Arsenal 1 – 0 Besiktas
1 – 0 Sanchez (45+1)
Sent off: Debuchy (75)
Slaven Bilic is probably right; Arsenal won’t win the Champions League but it is nice to be in today’s draw for that competition rather than wondering which Thursday nights they will be on Channel 5. The Besiktas manager put the defeat down to Arsenal possessing “a little bit of extra quality in the box.” That was indeed the case but he forgot to add into the mix, the blood, sweat and tears.
It was a match they rarely looked like losing but that was not the danger; the draw was. Following Mathieu Debuchy’s harsh second card with around twenty minutes to go, Besiktas pushed their hosts to the wire in searching for the equaliser which never came.
Jack Wilshere was both star and sinner in many eyes; it certainly was his best performance of the season so far which isn’t saying much given it is just five games old. He worked hard in midfield, trademark rash challenges intertwined with the expected quick passing and movement in tight spaces. That and an assist as the hardworking Alexis Sanchez settled matters with his first goal for the club moments before the half-time whistle, a calmly taken shot which had it not gone in would probably earned him a rebuke from Wilshere.
It’s a goal that is being dubbed as paying his fee. Arsène disagreed post-match but probably did so on the basis that the £32m bandied around is pure guesswork. Educated maybe but still guessing. Perhaps Arsenal need to make the last sixteen to earn the full payback on Sanchez’s cost. It was a successful night for the Chilean despite being the focal point in a formation that ill-suits the side at the moment. His workrate and strength stood out last night, belying his build as Besiktas found out; he is very difficult to bully possession from.
The learning curve is still steep for the XI with Sanchez leading the way with impressive running off the ball and whilst the supporting cast made more runs behind him, it is a tactic which suits Arsenal when they are on the counter-attack and not trying to break teams down.
Equally hardworking was Santi Cazorla, who like Wilshere had found brickbats flung in his direction. I felt it was a Man of the Match performance. The Spaniard worked hard all night, hassling and harrying his opponents and picking up the defensive slack left by Mesut Özil. But it was his invention that shone through, the central role more suited to his general game and you could see in his overall demeanour that he was happier in that position.
His compatriot, Nacho Monreal, worked hard to shut down what had been opponents most lucrative avenue of attack, the Arsenal left. Whilst it wasn’t entirely successful in that respect, like the overall performance, it was the best we have seen yet and it is that which gives some comfort for coming matches, the knowledge that improvement is coming. With Manchester City the first Premier League match after the international break, the timing of that could hardly be better.
And whilst those were the notable areas for me, the team worked more consistently harder over the course of the match. Yes, they had moments when the skin of their teeth was the margin between success and failure but all the while there is just a single goal difference in such a fixture, that is to be expected. How often have Arsenal dominated a game by bigger and more comfortable margins only to fall prey to a sucker punch? And it isn’t just Arsenal who have this flaw either.
Both sides could feel aggrieved with the officiating. Debuchy could hardly argue with his first yellow card but in winning the ball for the second, he showed his despair at the referee. Presumably it was given because the official felt it was a challenge from behind which is the loosest interpretation of the ruling that could be applied.
Besiktas too might have argued that they should have been awarded two penalties. I felt the first was a nonsense claim, Debuchy took the ball. The second too, until Jack Wilshere’s post-match admission that he had clipped Motta albeit accidentally. Maybe the referee wasn’t so bad after all for Arsenal did not look like finding the necessary second goal.
Post-match, Arsène was pleased to have progressed but found himself on the obvious topic of Olivier Giroud’s injury. A likely four-month absence, perhaps a week or two longer, meant that he talked of buying a new striker, albeit as cautiously as he has previously. Understandably, he talked up his existing options. Walcott and Sanchez wouldn’t have minded, Wenger appeared to nominate them as his prime striking assets.
Podolski would have beamed at being called a World Class striker or was he just laughing himself silly at that description being applied to Yaya Sanogo? Who could ask for more? I dare say Joel Campbell, who was probably hoping for a more ringing endorsement than the rather limp offering of, “Campbell, if you ask him, he will tell you he is a striker.”
It might be easier to convince potential signings of their future now Champions League football has been secured. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so hard anyway; I am sure Nicola Zigic would jump at the chance but hats off to his Mr20%, who worked his magic in getting everyone else worked up at the ludicrous prospect of his client returning to English football at Arsenal. It was emphatically denied by Wenger, who equally ruled out the notion that Arsenal were interested in Danny Welbeck and that Radamel Falcao was affordable as well.
In other words, as you were whilst we work in the background. Or not as the case may be. Talk of Loic Rèmy has not been reported; is it a sign? Give us a sign! Perhaps it wasn’t even mentioned although I suspect that patience was wearing a little thin by that stage, no matter how much of a good mood the result had put the manager in.
God bless the good ship Transfer Window and all the lunatics she transports to their new asylum.