Champions League playoff tie – Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five takeaways from Arsenal’s perspective by SE
Arsenal’s Champions League campaign kick started yesterday, with the Gunners looking to win against Besiktas, on aggregate, to progress to the group stage of one of the most appetizing club competitions. The first of this two-legged playoff tie at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium culminated in a 0-0 draw, with both teams not doing enough to go into the lead, ahead of the second leg at the Emirates next week.
However, from Arsenal’s perspective: Here are five takeaways from their performance last night.
The Gunners still hold all the cards
After playing out a 0-0 draw, and leaving Istanbul empty-handed, Arsenal could feel frustrated by the number of opportunities they failed to tuck away – profligacy that has the potential to haunt Wenger’s men come next week. But, having kept an away clean sheet, and with the luxury of playing the second leg at the Emirates, Arsenal are very much in control of their destiny, as far as this playoff tie is concerned.
We need to reserve our judgments on Calum Chambers for a later date
It’s only human to look at a young prospect, and irrepressibly use a whole lot of adjectives to describe the prodigy. Calum Chambers’s potential and maturity is out there for everyone to see; but let’s face it: the lad is just 19, and has a lot more improvements to make to his overall game.
Albeit the young defender looked good in thwarting the likes of Ba, Ozyakup and Sahan, over the course of 90 minutes, there were a couple of moments when the former Saints man looked shaky and very nearly paid for it. Most conspicuously, his slip in the 44th minute of the match could have cost the Gunners had Demba Ba found the back of the net.
And, it is moments like those that, without a bit of pressure, the lad might be able to execute better than what he has managed to, so far, as a Gunner. Yes, it’s difficult conceal the apparent excitement when Chambers walks on to the pitch and oozes verve, but we just need to reserve our judgments on him for a later date.
Champions League comes with its own set of features
Champions League games take the excitement levels to a whole new stage altogether. Be it with the anthem, or the Adidas ball that features in this tournament, they catch our eyes almost always.
But there are certain things that frustrate us year after year, and one season after another. ‘Refereeing’ in games of this magnitude infuriates almost every one of us, and yesterday’s game was one classic example of that.
For some reason, the ref gave the match every chance to flow in the first half, despite the kind of challenges that were going in, which, on another day, could have enticed the man-in-charge to produce a card or two. But the Serbian referee, who had kept the cards in his pocket until then, abruptly started dishing out card after card from very early on in the second period. A slight jab, barge or a shirt pull at your opponent, and you were reprimanded with a card.
Secondly, the standard of playing surfaces is contentious, to say the least. The turf at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium was ignominious in its semblance: Bumpy, hazardous, and incongruous for this magnitude of a Football match.
What’s up with Giroud?
The Frenchman was one of the two changes for the North Londoners on the night, as he replaced compatriot Sanogo from the game against Crystal Palace on Saturday. And, the lanky striker’s profligacy time-and-again went on to be described as ‘not-yet-match-fit’, which is becoming perennial and viral. I can’t remember a marquee moment that the 27-year old managed to carve out, yesterday, which was disappointing. For all the bustling energy Sanchez rendered the Gunners’ frontline, it was a shame that he couldn’t get any smidgen support from Giroud. And, with fixtures coming thick and fast for Arsenal, you begin to wonder, ‘What’s up with Giroud’?
Palace game at the weekend had an effect on the Arsenal players
The first half of the match was as electric as it could have possibly got, with both sides hustling and harrying each other, and thereby making it more than competitive to watch. But the second half became a one-sided affair, in terms of possession and chances created. Arsenal, very early on in the second period, looked tired, passes went astray, and there was an air of resignation about the Gunners. Certainly, 2 games within 4 days did take its toll on the Arsenal players. And it doesn’t get much easier, either, considering the two fixtures that await the North Londoners in the next 7 days.
Arsenal did show ambition to win the game, and make it easier for themselves in the home leg next week. But, overall, you got to say that Wenger’s men would be happy to have kept a clean sheet and honors even, ahead of the second leg.