After a tense match at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, the first leg of the UEFA Champions League qualifier between Arsenal and Besiktas finished goalless. The fixture was played in front of a raucous crowd that witnessed both sides spurn opportunities. This stalemate snapped Arsenal’s 12 match winning streak in Champions League qualifiers, but the Gunners will have a chance to progress to the group stages for the 17th consecutive season with the return leg in North London on August 27th.
Neither side will be particularly happy with the result. For large portions of the match, Besiktas looked to be the better side, and manager Slaven Bilić will hope that their missed chances in front of their home support won’t prove costly. For Arsenal, it is clear that lethargy still exists within their squad. But with a fixture against Everton this weekend, their performance must improve. However, they will find hope of progressing with their home leg still to come, where they will find a better pitch to play on and the return of their three World Cup winning Germans.
All players scored on a 1-10 scale.
Szczesny – 6
After nearly getting caught out by Demba Ba’s opening kick-off attempt at goal, Szczesny produced a handful of saves, most notably after a well-struck volley from Ba in the 9th minute. He also did well on set pieces, punching away a Besiktas corner 70 minutes in.
Debuchy – 7
After a strong performance in Arsenal’s opening match against Crystal Palace, Debuchy put in another good shift down the right-hand side. It was no coincidence that nearly all of Arsenal’s attacks came down the right, as his linkup with Alexis Sánchez ahead of him was superb.
Chambers – 6
The 19-year-old defender looked markedly less assured than in his previous match, but given the cauldron-like atmosphere, he did quite well for his European debut. Throughout much of the match, he was targeted by Demba Ba, who looked to exploit Chambers’ lack of experience and pace. He did well nearly every time he was called upon, but had a disastrous slip just before half-time that put Ba through on goal. Luckily for him, Ba put his shot just wide.
Koscielny – 6
Koscielny had a solid match and did well to protect Chambers against the consistently threatening Ba. He may well have done just enough to unsettle the Senegalese striker after Chambers’ slip that led to Besiktas’ best chance.of the match.
Monreal – 5
Kieran Gibbs’ replacement at left back offered very little going forward and looked shaky at times in defense. A low cross in the 29th minute went through his legs, and a chance was only prevented by a last-ditch challenge by Chambers.
Arteta – 5
Arsenal’s captain had a difficult first half and looked overrun by an intense Besiktas midfield. Five minutes into the second half, he came off injured and was replaced by Flamini.
Ramsey – 5
The hero from Saturday’s match earned his first ever red card, after accruing his second booking with ten minutes remaining. Having lost the ball in midfield, Ramsey tugged the shirt of Oguzhan Ozyakup, leaving the referee with no option other than to give him a second yellow card. The Welshman will now miss the second leg of this tie through suspension. Prior to his sending off, Ramsey delivered a superb ball to Giroud on the stroke of halftime, chipping the ball over the Besiktas defense, only for the French striker to miss the ball entirely. Overall, Ramsey had a decent match, but his sending off leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
Wilshere – 6
After an anonymous first half where he created very little, Wilshere grew in stature during the second half and was at the root for many of Arsenal’s forward charges. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that Wilshere and Ramsey often lack chemistry in midfield. Arsenal fans will be eagerly awaiting the return of Mesut Özil.
Cazorla – 5
Another subpar performance from Cazorla will be a worrying sight for Arsène Wenger. The Spaniard looked off the pace and failed to contribute much throughout the match. One of his few opportunities saw him take a free kick from 20 yards away. He put that on target, but his bouncing shot was saved by Tolga Zengin.
Alexis – 8
After a rusty performance on Saturday, Alexis responded with an energetic second match for the Gunners. Having linked up well with Debuchy on the right, Arsenal looked at their most dangerous with him on the ball. He created multiple chances in the first half, with the best coming in the 10th minute after setting up Giroud with a low cross that wasn’t converted. Tired legs looked to have taken their toll on the Chilean, and he was substituted by Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 73rd minute.
Giroud – 4
Another player who looked fatigued, Olivier Giroud spurned multiple chances to win the match for Arsenal. In the 10th minute, after a delightful cross from Alexis, the Frenchman failed to navigate his shot through the crowded six-yard box. And with seconds remaining in the first half, Giroud whiffed on the ball that was chipped to him by Ramsey. The second half saw him grow increasingly frustrated and he failed to keep the ball on multiple occasions. Had Giroud been firing on all cylinders, it is quite likely that Arsenal would have come away from Istanbul with a win. But given his clear lack of fitness, fans will be wondering why Joel Campbell was never introduced.
Flamini – 5
Not much to say about Flamini’s cameo, other than an unnecessary kick to the shin of a Besiktas player in the 56th minute that saw him booked.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – 7
A breath of fresh air after his introduction in the 73rd minute, Chamberlain came the closest to breaking the deadlock after a mazy run saw his left footed shot saved onto the post by Zengin.
Rosicky – n/a
Came on for Cazorla in the 90th minute.
This is why Arsenal fans want a new striker https://t.co/VBfqcWgkoh
— Football Vines (@FootballVines) August 19, 2014
WOW: Demba Ba almost scores direct from kick-off vs Arsenal. http://t.co/8HBkVDRWKw
— BBC Sporf (@BBCSporf) August 19, 2014