Arsenal vs Besiktas: Five things we learnt - mixed night for Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez lays marker

Wenger makes tactical switch and Sanchez lays down a marker

Emirates Stadium

Arsenal progressed in the Champions League after Alexis Sanchez fired his first goal as a Gunner, the Chilean scoring the only goal of the tie against Besiktas.

But what did we learn about Arsenal after their win over Slaven Bilic's side?

Read more: Arsenal 1 Besiktas 0 - match report
Player ratings from the Emirates Stadium

1 Arsenal’s switch to 4-3-3 looks to be permanent

When Arsène Wenger started this season, in the Community Shield against Manchester City, with a 4-3-3 system, it felt like a temporary measure to give games to both Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, one that would not survive the return of Mesut Özil.

LIVE: Champions League draw

Yet last night was the fifth time this year that Wenger has used 4-3-3 and it seems very much here to stay, surviving both the absence of Ramsey and the presence of Özil. It makes sense, providing Arsenal with an extra body in the middle, which they missed last year in some of the big games, at the cost of moving Özil from his No 10 role out wide. That is not much of a price at all, though, with much of the German’s best work being done in wide areas rather than simply behind a striker.

Even Santi Cazorla, not a natural scrapper, worked hard in the middle, providing the balance that Tomas Rosicky usually brings to games like these. This system may not be going anywhere.

2 Even at refined Emirates it became a bit of a scrap

If European football has refined itself into a different sport, abandoning all contact for a form of technical chess, it was certainly not obvious last night. The first leg, last week at Istanbul’s Olympic Stadium was a battle, but that was on a horrible pitch in front of a fervent crowd. This, of course, was at the Emirates, with its bowling-green grass and its corporate comforts and yet even then it was the type of aggressive, combustible game which is usually restricted to English domestic football.

None of Wilshere, Mathieu Flamini or Mathieu Debuchy are entirely averse to a scrap and they gave as good as they got against a Besiktas side with their own tough characters as well: Ramon Motta, Pedro Franco and Veli Kavlak. The problem, though, was the same as in the first leg: just as Ramsey was booked twice in Istanbul, Debuchy was twice, the second a very unnecessary trip, making Arsenal’s job much harder. Mathieu Flamini

3 Sanchez lays down a marker for Arsenal

Wenger asked, at his pre-match press conference, for Alexis Sanchez not to be “convicted” on one poor performance at Goodison Park and it was easy to see why. This was Sanchez’s best performance yet in an Arsenal shirt, leaving nothing on the pitch in a powerful, selfless, dangerous display. He is still not quite on the same wave-length as his team-mates, for obvious and understandable reasons, but his contribution was very significant.

Not only did Sanchez score the winning goal, important enough in itself, but he continued to work in the second half, running the channels, holding the ball up and trying to delay Besiktas as Arsenal hung on. He made one great chance for Cazorla, which was blocked by Franco, and nearly scored a second from Calum Chambers’ low cross. With time, he could become an excellent No 9, and save the club some money as well. Alexis Sanchez fires home on the stroke of half-time to make it 1-0 to Arsenal Alexis Sanchez fires home on the stroke of half-time to make it 1-0 to Arsenal

4 Mixed night for Wilshere leaves questions open

There was no answer to one of the most pressing questions in English football right now: is Wilshere a midfield of the highest class, or is he just a 22-year-old still waiting to find his voice as a footballer? This was mixed performance, good laced with bad, which ultimately won Arsenal the match but still left you wondering if this is going to be the season when Wilshere delivers on his promise.

Wilshere was in the action from the very start, showing the return of that burst of pace that so excited Arsenal fans. He skipped past tackles and shot just wide after 10 minutes, and his wriggle into the box, exchanging passes with Özil, set up Sanchez’s winner and nearly made another for Cazorla. And yet there were still enough clumsy tackles and imprecise passes to give pause for thought.

5 Will draining encounter bring another thrashing?

The last time Arsenal qualified for the Champions League group stage in such difficult circumstances was in 2011, when they took a slim 1-0 lead to Udinese, saved a penalty and eventually won 2-1 in the draining heat. The consequence was that, four days later, they went to Old Trafford with nothing left in the tank and lost 8-2. If Arsenal are worried about a repeat this time, they can afford to relax slightly. This weekend they play at Leicester City.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments