Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

The second leg at the Emirates takes place next Wednesday

Demba Ba remains a tangible threat

Ba made his presence felt within the first five seconds tonight, shooting from kick-off with sufficient accuracy to force Wojciech Szczesny into a scrambling save via the crossbar and proved a constant menace. A first-time volley employed Szczesny again shortly afterwards but Ba missed a gilt-edged chance at the end of the first half which would have put a different complexion on this tie. That notwithstanding, a hat-trick in the previous qualifying round against Feyenoord confirms his well-being in Turkey.

Calum Chambers is taking life at Arsenal in his stride

Arsène Wenger took a gamble in leaving Per Mertesacker at home for this game but Chambers once again showed why the Arsenal manager holds him in such high regard. Making his Champions League debut just three days after his first Premier League outing against Crystal Palace, the 19-year-old remained composed in the hostile environs of the Ataturk Stadium. Playing out of position at centre-back once again, he produced several timely interceptions and looked assured in possession.

 

The case for signing another striker grows…

Olivier Giroud is undoubtedly important to the way Arsenal play but it is hard to escape the conclusion he is not clinical enough at the highest level. After Alexis Sanchez fed him inside the box with 10 minutes played, Giroud was unable to scramble the ball towards goal before failing to get any meaningful contact when clean through from Jack Wilshere’s pass. He also missed from Mathieu Debuchy’s second-half cutback. All strikers go off the boil, but Giroud needs more competition at the very least.

…as it does for a bona fide holding midfielder

Mikel Arteta’s 50th-minute injury exacerbates a situation that has required addressing for some time. Arteta has modified his game selflessly in recent seasons but the suspicion remains he provides insufficient protection for Arsenal’s back four on nights such as this. Mathieu Flamini, who deputised here, earned an almost instantaneous booking for a late tackle on Veli Kavlak and struggled to interrupt the flow of Besiktas’s passing enough to suggest he represents a solution. Abou Diaby  has the frame but not the mentality. Sami Khedira or William Carvalho are intriguing alternatives in the transfer market.

Arsenal need their Germans back in the game

Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski are all expected to return for Saturday’s trip to Everton. Aaron Ramsey’s red card means he is suspended for the second leg, almost certainly ensuring Özil will be thrust straight back into action in his usual advanced midfield role. Podolski would not usurp Santi Cazorla, all things being equal, but Mertesacker’s presence in tandem with Laurent Koscielny will be a calming influence on the Gunners.

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