Daily Archives: August 19, 2014
Unfortunately, there was no one to hold the fort on the blog while I was out for a week on official duty. Apologies for that… Every “Arseblogger” needs a “Tom” now and then tho… I’m sure you get my drift.
In my absence, the Gunners fought really hard to grind out a result against Crystal Palace but the stakes are a lot different in the Champions League qualifiers. Arsenal has followed this route a couple of times to get into the competition proper with their last encounter being a double-legged affair against Udinese Calcio. This time, the Gunners face a Besiktas SK side that has been in UEFA’s bad books after some match-fixing allegations.
The game will be played at Besiktas’s Ataturk Olympic stadium, the ground were Liverpool had that miraculous Champions League final victory over AC Milan in 2005. Under new manager, Slaven Bilic, the club has been revamped and the injection of an experienced striker like Demba Ba has bolstered their fortunes. Moroccan sensation, Younes Belhanda is also on his way from Montpellier but this game will be too soon for him.
Goals from Kerim Frei and Mustafa Pektemek handed Besiktas a 2-1 lead over Feyernoord in the first leg but a Demba Ba hat-trick in the second leg set the stage for a feisty encounter with the Gunners. Besiktas wouldn’t play any league football till the end of August, but they have two games against the Gunners before their Turkish SuperLig football action kicks off.
The Turks are unbeaten in their last 15 home games in all competitions, and they have won nine of those home encounters. Food for thought for the Gunners.
Arsenal will arrive in Turkey in bullish mode, following their two victories over Manchester City and Crystal Palace. While the Man City game was very convincing, the same couldn’t be said about the Crystal Palace encounter even though the fans cared more about the points than the collective performance of the team.
Arsene Wenger can be proud of his achievements in the transfer window this summer but with Thomas Vermaelen off to Barcelona, Per Mertesacker not close to full fitness and Laurent Koscielny carrying a knock, the Gunners are desperately short at center half. The tabloids have been whispering about some Spartan bloke called Kostas Manolas, but as it stands, the Gunners have two young and inexperienced lads in the forms of Calum Chambers and Ignasi Miquel, as well as a make-shift center back, Nacho Monreal. Monreal will probably play in his featured left full back role with Kieran Gibbs suffering from yet another injury.
Arsene Wenger has even expressed his concerns ahead of the game,
“We are desperate to do it because we want to play in the Champions League and we know how big these games are, we had to give a lot [against Crystal Palace], hopefully we will recover and be ready for Tuesday night.
“We are desperate to go through, no matter what it costs we want to go through. We have always a difficult draw, we had Fenerbahce last year, this time we have Besiktas. It’s difficult.
“We will assess Koscielny on Monday; if he’s fit and capable to play, we play him. It was our plan to bring the Germans back in contention for Everton. But in case of emergency I will take Mertesacker.
“But we have Bellerin, who was 19 today, who can come in. we are a bit short. I hope Koscielny responds well to today’s game.”
Despite the Gunners’ defensive troubles, they are well stocked in other positions and I expect a very strong team from the boss. With David Ospina still nursing a thigh injury, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal. The Pole had a scary moment with a poor clearance against Crystal Palace but he had Koscielny to spare his blushes. Matt Debuchy and Nacho Monreal will be at the fullback positions and I expect Chambers to start along Kos, if he passes a late fitness test.
Koscielny will pass the test and play today because he’s a beast. Just look at this…
In midfield, captain Mikel Arteta will play alongside a resurgent Jack Wilshere with Aaron Ramsey playing further ahead. The Welsh Jesus recently spoke about competitions for places in the squad and he hopes that everyone would be fit as the campaign progresses. Shad Forsyth, anyone? Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez will support Olivier Giroud in attack, as the manager has confirmed that Yaya Sanogo has a “little” hamstring problem.
This would be the first meeting between both sides in European football and it promises to be an interesting encounter.
Possible starting lineups
Gooner Daily Prediction: 1 – 3
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
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