Arsenal have secured safe passage to the Champions League group stages for a 17th successive season after edging past Besiktas to secure a 1-0 aggregate victory, but the slim margin of their success is a fair reflection of a nervy night at the Emirates only eased by Alexis Sanchez.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger boldly decided to stick with his £35m summer signing in a lone central strike role, a relative gamble which paid off thanks to a clinical finish from the Chilean moments before half-time.
Sanchez struck just when Arsenal needed him most, after a first 45 minutes where the home side largely lacked cut and thrust in the final third despite largely controlling possession.
There were plenty of reasons for Gunners fans to be positive about a hard-fought victory though, with plenty of Wenger's stars showing they have the stomach for a fight, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla in particular.
Arsenal were forced to show more steel than any point in 14 previous Champions League qualifiers when Mathieu Debuchy was dismissed for a second bookable offence with just 15 minutes to spare
GMS was fortunate enough to be live and pitchside at the Emirates Stadium this evening, so with each Arsenal player rated after a job well done, but with very little to spare.
Wojciech Szczesny - 6 - A virtual spectator but visible throughout thanks to an outrageously bright all-orange strip.
Mathieu Debuchy - 6 - Heavily involved and looked vibrant going forward in the early stages. First booking was very avoidable though and eventually the French full-back was forced to pay a heavy price, although his second booking for a covering challenge in central midfield looked harsh to say the least.
Per Mertesacker - 7 - Far more organised and composed than a laboured effort against Everton just four days ago though. Sat fairly deep and was a constant communicator during the tense closing stages.
Laurent Koscielny - 7 - So important for Arsenal and it showed again tonight. Combination of pace and spacial awareness largely kept Demba Ba under wraps, a player who looked so threatening in Istanbul a week ago.
Nacho Monreal - 6 - Relatively untested but was a willing runner in both directions. Crossing remains inconsistent but helping towards another clean sheet will do his confidence no harm at all.
Mathieu Flamini - 6 - Combative as always and gave Wilshere in particular the freedom to advance higher up the pitch. Besiktas midfielder Atiba Hutchinson won the midfield battle early on though, that's for sure. Improved as the match progressed, much like Arsenal.
Jack Wilshere - 8 - Very neatly scored in the first 10 mins with a rare lung-busting run beyond his centre-forward into the penalty area and kept making those same important runs in Aaron Ramsey's absence. Passing was still off kilter at times, but a wonderful glide and pick to Sanchez early in the second half hints that the under-fire England star is improving with regular game-time.
Santi Cazorla - 8 (MOTM)- Arsenal's best player by a country mile in the first half, regularly switching the play when required and drifting to create space for team-mates. Mesut Ozil could far worse than study Cazorla's drive and desire, with and without the ball, particularly with the gifted little Spaniard looking so good in his favoured number 10 position.
Mesut Ozil - 5 - Sorry Arsenal fans, Ozil just wasn't up to the mark in his second game back from an extended break. At times produced clever flicks but all too sparingly, while also regularly drifting out of the game for long spells. Did pick out Sanchez for the all-important winner via the aid of a Wilshere flick though, a perfect example of one of world football's most polarising and at times frustrating players.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - 6 - Stretched the game and was the only Arsenal player attempting to help an all-too isolated Sanchez in the first 30 mins. Direct running very difficult to defend against, but often picked the wrong option in the final third.
Alexis Sanchez - 7 - Terrific outlet who you can see i s used to operating in a system which presses from the front and all over the pitch in return. Arsenal are certainly not that though and at times the Chilean speed demon was all alone in the penalty area waiting for the right service. When it did come he delivered, but somehow failed to double his account for the Gunners with awful misses after the break. Plenty of positives and still every reason for Arsenal fans to expect big things from their £32m man when he reaches top gear.
Calum Chambers - 6 - Booked before even getting a touch as the referee insisted on staying involved from the outset, despite the fourth official waving him on the pitch. Slotted in and helped Arsenal hang on, with a couple of well-timed sliding tackles to boot.
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