After making a comeback on Saturday against Everton, Arsenal will have to improve on their current form against a well organized, fit, and dangerous Besiktas team, who they drew 0-0 last Tuesday in Turkey in a feisty encounter.
Arsenal will be without the services of Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs, and Theo Walcott, through injury. Yaya Sanogo has returned from a thigh injury but there are reports’ circulating that Oliver Giroud has a broken foot, although this has not been officially confirmed. Arsenal will also be without their midfield engine, Aaron Ramsey, after harshly receiving a second booking in the first leg.
If Arsenal advances, this will be the 17th consecutive year they have made it to the Group Stages of the Champions League, an impressive feat. Arsene Wenger will not take this encounter lightly, as this fixture will affect the rest of their season and possibly their ability to complete business in the current transfer window. He will field the strongest lineup that he can.
Goalkeeper – Szczesny
Wojciech Szczesny will get the start. Last season he was one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League, sharing the Golden Glove with Petr Cech. He has been reliable, consistent, and proven more than capable. Even if David Ospina were fit, Szczesny would get the start.
Right Back – Debuchy
Mathieu Debuchy has had a steady start to his Arsenal career. While not overly impressing, he has put in consistent performances and is the first choice right back.
Center backs – Mertesacker and Koscielny
Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will get the start Wednesday. Calum Chambers has performed remarkably well, but he is only 19 and cannot play every game. Experience comes in to play regarding the choice of center back and Koscielny and Mertesacker have proved to be a wall at the back for Arsenal. They went on a remarkable run together of not losing for two years when playing the full 90 minutes together. This statistic alone speaks volume about the quality, cohesion, and understanding of this partnership. Koscielny was rested Saturday, so he will be fresh for this encounter. Mertesacker returned to first team action this weekend but he has the experience to compete Wednesday for the second time in a week.
Left Back – Monreal
With Kieran Gibbs injured, Nacho Monreal is the only left back in the squad so his selection is a given. Romelu Lukaku gave Monreal a difficult time on Saturday, so look for Besiktas to exploit this side of Arsenal’s defense.
Defensive Midfielder – Flamini
Mathieu Flamini will get the start in the defensive midfield role. With Arteta out injured, Flamini is the next man up. He is more than capable in filling in this role. He will add a needed physicality to the midfield, and hopefully a certain fire. Flamini is never afraid of a challenge or a confrontation, remember against Stoke City last year, and he is very vocal. This is something that Arsenal will need in this game, especially considering the physicality of the 1st leg. Arsenal cannot get bullied in this game and Flamini is key to this.
Central Midfielder – Wilshere
Jack Wilshere will play the box-to-box role normally occupied by Ramsey. While not playing poorly this season, Wilshere can improve. His support of Mesut Özil in attack and Flamini in defense will be key to Arsenal’s success in this game. He needs to add incisiveness to his game on Wednesday; something that has been lacking in games so far this season. Wilshere is key to Arsenal controlling the midfield and not getting bullied. Like Flamini, he is not afraid of a physical challenge, although he has to be more careful and make better decisions when doing so. There has been speculation in the build up to this game that the Ox may start here, however this would mean pushing Alexis Sanchez out wide and starting Sanogo at center forward, something that is unlikely to happen considering Sanogo only returned from injury this morning. Wilshere will be key to this game.
Attacking Midfielder – Özil
Özil will return to the number 10 spot after previously playing on the left wing against Everton. He was effective there, but limited, considering he had less freedom on the wing and more defensive responsibilities. Özil is most effective in the middle of the field and Arsenal will need him in his most effective position. Although the game on Saturday was his first of the season, he will play.
Right Wing – Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will fill this role Wednesday. With Giroud hurt, Alexis will start in the center again and Chamberlain is the next man up on the right. Tomas Rosicky could be another option, but with Santi Cazorla on the left wing, Arsenal would lack pace on the wings. Chamberlain will provide this pace.
Left Wing – Cazorla
Cazorla came on late in the game against Everton and had an immediate effect by providing the assist for Arsenal’s first goal. He has not enjoyed the best of starts to the season, but based on last weekend’s performance, his form is hopefully improving. He would be the logical choice to start here, with Lukas Podolski on the fringes and Joel Campbell not ready yet to start in such an important fixture. Cazorla will provide creativity and hard work rate on the left.
Center Forward – Alexis
Due to an injury to Giroud, Alexis gets the nod here. He was taken off at halftime last weekend with Wenger citing fitness as the reason. Alexis has not played poorly this season and we have seen flashes of his brilliance, but he still has to adapt to his new teammates and gel with them while also improving on his fitness. Sanogo could get the start here, as he would be a like-for-like replacement to Giroud, considering their similar abilities to hold up the ball and link up play.
However, Sanogo just returned to training and he is unlikely to be match fit. I do not believe Sanogo’s lack of goals for the Gunners influences him getting the start or not. As I have mentioned in the past, Wenger sees something special in Sanogo and is not afraid to start him in important matches. I still think that Alexis gets the nod though. There is much more to come from Alexis, hopefully we will see some of that Wednesday. On his night, Alexis can win a game for his team.