1 Shifting Sánchez to a central position is a sensible move
The vast majority of Arsenal’s best attacking moves last night came on the right, Alexis Sánchez’s driving pace causing the Besiktas back-line plenty of bother in the opening 45 minutes, but with only Olivier Giroud to aim at in the middle, the end product was often disappointing. Once Theo Walcott returns to the team it is expected that the Chilean will move into a central role, which would mean Giroud dropping to the substitutes’ bench. In the shadow of Lionel Messi at Barcelona Sánchez was mostly banished to the flank too but, as he showed at the World Cup, a central role suits him.
It is no secret Arsène Wenger would rather a striker with pace – something Giroud, for all his other qualities, does not exactly have in abundance – and, although more than useful out wide, Arsenal may not see the best of Sánchez until Walcott returns next month and he can run straight at centre-halves.
2 Turkish delight in short supply
Twelve months ago Arsenal soaked up a good start from Fenerbahce before running out 3-0 winners, the goals coming in a 25-minute spell midway through the second half. There was talk of crisis due to a lack of summer signings and an opening Premier League defeat before and after that game. This time the mood was completely different, the feelgood factor has been unmistakable but they found Besiktas a much trickier proposition.
Sacrificing their 100% record in these play-off fixtures will not matter a jot once they win next Wednesday but there is now genuine cause for concern. Slaven Bilic’s team kept Arsenal quiet, apart from Sánchez’s jilting runs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s late effort coming back off a post, and they had the better chances of taking a lead into the second leg. They will hold no fears coming to the Emirates. It was by no means a bad result for Arsenal but it does provide Wenger with an additional headache.
3 Is Chambers becoming a first-choice centre-half?
From playing 18 games on the right side of Southampton’s defence last season (and being considered second choice in that position under Ronald Koeman in pre-season) to shifting inside to centre-half for a Champions League play-off in a piping hot atmosphere, Calum Chambers’ ascent has been startling.
Any concerns raised over Wenger placing faith in a novice in such a high-profile game were put to bed within minutes when he made two thunderous challenges, coming away from both with possession. Still learning on the job, his slip which allowed Demba Ba through at the end of the opening period shows he is far from the finished product and may be prone to occasional lapses of concentration, but he was composed with the ball and possesses a positional sense which defies his lack of experience. Now the question is whether he will keep his place when Per Mertesacker returns at the weekend. Such promising displays make it difficult for Wenger to halt his rise.
4 Wenger must not run his players into the ground
Wenger has already aired concerns over his players becoming fatigued. Initially that comes across as an odd statement in mid-August but, when you consider that Arsenal were without players for a combined 1,716 days last season, the Premier League’s worst record by close to 300 days, his worries are understandable. Currently there are six out of action and, while these games against Besiktas are arguably the most important of the season’s opening months, the days lost to injury need to be trimmed considerably if a title challenge is to be sustained.
There is more depth to the squad this season but with Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, whose injury problems last season were a major blow, currently healthy, Wenger’s weariness is justified. Watching Mikel Arteta hobble off five minutes into the second half accentuated those fears further. Still, it is also worth noting that the second legs of Tuesday night’s fixtures are next Wednesday. Those in action on Wednesday night must conclude their ties on Tuesday.
5 Was Mourinho wrong to sell Ba?
Demba Ba did not score enough at Chelsea but neither did Fernando Torres and on the evidence of last night’s performance, the Senegalese may have provided better back-up than the Spaniard for the months that lie ahead.
His audacious attempt from the kick-off and his delicious half-volley which was well saved by an outstretched Wojciech Szczesny on 10 minutes were early highlights and, although he should have scored nearing half-time, his ability to bring others into play with his back to goal is a quality which must not be overlooked.
Indeed in a summer notable thus far for inflated price tags put on strikers – see the £12m spent on Shane Long by Southampton last week and the £11m forked out by Fulham to obtain the services of Ross McCormack – the £4.7m Besiktas paid was a bargain.