It was not only the result that made Arsenal’s trip to Istanbul for the first leg of their Champions League playoff with Beşiktaş on Tuesday evening a trying one. A goalless draw leaved Arsenal’s prospects of ensuring a 11th straight season in the Champions League group phase in the balance ahead of the return match with their Turkish opponents next Wednesday at the Emirates. But it was also a night in which manager Arsène Wenger had a bottle thrown in his direction following the final whistle, while key midfielder Aaron Ramsey was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in the second half. Worryingly, captain Mikel Arteta was also lost to injury. The Spaniard was forced off in the 50th minute after he “turned” his ankle, according to Wenger.
Arteta was later seen leaving the Atatürk Olympic Stadium wearing a surgical boot, putting his prospects of featuring when Arsenal visit his former club Everton in the Premier League on Saturday in some jeopardy. Having been appointed as the club captain following the exit of Thomas Vermaelen this summer, the 32-year-old has been handed a key role sitting in front of the back, allowing Ramsey and Jack Wilshere license to go forward. If he cannot recover in time to take the field at Goodison Park then Mathieu Flamini, who replaced Arteta on Tuesday, will likely take his place. However, if Arteta were to be sidelined for a considerable period of time then it would put pressure on Wenger to add a holding midfielder before the transfer deadline at the end of August. Despite spending heavily this summer, the Gunners still arguably lack a real physical presence in the middle of the pitch.
Following the result in Turkey, Wenger was again open about the fact that he is short of options at center-back. Yet he will be boosted in that regard against Everton, with Per Mertesacker set to join fellow World Cup winners Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski in being made available for selection after their late return to pre-season training.
Arsenal remain troubled by other injuries, however. Kieran Gibbs missed out against Beşiktaş after the left-back picked up a hamstring injury in the Premier League opening day win over Crystal Palace. Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s match, Wenger said that the problem would keep Gibbs out for “two to three weeks,” according to Arsenal’s official website.
There may, though, be a place for Yaya Sanogo. The young French striker started against Crystal Palace but did not travel to Istanbul. “Sanogo has stayed at home, he was uncomfortable in training this morning,” Wenger explained earlier this week. Olivier Giroud took Sanogo’s place against Beşiktaş, but looked less than sharp.
Meanwhile, recent arrival David Ospina is thought to be still a week or two away from being in contention as the goalkeeper continues to recover form a thigh strain picked up in Colombia’s World Cup quarterfinal with Brazil. Theo Walcott is expected to return to training in the coming weeks following the rupturing of his anterior cruciate ligament in January, while a return date for young winger Serge Gnabry remains unclear.