Arsenal vs Besiktas: Wenger’s team selection deserves plaudits by SE
It was one tantalizing tie to overcome for Arsenal, who were hoping to make it to the Group stages of the UEFA Champions League for the 17th year running.
The Gunners, more ominously, had lost the core of their squad for last night’s game, which didn’t make matters any easier. Besiktas, on the other hand, were in buoyant mood, after playing out a goalless draw in the home leg and thought they could cause a colossal upset against a depleted Arsenal lineup. On the night, however, it was Wenger, who, despite all the repeated skepticism over his managerial prowess, affected the game positively for Arsenal, solely through his pristine team selection.
Giroud was out with an ankle injury; Ramsey was suspended; Arteta and Gibbs were also out, with ankle and hamstring injuries, which handicapped Arsenal and Wenger from picking their first choice XI. I personally thought that the Frenchman would revert back to his 4-2-3-1 system, and try to get the best out his Ozils and Sanchezs. But his tactics and confidence to stick with the same 4-3-3 system, which he has adopted this season, and yet managing to pull off a result of this magnitude is worth applauding.
Chamberlain was pivotal, with his pacey, darting runs on the right flank. That’s where I thought Wenger has evolved from the manager he was last year and, how he is prepared to gamble with his systems and choosing an efficient starting XI, this year. He could have well played Sanchez on the wing, after a bad 45-minute period against Everton, at the weekend, and played Sanogo up front. But he persisted with the Chilean playing the No.9 role and Chamberlain on the Right-Wing, which, in the end, benefitted Arsenal immensely.
Sanchez’s industry and ability to dribble were on show in the second period, and, with a bit of luck, Arsenal could have saved a bit of high pressure and palpitations they must have endured towards the latter stages of last night’s crucial tie. And, most conspicuously, Cazorla got to play in the middle of the park, where we hardly ever see him. That was yet another aspect of Wenger’s perception and panache, with regards to team selection for the game yesterday.
Cazorla’s marauding runs married with Wilshere’s irresistible passing and movement sucked the life out of Besiktas’s backline. As I said, Arsenal should have pocketed the 2nd goal, during the second half, which would have put the game to bed.
In the end, Arsenal managed to grind out a 1-0 victory, which is testament to Wenger’s audacity and evolution as a manger this season. Yes, Football matches are won by the 11 men on the pitch; but launching a tirade at the manager when the team loses – and not underlining his influence when the team wins – is rather aberrational.
Plaudits for Wenger
The Gunners’ gaffer deserves the majority of the plaudits for Arsenal going through to the group stages of Europe’s elite club competition for the 17th year running. Arsenal and their manager will have much bigger tests, domestically and continentally, this season but, on the evidence of last night’s massive result; the signs are very good for Arsenal to have a top season all-round.