Arsenal 1 – 0 Besiktas: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Besiktas came to the Emirates with nothing lose and almost went back with everything. Almost…

This was another tough outing for the below par Gunners who are still searching for some fluidity and understanding between the midfielders who are central to all of Arsenal’s play.

The first half had few chances but was generally marked by low quality football. Opportunities arose from bad mistakes and they were squandered by misfiring attackers. For example, Wilshere and Cazorla both got a great sight of the Besiktas goal from cheap giveaways by the opponents but neither came close to hitting the target. At the other end, Pektemek could have been clean through in the first minute but chose to play the ball back to Demba Ba. Counter-attacking chances were continually missed by both teams throughout the game.

It also seemed like Lady Luck had taken to the Suave Frenchman in charge of the home side over his more rugged counterpart sitting in the stands. There were two big controversial penalty calls in the first half that went in favour of the Gunners. My initial feeling was that Debuchy got the ball and that Wilshere had just done enough to avoid contact. Replays at half time seemed to show the French full-back missing the ball and later I read Wilshere acknowledging that he’d touched the opponent. With the benefit of hindsight and slow motion replays, I think it’s safe to say the Gunners got away with two penalty decisions, one of which could easily have been a second booking.

In the recent past, although not in the last couple of seasons, Arsenal used to suffer a lot at the hands of the referee, so I can certainly empathize with the frustrations of the supporters of the Turkish side. Qualifying for the Champions League proper could have been a really big step for them.

Wenger’s side did get some sort of rhythm towards the end of the first period and scored a nice team goal. Debuchy’s initial run was well-timed and his cross, while hopeful, was difficult to clear. Monreal’s positioning in the box was ambitious and his calmness in winning the header to direct the ball to Wilshere was appreciable. Jack played a decent one-two with Özil before Sanchez slotted the ball home. The goalkeeper should probably have done better but he might have been caught off-guard while expecting the Englishman to strike the ball.

This was harsh on the visiting side but as Bilic said, “…they [Arsenal] showed that little bit of extra quality in the box.

The second half started where the first had ended with the Gunners in control. Wilshere gladly received a loose clearance in the box and set up Sanchez. The Chilean’s shot, or was it a square pass, was cleared for a corner. The Gunners had numerous other chances to score, mostly on quick breaks. Özil, Sanchez, Cazorla, and Oxlade-Chamberlain could all have done better to make the game more comfortable for the home side. Debuchy and Koscielny also had the chance to double the lead from a well-struck free-kick.

Slowly, around the hour mark, the game started becoming very vertical. Arsenal didn’t have as much control of the midfield and the visitors were looking threatening. And the direction of attacks swung completely once Debuchy was sent off.

It seemed like a very harsh decision even if the referee called it for some pushing before the actual ball-winning tackle, which didn’t seem like a foul at all. I wonder whether the referee was influenced by his mistakes in the first period and saw this as a way to make amends. From that point on the Portuguese official completely lost the grip on the game (not that he was impeccable before).

The final 15 minutes were extremely tense. While the visitors didn’t muster a single shot on target and only three off target in the whole game (four blocked), Wenger’s side were defending so deep that any momentary lapse in concentration, or individual quality, could have proved extremely costly. Don’t forget that Arsenal had conceded from the first shot on target in both their League games.

This time around the numbers in the box were enough. Top notch focus and determination helped. When one player made a mistake a teammate was there to knock the ball away from danger. I also felt Besiktas should have thrown a few more bodies into the box.

The bottom line is that Arsenal are through. Besiktas deserved more and these are the games where I feel both teams should progress. There is no doubt the Turkish side are better than many of the clubs who’ve made it to the group phase. Good luck to them in the Europa League and the domestic competitions.

Wenger’s side clearly have a lot of room for improvement. Mertesacker touched upon the crux of the problem.

