In what will be an undoubted weight from the mind of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal have successfully navigated their way through a tricky Champions’ League qualifying tie against the Besiktas. A club who have participated in the elite European tournament on many occasions before now, the toppling of their Turkish opponents represents a commendable achievement for the Gunners.
There can be no suggestion that the North London club are not good value for their place in the Champions’ League draw. Wenger is one of the most experienced managers in the competition after his Arsenal career, and the Gunners are an almost ever-present side within the tournament. The following are 4 reasons why the Emirates’ club deserves their most recent qualification success:
An ambitious transfer window
The Arsenal of yesteryear might have been accused of taking the cheaper options in the transfer window, whilst the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea spent big money to ensure success. However, over the past two years, Wenger can hardly be thought of as reserved when it comes to the transfer market. The French tactician has shown ambition and courage, and his qualification for the Champions’ League is reward for that.
The Gunners’ stand-out buy is that of Alexis Sanchez, but the arrivals of Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and David Ospina are all very shrewd moves as well. Sanchez was a star at the World Cup and warranted the £35 million price tag that Arsenal met; Debuchy and Chambers proved their Premier League potential last season, and will now continue to develop at the Emirates; in Ospina, Wenger now has one of the World Cup’s finest goalkeepers playing as second choice.
A quality defence
They may have only scored one goal, but crucially they didn’t let one in. Arsenal got through their tie with Besiktas largely because of a very impressive defensive display. The Gunners backline was immovable as they blocked the path to their goal, and Demba Ba and the rest of the Besiktas strike-force could come up with no answers.
The achievement is even greater considering the precarious position that Wenger found himself in with regard to his team selections. Per Mertesacker is only just returning to match fitness, Kieran Gibbs is struggling for injury, and Calum Chambers had, until recently, never played a European match. The Gunners were able to overcome all of those hurdles and still deal with a questionable Mathieu Debuchy sending off. It was a very gutsy performance.
Apparent strength in depth
The squad was not only stretched in its defensive positions, however. With Aaron Ramsey suspended for the second leg against Besiktas and Olivier Giroud out with injury, the team was thinning at the other end of the pitch as well. The problems didn’t tell, however, as Arsenal created the lion share of opportunities in front of goal.
Sanchez worked effectively enough as a striker, despite it perhaps not being his preferred role, and Jack Wilshere bossed a Ramsey-free midfield. Wednesday night was a time for certain players to stand up and be counted, and the majority managed it. Arsenal cannot continue throughout the season scrambling to field a decent team, but they managed to do it this week with aplomb.
A gutsy and determined character
The overriding positive to take out of the Arsenal victory, and the overriding reason the club deserves its Champions’ League status is concerned with their character. Arsenal have been the beautiful game-ers of the Premier League for some while now, but against Besiktas they proved they knew how to fight as well.
The odds weren’t exactly against Wenger’s men, but they weren’t especially in their favour either. To grind out a one-nil victory, and to hang on to it throughout the second half, took determination and guts aplenty. If the Gunners are to progress beyond the group stage of this year’s European Cup, then they will need to draw upon that attitude time and again.