Wednesday 20 August 2014
Arsenal require a home win over Besiktas next Wednesday if they are to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage for the 17th year in succession after being held to a goalless draw their manager Arsene Wenger described as "a fair result" in the first leg of their play-off in Istanbul.
"Maybe a draw is a fair result because both teams had chances to win the game"
The Gunners were confronted by a fervid atmosphere and obdurate opposition at the Ataturk Olikpiyat Stadium, where they almost fell behind to an audacious long-range attempt by Demba Ba inside the opening five seconds of the match. The former Chelsea striker tried his luck straight from the kick-off, forcing Wojciech Szczesny to backpedal and tip his goal-bound effort on to the bar.
Indeed Ba was a lively force in the first half, bringing another save out of Szczesny with a smart volley on nine minutes and driving a shot wide shortly before the interval.
Although Alexis Sanchez, the summer signing from Barcelona, was perhaps Arsenal's most potent threat, causing problems with his pace and power down the right flank and providing half-chances for Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla, the Gunners struggled to penetrate the home defence.
The Spaniard did test Tolga Zengin with a low free-kick but there were fewer goalscoring opportunities in the second half, which was marred for the Gunners by an injury to Mikel Arteta that renders him doubtful for Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to Everton and the dismissal of Aaron Ramsey for the first time in his career, for a second bookable offence.
Arsenal's best chance, however, came in the closing stages when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cut in from the right, weaved his way into the area and let fly with a shot Zengin did well to turn on to the far post.
"It was a difficult match played at a high pace," said Wenger. "Besiktas played with 100 per cent pace and fought for every single ball. We needed a great level of concentration. We are still a bit short physically with some situations, but overall it was a game played for 90 minutes at great pace.
"We always want to win but look, Besiktas could have won the game, and we could have won the game as well. Maybe a draw is a fair result because both teams had chances to win the game. We know Besiktas are a good team. We know the game will be certainly tight again, but we play at home. The task is clear for us, we want to win the game."
Ahead of the trip to Goodison Park Wenger is hopeful of welcoming back his three Germany internationals, Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski, who have been unavailable for the last two matches after having being given an extended break following their FIFA World Cup-winning exploits.
"We should have Mertesacker and Ozil and Podolski available again at the weekend," he added. "Let's hope they are in good shape when we go home."