiktas’ goalie, Zengin, made a mess of his clearance that went straight to Santi Cazorla’s path but the diminutive midfielder’s first-timed shot was wide off the mark. Besiktas’ first meaningful attack arrived when an over the top ball was sent to Demba Ba in behind Arsenal’s center back pairing but Wojciech Szczesny showed good anticipation to race off his line and claim the ball.

Sanchez had a sniff at goal from a free kick but it was easy pickings for Zengin. Arsenal launched a counter attack when Cazorla spread a cross-field ball for Mesut Ozil but the German wasn’t in the same wavelength with Sanchez. Mustafa Pektemek was almost afforded a clear chance at goal but Matt Debuchy showed great awareness to make a superb block.

Wilshere had a great game

Wilshere strode forward with the ball before feeding a pass to Sanchez but the Chilean’s poor first touch allowed the ball to go beyond his control. However, Sanchez was to have the last laugh as he latched on to a loose ball to side foot the ball home from another attack instigated by Wilshere.

Alexis Sanchez

Debuchy sent Ox through on goal with a lobbed effort but the keeper raced out of his line to make himself big so the English winger had to make do with a corner kick. Wilshere sent another disguised pass to Sanchez but the goalie was on hand to make another superb save. Arsenal continued to ask questions of the Besiktas defense and the Gunners were almost two goals to the good when Debuchy nodded Cazorla’s dipping free kick to the side netting.

Mathieu Flamini carelessly offered Ba clear chance at goal with a poor clearance but the Senegalese forward didn’t take the initiative, much to the relief of the Emirates faithful. Arsenal kept knocking at the Besiktas’ defensive door and almost made the lead more comfortable when the Ox fired Monreal’s drilled cross straight at the goalie. For a player of his quality, I expected better from point blank range.

Things became a bit uneasy when Debuchy was sent off for his second bookable offence with put his team in a rather precarious situation.

Mathieu Debuchy's clumsy challenge on Mustafa Pektemek earns him a second yellow card and an early bath.

Mathieu Debuchy’s clumsy challenge on Mustafa Pektemek earns him a second yellow card and an early bath.

 

Ozil had to be sacrificed with Chambers filling the void created at the right full back position. Chambers did well to drift forward and drill a cross to Sanchez but the Chilean hotshot blasted his effort over the bar. The dying moments of the game were very nervy and an equalizer almost arrived when Ba failed to latch on to a cross that was missed by Per Mertesacker.

Wenger talked about Sanchez’ performance, transfer speculation and shared some information about Giroud’s injury. The French bloke had a successfully surgery and would be out for the remainder of the year but as it stands, Wenger confirmed that he doesn’t have anyone in his sights at the moment.

However, he would be concerned about the teams he’d face in the Champions League group stage as the draws take place today.

Thanks, Alexis Sanchez, the football SI Unit for Work Rate, for sending the Gunners into the group stages for the 17th season in a row.

Sayonara.

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