Champions League: Wilshere optimistic as Gunners face Besiktas

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Jack Wilshere is confident Arsenal’s dramatic late fightback at Everton will provide the perfect springboard to see off Besiktas in Wednesday’s crucial UEFA Champions League showdown.

Arsene Wenger’s side head into the second leg of their play-off encounter against the Turkish side with the tie delicately poised after a goalless draw in Istanbul last week. It was the first time in 13 matches Arsenal had failed to win a Champions League play-off fixture.

But the Gunners are feeling good about themselves after rescuing a 2-2 draw from an unpromising situation in their Premier League match against Everton on Saturday. Trailing 2-0 with only seven minutes remaining, Arsenal looked destined for another dispiriting defeat against one of their rivals for a top four finish.

Yet Wenger’s men ignored the memories of last season’s capitulations at Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton and hit back to equalise thanks to Aaron Ramsey’s strike and Olivier Giroud’s last minute header.

It was the ideal morale booster ahead of Besiktas’s visit to the Emirates Stadium and England international Wilshere believes the fightback should inspire Arsenal to get the win they need to reach the group stages of Europe’s elite club competition for the 17th consecutive season.

“This was a fantastic point and now we have a big game on Wednesday and this will give us great confidence going into that,” Wilshere said. “We have got great character, great togetherness and some leaders out there that keep us going. We also have great players to go with that.

“We never give up and at this level that is massive. We have always shown over the years that Arsenal are going to battle like mad right until the end. There have been a few games where we have been behind right until the end but have kept going.”

Wenger deals with absentees
Arsenal’s late revival on Merseyside couldn’t disguise the underwhelming nature of a performance that followed hot on the heels of another tepid effort in the 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season. Wales midfielder Ramsey, who bagged the late winner against Palace, was key to Arsenal’s recovery on both occasions, but he will be missing against Besiktas after being sent off in Turkey.

Ramsey’s absence is a blow as Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta is out with a sprained ankle, left-back Kieran Gibbs has a hamstring problem and French striker Giroud left Goodison with his left foot in a protective boot after injuring his ankle. Alexis Sanchez started ahead of Giroud on Saturday, but struggled before coming off at half-time and Wenger must decide whether to keep the Chile forward in the central striker’s role.

Regardless of who starts up front, Wenger expects Arsenal to finish the job. “The task is clear. We are at home, we want to qualify for the Champions League group stage and the target is to win the game. No matter what happens, I think we have the potential to win the game,” he said.

Arsenal’s goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny agrees and sees no reason to fear an exit from Europe, given the Gunners have become specialists at emerging unscathed from these qualifiers in recent years.

“It is important that we move on quickly now and prepare for Wednesday night. It is certainly an important one for us, so hopefully we will get a result,” Szczesny added.

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