The season only started 11 days ago and tonight was one of the biggest games of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal career. A goal-less draw last week in Turkey meant that nothing but a win would do – and an away goal to Besiktas could prove hugely problematic to our hopes of playing in Europe’s premier competition.
The referee was extremely picky, showing his yellow card every 12 seconds. In terms of letting the game flow, he was awful and I think he was worse than the referee we had in the Champions League Final in 2006, and that’s saying something.
In terms of nervy nights, this was right up there. Arsenal scored when Alexis Sanchez slotted the ball home after good work from Mesut Özil and Jack Wilshere, but after that we struggled to increase our lead. With a single away goal from Besiktas enough to knock us out of the Champions League proper for the first time in 17 seasons, every miss added to the immense pressure – with Oxlade-Chamberlain having the best chance to guarantee Arsenal’s progress.
As Besiktas chased the away goal they needed, the game opened up and Arsenal had numerous chances to bury the game. It didn’t come and the referee, who made a series of terrible decisions all night, decided to send of Mathieu Debuchy after clearly winning the ball.
After that, it was all hands on deck as Arsenal defended for their lives, literally.
Chambers came on for Özil and the team were fantastic. Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Nacho Monreal – everyone in fact, were immense, showing a huge amount of fight, desire and determination to get past the finish line.
In a world where some managers find it difficult to get their players to play for them, here there was no doubt whatsoever that Arsene Wenger doesn’t have the complete backing and trust from all of his players.
Arsenal have struggled in recent games, mainly because the majority of our players were involved in the World Cup. Without adequate rest before the start of the season, we’ve had to slowly get our rhythm and fitness back which has affected our performances – but in the past where we could have played badly and lost games, we’ve played badly and not lost any.
What does that mean when we do get our form and everyone is playing at the top level?
It means we’ll be a real force this season, home and abroad.