Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsene Wenger's side welcome Besiktas to Emirates Stadium on Wednesday evening. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Slaven Bilic modified his first-choice 4-4-2 system and played a more cautious 4-2-3-1 in last week’s 0-0 draw, and Arsenal should expect a similar challenge this time around.
This meant that Demba Ba was up front as the lone striker, rather than playing just behind Mustafa Pektemek, as has been the case in Besiktas’ two-legged victory over Feyenoord in the previous round. Instead, Pektemek played on the right flank where he dribbled dangerously at Nacho Monreal.
Ba is obviously the main goal threat, and having shot straight from kick-off in the first leg last Tuesday, must be watched carefully throughout tonight’s game. Besiktas often look to hit Ba directly, with long balls and crosses from deep, and he’s a master of finishing coolly with a minimum of fuss.
"Besiktas often look to hit Ba directly, with long balls and crosses from deep"
With Pektemek out on the right, Ba’s main support came from former Arsenal youth product Oguzhan Ozyakup. Fielded as the number 10, he drove forward powerfully from midfield and created a fine chance for a Ba volley with a clever chip over the defence.
The two holding midfielders, Veli Kavlak and Necip Uysal, are both feisty tacklers – they committed three fouls apiece last week, in a match that became increasingly scrappy in the second half. Generally, one player moves forward to press the opponent in possession, while the other stays back and protects the defence, although they could be more cautious away from home and allow Arsenal more time on the ball.
The full-backs had a similarly aggressive approach, with left-back Ramon making nine tackles – over double as many as any Arsenal player. He and right-sided Ismail Koybasi attempted to stick tight to their opponents, although Koybasi might not reappear for the second leg.
The centre backs lack pace and were quick to retreat into their own penalty area when Alexis Sanchez dribbled forward dangerously down the right, and Arsenal might look to get the Chilean running in beyond the opposition defence, rather than dribbling towards them.
Besiktas shaded possession in the first leg, managing 52 per cent, in part because Arsenal were down to 10 men for the final period, after Aaron Ramsey’s dismissal. That is likely to change on Wednesday evening, with Arsenal dominating the ball and Besiktas offering their biggest threat on the counter-attack.