Film Focus: Previewing Arsenal vs. Besiktas in Champions League Qualifier

Sam TigheFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 6, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 16:  Jack Wilshere of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium on August 16, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Arsenal's UEFA Champions League qualification hopes hinge on a second-leg tie against Besiktas, taking place on Wednesday evening at the Emirates Stadium.

The first match was a drab affair and ended 0-0, with both sides coming close to scoring but failing to find the net. How will the second play out? Let's take a tactical glance at what might happen.


Arsenal Setup

Arsenal are without Aaron Ramsey (suspension), Olivier Giroud, Serge Gnabry, Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs and possibly Yaya Sanogo, all through injury.

Projected Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1).
Projected Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1).@stighefootball

That's quite the pile, and it means the first XI at the Emirates Stadium more or less picks itself. Alexis Sanchez could have another crack up front, Jack Wilshere should partner Mathieu Flamini in midfield while Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could both start.

Given the paucity of options, Arsene Wenger may be forced to return to the 4-2-3-1 formation and shift away from the 4-3-3, giving Mesut Ozil the chance in a No. 10 role.


Besiktas Setup

Besiktas are waiting on the fitness of Gokhan Tore and Atiba Hutchinson—two very important players whom they did without in Turkey for the first leg. Hutchinson is the Black Eagles' best player and will provide much-needed beef in midfield should he return

Projected Besiktas XI (4-2-3-1).
Projected Besiktas XI (4-2-3-1).@stighefootball

Demba Ba will continue up front and may have Tore on his right if fit, while former Arsenal man Oguzhan Ozyakup should continue through the middle. Necip Uysal is a doubt with a minor injury.

Per, manager Slaven Bilic, is banned from the touchline for this game due to complaining about Flamini's on-pitch treatment during the match at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.


Key Tactical Point 1: Arsenal's Improved Midfield?

Arsenal's midfield against Manchester City in the Community Shield looked glorious. Starting in a 4-3-3 base, Wilshere and Ramsey tore forward, carved up Fernando's zones and put the defence to the sword.

Yes, it was a friendly, but it was against top-class opposition. We were expecting more of the same against Crystal Palace and beyond, but so far it's failed to turn up.

Attracting most of the criticism is Wilshere, and the feeling is he doesn't "fit" in the Gunners' system—Ramsey plays the role Wilshere wants to, and Ramsey plays it better.


The Welshman is suspended, and that's an issue—he's good for a clutch goal in 2014—but it's a big chance for the beleaguered Wilshere to fill his shoes.

Ideally, his dribbles are positive and not for the sake of it, and his passing finds new purpose. With Flamini holding alongside him, he's got the freedom to open himself up and dictate.


Key Tactical Point 2: Beware the Besiktas Moves

Besiktas, with hope of sticking Hutchinson back into defensive midfield and making life hard for Arsenal, are only really looking to play this match one way.

Over the course of the first leg we saw the Black Eagles play a number of raking passes into channels and over the top of Arsenal's line, with Necip Uysal and Oguzhan Ozyakup in particular finding runners with ease over long distances.


Calum Chambers had to be at his very best to prevent Ba from scoring and held the striker up superbly on a number of occasions; the 19-year-old may not play, but whoever does needs to ensure they're on him like glue—or have given him a decent cushion on the run—once Besiktas try to release him over the top.


If Tore plays, Nacho Monreal is going to have a nightmare job keeping track of his dribbling skills, agility and darting runs. It gives Besiktas a new mode of pushing forward:via the ground, rather than solely relying on counter passes.

The Black Eagles will sit deep and try to pick Arsenal off on the break. An early goal for the Gunners likely wins the game.