That’s still a tough challenge for us – to get ourselves going, to find our passing game. We’ve only trained two or three times together and this season makes it really difficult for us to stick to our game. We have to find ourselves still.

Arsenal’s spirit and mental qualities have been exceptional. But these eventually break down if the team has to produce backs-to-wall performances week in, week out. Hopefully, the manager will be able to work his magic before it’s too late.

On a side note, it’s worth noting that big, strong defensive midfielder Atiba Hutchinson wasn’t really able to “destroy” many of Arsenal’s counter-attacks. The attacks broke down for different reasons illustrating how percentages work in favour of the defensive side. It’s also interesting that Wenger praised the Canadian’s display after the game, and deservedly so because he did a lot of things well. Most of Arsenal’s counter-attacks were not his fault and there wasn’t much he could have done to break them up.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Incredibly, for such a tense game, the Pole had a relatively comfortable time in goal as the visitors failed to hit the target. Didn’t have to deal with one-v-ones or many crosses either. His handling of the ball was efficient and error free.

Debuchy: Made a number of very exciting forward runs. Also made a few useful interventions in the penalty box. Showed good understanding with AOC. I thought his first foul was really unnecessary and rash. Was lucky and then unlucky, as discussed above.

Mertesacker: His error in judging the flight of the ball led to the first penalty situation. Another ball flew over his head late in the second half and Demba Ba could have scored with better contact. Wasn’t really beaten in other individual duels but I’d hoped he would bring greater composure to the team’s play, particularly in the second half.

Koscielny: Played Pektemek onside in the first minute and was caught a bit flat-footed when Mertesacker missed his header. Apart from that I thought he had a good game. Was alert in the box and almost scored at the other end.

Monreal: This was arguably the Spaniards best game in an Arsenal shirt, at least from a defensive standpoint. Created a great chance for Oxlade-Chamberlain and contributed to the decisive goal but we do expect good attacking quality from the former Malaga man. I really liked his defensive work – concentration, attacking the ball, positioning, etc. Was helped by decent support and didn’t have to deal with quick, tricky players running at him, but more of such efforts will considerably help the team’s cause in the long run.

The defensive players made some mistakes and rode their luck a bit. The two on the right side could certainly have done better.

Flamini: The physicality and broken nature of football meant that this was his kind of a game. Passing was efficient even if not as prolific as the position demands. Lots of tackles all over the pitch and very useful presence in and around the box.

Wilshere: This was close to the Jack of old- turning past players, driving at the opposition defence, combining in tight spaces, exuberant tackle attempts. This was a quality effort from the veteran youngster but I also feel he’ll have to do much better if he wishes to get close to fulfilling his early promise and hit the World Class level. These are the main areas where he needs to improve –

1) Losing the ball cheaply – He lost the ball cheaply in the first minute through an attempted outside of the boot pass. This led to the first threatening counter-attack. Did something very similar again in the 11th minute and play was broken by a foul by Mertesacker. Even the pass for the one-two before the goal was a soft touch and only the alertness of Özil kept the move alive. His ideas are good but the execution isn’t always up to scratch.

2) Decision making – Remember the counter-attack when he picked up the ball around the centre line and had three runners in front. And early ball for Oxlade-Chamberlain would have been much better. Instead he ran with it for 25-30 yards before finding Sanchez with a pass at a very awkward height. In such cases you see his thinking needs to sharpen up. These are never easy choices but the truly top players make them a lot more consistently.

3) Tackling – Absolutely must stop lunging at opponents, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. It’s related, at least partly, to being slow to read the danger and thus having to catch up and cover greater distances which his lack of speed doesn’t allow. The solution is to develop defensive intelligence. He’s working on it – I see him looking around a lot more when the team is defending – but still has a long way to go.

