Arsenal's place in the group stages of this year's UEFA Champions League tournament is far from assured. The Gunners drew 0-0 with Besiktas in Istanbul in the first leg.
Their chances of actually breaking the deadlock haven't been helped by some key injury issues in attack. The most pressing is the absence of natural centre-forward Olivier Giroud.
The towering Frenchman is thought to be facing as many as three months out of action due to a broken ankle, per Matt Law of The Telegraph. That has yet to be confirmed, but Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has stated Giroud will certainly miss this game, via the club's official Twitter feed:
As if the injury gods weren't already frowning on Wenger, one player who he might turn to first to replace Giroud, is a possible fitness doubt. Mega-money summer signing Alexis Sanchez is said to be less then fully fit, according to Goal.com reporter Wayne Veysey:
Giroud out until November with foot injury. Sanchez also carrying a knock but should be ok for Besiktas tomorrow: http://t.co/u6nosJXha8— Wayne Veysey (@wayneveysey) August 26, 2014
It doesn't help that Wenger will be without suspended midfield talisman Aaron Ramsey. The free-scoring Welsh ace, who has already bagged two goals in as many Premier league matches for Arsenal, earned a pair of yellow cards during the first leg.
All of these issues present problems attempting to break down a Slaven Bilic-coached side that was defensively stable in Istanbul.
Before a closer look at one way Arsenal might counter, here's the full schedule information:
|Wednesday, August 27||7.45 p.m. BST / 2.45 p.m. ET||Sky Sports 5 / Fox Sports 1||Sky Go / Fox Soccer 2Go|
Sky Sports.com and Jason Le Miere of Ibtimes.com
Gunners Must Get Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla More Involved
With major problems at striker, as well as no clutch contributions from Ramsey to rely on, the Gunners need Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla to win this game.
They are Wenger's two best playmakers, and it's imperative they are involved more often. That means those behind them must win the ball quickly and waste little time playing it forward.
That's not something Arsenal could do with Cazorla on the pitch in Istanbul. It was also a problem when Ozil made his return in the 2-2 league draw at Everton.
The German had been recovering from his victorious 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign. Perhaps too much was expected of Ozil at Goodison Park, even though he still showed his value to Arsenal's attack:
Özil completed 37 passes in the final 3rd against Everton, 13 more than any other player on the pitch. pic.twitter.com/Vkry0cMP9J— Squawka Dave (@SquawkaDave) August 23, 2014
Of course, a lot of those passes weren't exactly of the incisive variety. But these are certainly the areas where Wenger wants Ozil to be influencing the game.
Interestingly, though, the onus is now on Ozil and Cazorla to add a few more goals to their respective games. In the pre-match press conference, midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stressed how Giroud's absence increases the burden on others to find the net:
Cazorla and Ozil combined for just 14 goals last season. However, both are certainly capable of scoring more often.
Cazorla has a powerful shot from both feet, a talent he certainly isn't afraid to use. Meanwhile, Ozil takes up some very threatening positions, and he has already been challenged by Wenger to produce more in front of goal, per ESPNFC.co.uk:
I believe the first season is always adaptable in the Premier League. What he has brought is his fantastic technique, the simplicity of his game, the intelligence of his passing and you look at his numbers, his assists and passes in the final third is very good. We want more goals from him and I think that will come naturally.
If ever there was a time for Ozil to don his shooting boots and locate his range, it's now. If he and Cazorla are on form, the Gunners will have enough fluency in attack to see off Bilic's men.
Will Arsenal make it through without Giroud?
Arsenal's already tricky task has been turned into a daunting one by Giroud's absence. Not having their main striker or midfield goal-getter will require more emphasis on the quick and precise short-range combinations Arsenal are capable of.
Expect Besiktas to respond by trying to close off the spaces in the middle for as long as possible. Ultimately, though, Wenger's team will break down the opposition and scrape through.