Aaron Ramsey’s suspension in next week’s Champions League qualifying second leg against Besiktas is a significant blow, according to Sky Sports expert Paul Merson.
The Welsh midfielder was dismissed for two bookings as Arsenal were held to a goalless draw in Turkey, meaning they need a victory at the Emirates to progress to the group stage.
While Merson reckons the sending off was fair, he says his former side now need another player to step up to the plate to grab a decisive goal next Wednesday.
“It’s a big loss," he said. "He’s the go-to man and he seems to get the big goals for Arsenal.
"The first one is a nailed-on booking, though, nailed on. And for the second one, when you’re playing away in the Champions League, in a hostile place, don’t give the ref a chance.
“He could give a booking, he could easily not give a booking, but don’t give the ref an opportunity to do that.”
The flowing, open match on Tuesday night failed to produce an away goal for Arsenal – despite Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s late efforts – and Merson says Arsene Wenger's men must show caution and curb their attacking instincts in the second leg, where a Besiktas strike would leave the Gunners facing an uphill battle.
"It's Arsenal's Achilles’ heel: in big games, they open the game up. Fair play to them. If you’re a neutral it’s great to watch but it’s a dangerous game," he said.
“They came unstuck last season in the Premier League against the big teams when they opened the game up – ‘you have a shot, we have a shot, we’re better than you’.
“Yes, the lesser teams they are. But not the top teams and I think they need to change that.
“Even though they should win this game, it’s a dangerous score because even if you score in the first five minutes and dominate the game to the 85th minute, it only needs a flukey goal and you could be out.”
The return leg at the Emirates is live on Sky Sports 5 HD next Wednesday, with coverage underway from 7pm.