First off, apologies for the lateness of this here report, and apologies for its probably rather less-than-comprehensive nature; most of us mods didn't see the match, and the last day or so has been pretty busy, so here I am, late and hoping I can write something reasonably intelligent, even if it'll be light on tactics and whatnot - please share your impressions of tactics/style and their success/failure/whatever in the comments, for those of us who couldn't watch. Off we go!
The popular narrative before this match said Arsenal's entire season rested on a good result in this playoff. While that's a big fat pile of overexaggeration, it's not a stretch to say that, after Saturday, Arsenal had a lot to prove, mostly to themselves. They needed to prove that Saturday was a fluke, that the Villa loss was nothing but 1/38 of a complete story; they needed to prove that, despite the fact that they're short on cover right now, the team they run out is in fact good enough to win meaningful games until said cover arrives.
It looks like they may have succeeded.
After a first half in which Arsenal ran Fener ragged to no real effect, except to make Fener so mad they attempted to break Kos' skull into tiny bits, that old, familiar tension started to creep in. That old "we dominated but have nothing to show for it" frustration bubbled to the surface as the teams went in scoreless for their half-time orange slices.
If the first goal - Ramsey to Walcott to Gibbs, who scored - settled the nerves, the second - that lad Ramsey again, blasting one past Demirel - put the tie effectively out of reach. Fener would concede a late penalty, but by then they'd pretty much given up.
So now, after a weekend in which a newly arrived visitor from a distant galaxy would read the media and think Arsenal were about to be relegated to some Sunday semi-pro league, they are instead within reach of their 17th consecutive Champions League appearance, barring something completely going all pear-shaped next week.
Things are never as dire as they seem, and are also never as stellar; Arsenal still badly need reinforcements, at the rate they're getting hurt, but this was much, much closer to the "Real Arsenal" than we saw Saturday. More of this, please.