4) Technique – Some of his touches and passes are exquisite. But he needs much better quality and consistency on the outside of the boot pass if he cannot develop his right foot. In that attack discussed in 2 above, I cannot imagine him finding Özil on the left with his current technique. The only way he would be successful is by completely opening up his body, which would then telegraph the pass to defenders. Hard to see him scoring with his right if Sanchez hadn’t taken over.

His desire and physical effort were excellent throughout the game. Technique, awareness of space, and tactical play was also really enjoyable. But it’s one thing to appear heroic and dominant in a hard-fought qualifier against Besiktas and quite another to be the fulcrum of an Arsenal side that wants to dominate major Champions League and Premier League games.

Cazorla: A close second for the MotM in my opinion. He’s not had a great start to the season but the effort in this game was much better. Defensive work when the team was down to 10 was outstanding. Still needs to protect the ball better in physical games.

Özil: Not a game he’d want to remember. Missed quite a few chances to put Sanchez in behind. Didn’t seem to be on the same page as his teammates at times. Did put in a lot of running up and down the pitch, often thanklessly.

AOC: Good understanding with Debuchy, made some powerful runs early on, picked a nice cross-field pass for Cazorla, and I liked the way he dropped deep at times to let Debuchy or Sachez use the space on the right. Should really have done much better from that chance just before the red card.

The midfielders faced a tough physical battle. They were good in patches but didn’t combine as well as they can. Individually, they all had room to do better. Appreciable hard work at the end.

Sanchez: My MotM. Extraordinary work rate, produced the decisive moment, constant clever movement, never gave up. Will still get much better as the team dynamic evolves but this game showed the first signs of what he can offer even when played as a central striker. Could have done better with a couple of chances but don’t forget it’s the hardest thing to do.

Subs: Chambers was unlucky to be booked and didn’t have too much to do. I thought Rosicky for Özil around the hour mark might have helped the team quite a bit.

Wenger: Achieved a major target and hopefully that will liberate him a bit more in the transfer market too. Team dynamic is still a work in progress. Relying on Sanchez as a centre forward could be a masterstroke or a disastrous decision. I’d prefer it if he didn’t take the gamble, but is there a top quality alternative available?


12 Responses to Arsenal 1 – 0 Besiktas: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Thierry says:

    Thanks Desi, I’m sure you can never get tired of the praise this site deserves. I’m really pleased to see the progress so many are making (Cazorla, Jack, Nacho) in the areas we think they need to improve. I would love to know your thoughts on what gives with Ozil. He’s clearly world class but is yet to really show it in a consistent way. Any thoughts on why? Not happy to be here? playing on a different wave length?

  2. John allen says:

    I think you’ve made a good assessment , however I’ve rerun the match and Ozil was just woeful. He avoided tackles was lazy in tracking back and frankly rarely in the game.
    We certainly need a good striker – Wilfried Bony – who can deliver excess of 20 goals in the EPL

    And a decent Viera type defensive midfielder

    Mertes statue for me is too ponderous but appears popular

  3. Dianjuh says:

    Hey Desi,

    Regardless of what someone is up to the moment your blog shows up, you have got to stop and read – its that good!!!

    Am now with you on one thing – we have to pause for a moment and realize our team is good yes, but its not there yet! There where you can relax even if your next opponents are Bayern/Real/Barcelona etc…

    There is some work to do, but I feel its related to still getting the right personnel to balance this team out, then play them in their favorite position based on form. For instance, please play Cazorla in the middle until Ozil recovers form World cup fatigue. Play Chamberlain on the right, Sanchez on the left and fetch a Falcao, Cavani or even Remy who naturally play in the center. There you have a devastating attack with pace, ball retention and finish.

    Middle of the park looks ok, but I generally dont know what to do with the DM position. I mean Wenger did make Arteta our captain, which means if fit, he does play. William still looks our best option.

    At the back Mert and Kos are very good together, Debuchy still improving game by game, and Monreal/Gibbs are reliable too. We need a forth choice, preferably very experienced CB to assist. Chambers versatility is much welcome, but his inexperience is not suited for a team still chasing first champions league triumph! He might come in hand for some premier league games and cup games!

