Thursday, 22 August 2013

Arsenal win 3-0 Away To Fenerbache

After losing their first league game of the new season at home to Villa on Saturday there was a lot of pressure on Arsenal going into last night's trip to Fenerbache. They were playing the first leg of their Champions League final qualifying round and hoping to qualify for the group stages for the 16th season in a row. It wasn't going to be an easy task for them after the defeat to Villa and the threadbare nature of the squad 

With Mikael Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen already out Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was added to the injury list for quite a while after picking up an injury on Saturday. It meant Arsenal's bench had some inexperience on it with Emmanuel Frimpong, Yaya Sanogo and Serge Gnabry all included. Only drastic circumstances would have seen any of them introduced which meant Nacho Monreal, Lukas Podolski and Carl Jenkinson were the subs who were likely to be used at some stage. 

The Arsenal team was almost the exact same as the one which lost to Villa on Saturday with the exception of Santi Cazorla coming in for the injured Chamberlain. Those same players had done well at times against Villa, but there were a lot of questions asked of them after the game. Without Arteta Arsenal lack a defensive midfielder to protect the defence and Villa took full advantage of that on Saturday.

Fenerbache didn't come into the game in the best of form either though after losing themselves at the weekend. Their defeat was even worse than Arsenal's as they were 2-0 up with 15 minutes left against a newly promoted side and lost 3-2. They may have wanted to try to put some pressure on Arsenal, but they certainly didn't show much confidence from an early stage. 

It was Arsenal who made all the play in the first half and their opponents couldn't ever muster an attempt on target. The only problem with Arsenal's dominance was the lack of genuine scoring chances they created. There were a few half chances, but generally their final ball just wasn't up to scratch and they lacked a little creativity.

The only down side of the first half was the injury picked up by Laurent Koscielny when he took a nasty kick to the head. He anticipated well to win a header but the Fenerbache player tried to hook the ball forward overhead and caught him square in the face. The referee chose to only give him a yellow despite the rules stating that a dangerous tackle is a red card and the blood gushing from Koscielny's head indicated it was a dangerous challenge to me.

It meant Koscielny had to go off and be replaced by Jenkinson with Bacary Sagna switching to centre back and Jenkinson taking his place on the right. Koscielny is suspended for Saturday's trip to Fulham and hopefully he won't be needed in the return leg next week which means he has a week and a half to recover for the game against Spurs. He will be needed in that game and the more time he has to recover the better.

The second half started with Fenerbache trying to push a bit further forward and they got their first sight of goal after a mix up in the Arsenal defence. Thankfully Dirk Kuyt blazed over the bar and very soon afterwards Arsenal had the lead they wanted. Aaron Ramsey was having a fine game in the heart of the Arsenal midfield and it was his creativity which made the goal.

He turned on the ball a couple of times outside the Fenerbache box and picked a pass which played Theo Walcott in behind the left back. Walcott could have shot but he choose to pass to the far post where Kieran Gibbs was on hand to stab the ball home. It was a fully deserved goal for Arsenal and left them firmly in control of the game. 

That goal had come only six minutes into the second half and it was Arsenal who looked most likely to score again. There were a couple of chances before the second goal came and it was that man Ramsey who got it in the 64th minute. He took a pass from Jack Wilshere and ran at the Fenerbache defence before shooting into the corner from outside the box. The Fenerbache keeper should have done a lot better but Arsenal weren't overly concerned that he didn't keep it out.

It was a matter of how many Arsenal would get at that stage and after 77 minutes they got their third goal. A beautiful ball over the left back's head from Cazorla put Walcott through and the defender bundled him over as he tried to recover. Olivier Giroud stepped up to blast the ball home from the ensuing penalty and effectively end the match and the tie too. The penalty was given by the official behind the goal who actually got involved in the game for once. Usually they tend to stay out of the decision making but thankfully he intervened this time. 

Fenerbache came into the game a little more after that and Wojciech Szczesny had to make a couple of good saves to keep his clean sheet. He managed to do so despite the stud marks along his neck after diving bravely at the feet of a Fenerbache player. He didn't put a foot wrong all night and did well to keep his concentration despite having very little to do until towards the end.

The 3-0 win was more than I could have hoped for and I would have been happy enough to settle for a score draw. Fenerbache will need a miracle to get back into the tie next Tuesday and the result takes some pressure off the players ahead of their trip to Fulham on Saturday. They will know they can give their all in that game without having to worry about what might happen on Tuesday night.

Fenerbache might have been poor on the night but they were built up to be the team to take advantage of Arsenal's poor start to the season and drive another nail into their coffin. The Arsenal players rose to the challenge though and showed there is plenty of quality in the team.

The issue the fans have isn't with the quality of the players presently at the club, but they are unhappy that there aren't enough quality players for the team to challenge. The injuries Arsenal have at the moment show how wafer thin the squad is and how essential it is to add some more quality to it. The players available at the moment are good enough to get a result against any team but they can't be expected to play every single game this season.

The opportunity is there to move Arsenal to the next level by investing the money the club has in some genuine quality. The transfer window ends in 11 days and Arsenal need to be very busy in those days. They quite simply have to target the players they want and make sure they get them even if they have to pay more than Arsenal think those payers are worth. 

Potential targets will know there is Champions League football for them this season and that's a lure most players can't resist. Hopefully they can get their business done in time for some of those players to make an appearance at the home game against Spurs on Sunday week. 

Back to last night's game and it was great to see the influence Ramsey had on the game. With Arteta out the defensive midfield work became more of a shared task and on the whole the players did it well. They will face a lot tougher challenges but they can only beat the teams that are put in front of them. 

A little bit of the feel good factor has returned to the club and a good result at Fulham early on Saturday could add to that. Let's hope the team can manage that but Fulham will surely give them a much tougher game.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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