With Arsenal having to do without some big players like Aaron Ramsey, OLivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Mikel Arteta, thisd delicately poised second leg Champions League play-off was always likely to be a tricky encounter for us.
And so it proved in the first half, with Slaven Bilic’s Besiktas team being well organised defensively and causing the Gunners some problems at the other end. We were nervous as well and survived a couple of possible penalty calls before Alexis Sanchez put us ahead on the stroke of halftime with his first goal for his new club.
It was a lovely move with Debuchy and Wilshere being heavily involved begfore the Chile international finished well. But it was then vital for us to control the second half and put the result beyond doubt. Alexis had struggled to get into the game in the centre forward role, much like at Everton, but Wenger was happy to stick with him after he scored.
The Gunners were looking a lot more comfortable after the break and the Wilshere Alexis combination nearly produced a second early on, while the pace of the Ox on the right was a potent weapon. But whether it was nerves, fatigue or lack of focus, Arsenal started to get sloppy with about 25 minutes left, giving the Turkish team plenty of encouragement.
Then Arsenal had two great chances to seal it in quick succession, but neither Cazorla or Chamberlain could take them and it got even tenser when the ref showed Debuchy a ridiculous second yellow, even harsher than Ramsey’s last week. What is it with refs and Arsenal?
It was tense but the lads did well to hold on and make it 17 seasons in a row that Arsenal are in the Champions League draw.