    If we get those three positions sorted, then we can allow the team to gel while grinding out results like the Besiktas game…and gradually become world beaters by new year. If we dont get too many injuries we might have a shot at even a double. But if Wenger persists with what we have now with no additions, quality additions…It might be a long season!!!

  4. Ahmed says:

    Good analysis @Desi Gunner. I am on the same page with @Thiery on the performance of Ozil. He is world class player bt has nt been able to fulfilled his potential. What do u think?

  5. mk says:

    Wasn’t Mertesacker being held by Ba rather than him misjudging the flight of the ball?

    If i’m thinking of the right instance then the ref should probably have blown a foul in our favour rather than a penalty anyway?

  6. Gerry says:

    Can’t disagree with anything. Great stuff. I was looking forward to reading this following your responses elsewhere.

    Ozil seems a bit ‘marmite’ doesn’t he? I thought he had a good game, and like you thought he tired late on and could have been subbed before the sending off. it was only his second game, and after very little pre-season stuff, and even less with his team mates. That, and the short straw of playing out wide, he made the best of it. Rather than take pick on his ‘langud’ appearance, and I rather he avoids injury in a tackle, because his strengths are what we paid the big money for?

    On JW – Great analysis. Spot on in each area. However, the massive step forward from his previous games, and not just this season was why I made him my MOTM. Your analysis just shows what he needs to do in future games if he is to keep his position, on merit at least?

    On Alexis – it is funny, as my viewing froze on the 38th minute, and only came back as they were coming off at half time. His serious look did not make me think he had just scored the breakthrough goal? I don’t think he has completely at one with his team mates, and this picture reveals his frustration?
    His work rate and ability are not in doubt. But while I would rather him beat 3 or 4 players in the box, and not on the wing, I agree with you on the gamble of being the main striker, I’d rather he wasn’t left with that role.
    When he is fully integrated into the team, and as a second striker, his frustration will disappear.

    On Debuchy – I doubt that will be his only red of the season, as his more aggressive style, along with a tendency to ‘dive in’ when staying on his feet might be a better option? Indeed his first card is a good example, but it does mean from time to time, he will walk the Flamini route to time out.
    If he can curb some of that, his commitment at the end of matches will show far more benefit. He had a very good game up to the sending off, justified or not.

  7. SB says:

    Thanks for yet another insight into our performance.

    Particularly, the last couple of lines is what I was hoping to get your thoughts on.

    Hopefully we find a CF in the market left to improve us because it will be a too much to expect Sanchez to get used to the League and our team to adjust to him, without loosing vital points gap to the title favourites.

  8. Right Cross says:

    These comprehensive match analysis pieces are excellent Desi.
    Great to read your more detailed individual general analysis of Jack too. Choosing a player every now again to study in more detail like that could be very useful.
    Would be fantastic to see a class striker signed but it looks like a long shot. An extra Central Defender is the very least needed. Someone to take Artetas role over in the side is needed but Wenger could be happy to cope with options currently in the short term. The team needs a hardworking, intelligent and technically gifted player rather than just a big destroyer. If he is taller and powerful it won’t hurt but defensive intelligence and passing ability are the key qualities.

  9. Dianjuh says:

    I think Mattia Destro is Wenger’s best Shot at CF role…best shot!

    • John allen says:

      I believe Arsenal should buy a CF who has proven he can cope with the EPL and score goals

      Wilfred Bony has achieved this,scoring over 20 goals for Swansea
      Imagine with the gunners service how many who could score

      We’ve had European Stars come to the EPL and fail too many times
      Buy Bony

  10. kc says:

    Great analysis as ever. Just also want to add, considering this is the 11th comment, that this is the 1st time i have commented and been reading your analysis for years, so the comments section does not give a true indication of how many people read and rely on this. cheers

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