I used to dread these matches, I used to worry myself senseless that a wrong step would see us miss the promise land that is the Champions League proper and set us back a good few years. Today I don't have quite the same concerns as the idea of putting most of our eggs in a title push is something I could deal with but the truth is, I am sure the current players, manager and potential new signings would wholeheartedly disagree.
That is not to say that I do not want us in the group stages at least, I am just saying that there is a silver lining out there should we fail to qualify over the two legs. The fact that it is two legs and we face the Turkish side at home in the second leg means that the advantage has to be in our corner. Besiktas are a good team, a team that comprehensively dismantled Feyenoord to get to this stage but they are no world beaters, we should have more than enough quality to get through. That said we had more than enough quality to beat Crystal Palace convincingly but football is not played on paper, many factors and variables will dictate how the game plays out.
I am intrigued to know if our football will be sharper than it was at the weekend, if it is not then we might continue to struggle to score goals. We won't have had much time to work on our football with recovery and traveling being factored in so that is a slight concern. Slaven Bilic has been pretty bullish pre match and that tells me that his team will be fired up and committed this evening but I wonder if they will play to win or if they will play not to lose.
Kieran Gibbs is out for three weeks with a hamstring strain which is so very Arsenal. Let's hope Shad and his team are on hand to not turn it into an even more Arsenal two months. Nacho Monreal who did well when he came on last weekend will continue in Gibbo's place. Laurent Koscielny makes the trip which allows big Per Mertesacker his extended rest. New boy Calum Chambers will have another taste of what life is like at a big club with his first Champions League match of his career, even if it doesn't quite count unless you qualify but you know what I mean.
Even with his inexperience I don't worry about him, some players make you worry or look flustered he just doesn't so far. Let's hope he continues to impress tonight.
Yaya Sanogo has an injury and will be left behind so Oliver Giroud will come back in, I suspect he would have started even if Sanogo was fine. Oxlade-Chamberlain could be a possibility for Santi Cazorla but I suspect the Spaniard will remain in the side and I think he'll redeem himself.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
Without Sanogo and Podolski on the Arsenal bench, I wonder if we'll see a late cameo from Joel Campbell, I hope so. I'm not sure he'll get a a whole load of games this season so if he is to force his way into the managers thoughts he'll need to impress when he gets his chance. Mathieu Flamini who was sick last weekend is back in the squad and expected to be on the bench.
First things first I want a good result, preferably a victory but also it would be nice to see some of our sharpness back on the pitch.