Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side begin their Champions League campaign at Besiktas on Tuesday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Arsenal can expect a strong test in Istanbul for the first leg of their Champions League play-off, against a physical Besiktas side.
Coach Slaven Bilic is best known for his spell in charge of an impressive, technical Croatia side, who memorably beat England home and away in qualification for Euro 2008, but his Besiktas side plays more direct football, playing quick passes towards the front two, and into the opposition full-back zones for the wingers to chase.
In fact, you can trace Besiktas’ style of play back to England. Their most successful period came under the management of ex-Liverpool midfielder Gordon Milne in the 1990s. He insisted upon a 4-4-2 formation with direct passing and lots of crossing, and to a certain extent that philosophy is still obvious.
Although he’s taken the No 9 shirt, [Demba Ba has] played a slightly deeper role so far, although that didn’t stop him bagging a hat-trick in the 3-1 win over Feyenoord in the previous round
Therefore, while the teamsheets might depict Besiktas as a 4-2-3-1, it could look more like 4-4-2 on the pitch.
Besiktas’ major summer signing is Demba Ba, the former West Ham, Newcastle and Chelsea striker often linked with Arsenal in recent years. Although he’s taken the No 9 shirt, he’s played a slightly deeper role so far, although that didn’t stop him bagging a hat-trick in the 3-1 win over Feyenoord in the previous round.
Mustafa Pektemek, a busy centre forward, is likely to be his partner, although there’s a chance former Arsenal youth player Oguzhan Ozyakup could play if Bilic wants to beef up the midfield.
Besiktas possess two dangerous wingers. Olcay Sahan starts on the left and is a clever, creative player who can run with the ball, drift inside into dangerous central positions, and supply the strikers. On the other flank, ex-Fulham man Kerim Frei is younger, more raw and a direct winger, capable of dribbling with the ball at speed but certainly less consistent with his end product than Sahan.
The central midfielders are solid rather than technical. Atiba Hutchinson protects the defence well but is an injury doubt, which means Necip Uysal, also able to play at right back, would partner Veli Kavlak. Both are reliable performers, although not always comfortable when pressed.
At the back, Besiktas lack speed, although the two centre backs are good in the air, with left-sided Ersan Gulum a particularly tough tackler.
Goalkeeper Tolga Zengin captains the side, although against Feyenoord he twice flapped at corner kicks, suggesting he might be vulnerable in these situations.