Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Arsenal's Trip To Fenerbache Previewed

After a defeat at home to Villa in their first game of the season on Saturday Arsenal have a Champions League qualifier away to Fenerbache tonight. The winner over two legs will qualify for the group stages of the competition and it's a prize both clubs will badly want. Arsenal have managed to achieve that feat for the last 15 years in a row, but they're far from certain to do so this season. 

With virtually no new arrivals this summer it has fallen on the players who managed to finish fourth last season to carry the flag for the new season. However with just a few injuries to the squad the lack of depth has been exposed and Arsenal are struggling to put a strong team out tonight. The game against Villa took it's toll and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will definitely miss out with quite a few others struggling to prove their fitness too.

There are doubts over the fitness of Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, but Nacho Monreal is apparently available after recovering from his injury. With so many players carrying knocks the team needs a little bit of shaking up, but that's not easy with so few options. I would be surprised if Monreal played seeming as he returned to pre season late and hardly featured at all.

At least Laurent Koscielny can play, but it won't be easy to replace him for the league trip to Fulham early on Saturday. Besides Koscielny I think the defence is going to be the same as it was at the weekend with so few choices available. They will need a lot more protection in front of them than they got at the weekend and that won't be easy with the midfield options.

I can only assume Ramsey, Wilshere and Santi Cazorla will fill the three midfield roles and I hope both Ramsey and Wilshere will be deployed in deep roles. Cazorla should be able to do all the creative work in midfield on his own, as it's vital that the team has some solidity to it. Fenerbache will know Arsenal are vulnerable at the moment and will look to kill the tie off in the first leg if possible.

The attacking trio will more than likely consist of Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski and they will have to do all they can to help out at the other end too. When chances come their way it's important that they take them as away goals are so important in European football. If Arsenal are going to progress they need to take anything they can to the home leg next week.

Despite all of the negativity since the defeat to Villa that's still a strong Arsenal side, but a lot could depend on how well the players carrying knocks hold up. If they can last the pace then Arsenal have a good chance of getting the result they want and easing the pressure on the team and the management. If the bench has to be called on Arsenal could have a problem or two as the options on it are very limited.

I'm hoping the team can react to the result on Saturday and put on a performance to show the fans how much they want to progress. They're more than capable of getting a draw or even a win despite their previous form away from home to Turkish teams. I'm predicting a narrow victory for Arsenal and the team taking a giant step towards Champions League group qualification yet again. 

I'm not sure what the players will have left just over 60 hours later after traveling back from Turkey to play away to Fulham. At least they won't have to travel far for that game, but they will be stretched to the limit. It doesn't bear thinking of but it's a direct result of the inactivity in the transfer market so far. 

I'll be watching anxiously tonight hoping the season takes a turn for the better and doesn't deteriorate into more chaos. The consequences of a bad defeat don't bear thinking of and maybe that's why I think the team will manage to get the result they need. A win or a draw should at least buy the manager some time to get some serious work done in the transfer market.

So many players have been linked to Arsenal in the last few days that it's hard to keep track of them all, but a few of them could make a real difference at the club. Let's just hope the club have the neck to actually spend all of the money they have told us they have to spend. The promise of Champions League football is a lure many players can't resist and tonight's game will hopefully go a long way to bringing that about. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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