Arsenal: Notes on Besiktas 0

Whenever an English team is drawn against a Turkish side, all the usual platitudes get used.  It’s always described as a ‘difficult away leg’ in a ‘hostile atmosphere’, but Arsenal aren’t traveling to the Ali Sami Yen in the 1990s and there’s really nothing hellish about Besiktas’ home, the 40,000 capacity Vodafone Arena.

The Kara Kartallar - or ‘Black Eagles’ - find themselves at the final stage of the Champions League qualifying campaign by way of a third-placed finish in the Turkish Superlig and a two-legged aggregate rout of Dutch side Feyenoord.  There are easier games in European football, but if Arsenal had to choose one of the big-three of Turkish football to face, it would be Besiktas - Fenerbahce and Galatasaray, as last season’s league table suggests, are stronger teams with greater resources and deeper, more talented squads.

There will be some familiar names tonight, however, as Besiktas are managed by former West Ham and Everton defender, and former Croatian national team head-coach Slaven Bilic, who has been with the club since 2013.  Additionally, former Chelsea forward Demba Ba start in a two-man attacking tonight, having joined for £8m over the Summer and started brightly: Ba scored a hat-trick on his first competitive start for the club in the second leg against Feyenoord. Some may also remember Kerim Frei from his time in the Premier League with Fulham, and he will line-up on the right side of midfield.

“We know who we are up against but are ready for the challenge. Since they are more experienced than us in the Champions League, they hold the upper hand. However, we also have dreams and the capacity to implement them. It will be a real test for both sides.”

Slaven Bilic (from Besiktas’ official website)

Besiktas lined-up in a 4-4-2 against Feyenoord, and the consensus amongst various websites seems to be that they’ll look a bit like this:

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 15.08.14

Even with their injuries and even without their German trio - or duo, given Lukas Podolski’s squad-status - this is not a troubling tie for Arsenal.  As is so often the rule in Europe, unless Arsene Wenger’s side conspire to dig themselves a big hole in Turkey tonight they will go through - even if they return to England having suffered a single-goal loss it’s almost impossible to see a scenario in which they don’t completely overrun their opponents back in London.

Don’t give the players or the crowd any reason to believe that a shock is achievable, because that’s the point at which momentum starts to build.

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