Squad Additions Reliant On Qualifying? Arsenal vs Besiktas Match Preview
I had planned to write regular match previews and reports this season – in as non a ubiquitous way as possible – but here we are three matches in and I’m writing my first.
Life, as it has a habit of doing, got in the way and with my impending house move looming ever closer coupled with new fatherhood time has been at more of a premium than usual and I’ve just about managed to squeeze in a couple of blogs since the season started.
On Wednesday night Arsenal line up at the Emirates in what is being billed as a season defining game. These Champions League qualifiers are always considered a season defining game at Arsenal – until the next game comes along. Every week Arsenal face their first true test of the season and one suspects it’s just a media ploy to keep from having to admit that this Arsenal squad is bloody good. Of course the constant media lines about Arsenal and a slow start to the season in terms of performance has whipped up another whirlwind of spumescent fury at the clubs lack of action in the transfer market – or more accurately, a lack of desired action.
Strangely, this does feel more like a season defining game than any other game of the past 12 months. We’re severely unfit by our own high standards, key players have missed preseason, we have injuries to our captain and to our forward fulcrum – a man who our best attack intent is centred around as evidenced in the second half at Everton – and to make matters worse we are missing our best goal threat from midfield due to a needless suspension.
Arsenal aren’t quite the finished article and a few more additions are required to consolidate the wonderful talent and potential depth this squad possesses but one gets the sense that signings are dependent on Arsenal making the Champions League group stages and to use a tired media cliche that hangs in the balance.
Besiktas aren’t weak opposition but they aren’t a team we should be overly afraid of either. With home advantage against a lacklustre and depleted Arsenal they failed to take the initiative and this works in Arsenal’s favour. The narrowest of wins will see Arsenal through and the forced change of personnel may play into Arsenal’s favour.
Arsenal have been struggling to move the ball at pace and there has been a disconnect between midfield and the forward line. Young Sanogo is likely to start tomorrow having overcome his “hamstring” injury *cough* passport *cough* and his pace will allow him to drop a little deeper and get closer to the midfield than Giroud can with his more pedestrian speed setting.
Ozil will probably be moved back inside and this will reduce the amount of space Wilshere can play in and might lead to a lot more simple short passes which should help the team find their passing feet again.
It would be ideal to see Campbell start tomorrow as he and Sanogo seem to do well together and Joel looks more willing and able – in terms of stamina and speed – to help out his full back. Besiktas attempted to expose our full-backs but with the preferred partnership of Mertesacker and Koscielny we should see a higher degree of equanimity across the back line.
Arsenal certainly have a way to go to get into gear but the positive is they are eking out results where they probably don’t deserve it. For any other team this would be a mark of champions but for Arsenal it is a mark of how fortunate they are and how they will be exposed when they face a decent team – like Everton….
Once this team is fit, settled and fully stocked it will be a joy to behold – I am supremely confident of that. Getting stocked will depend on the length of injuries but also who we can bring in. It’s a vicious circle at times because ideally we’d had these players here to help us qualify but some, understandably, want us to qualify before they commit.
“On the day [in Istanbul] it didn’t happen but it left us in a great position to finish the job off”
“I think the fluidity in the first-leg performance wasn’t at its highest, it wasn’t a terrible performance but I think we’re capable of more going forward.
“We need to defend well to start off with and the main thing is to match them physically and competitively because they are going to come at us hard because they really want to qualify for this.
“There are improvements but we’re discussing that as a team and we know ourselves what we need to do and it’s just about approaching it in the mindset to finish the job.”
“It’s a very important game because we want to play at the top level, on an international level. [It’s crucial] more on the sporting side than on the financial side.
“Of course our experience plays a big part. We have a big experience in the Champions league, big experience of playing high-pressure games. We can use that on Wednesday.
“What is more important is the performance on the day, to turn up with a strong display. I am confident this group is strong, is mentally prepared, has a great togetherness and is ready for the fight.
Quotes from Arsenal.com
Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere, Ozil, Campbell, Sanogo, Alexis
Against Besiktas I expect another frayed performance but I also expect Arsenal to be comfortable winners. I’m going for a 2-0 win to Arsenal with a first goal for Sanogo.
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