Arsenal 2-0 Fenerbahce: Match Report

Michael Regan

Two Aaron Ramsey goals confirmed Arsenal's progression to the Champions League.

Two Aaron Ramsey goals confirmed Arsenal's place in the Champions League group stage for the 16th year in a row as Arsenal completed a 5-0 aggregate victory over Fenerbahce. With Champions League progression secured, Arsene Wenger will now turn to Sunday's crucial North London Derby, a match made more difficult by an injury sustained by Lukas Podolski and knocks and tweaks for Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere.

Wenger made two changes to the side that beat Fulham, as Jack Wilshere came in for Tomas Rosicky and Nacho Monreal made his first start of the season. Up 3-0, one could expect Arsenal to perhaps start a little lackadaisical, and they did as Fenerbahce won some early corners. The loose play continued as Carl Jenkinson tried dribbling out of the defensive third and got robbed. Emmanuel Emenike burst through, but Bacary Sagna won the ball, but hit his clearance off of Raul Meireles, forcing Wojciech Szczesny to make an extremely acrobatic save to deny Fenerbahce an away goal, and some hope.

The loose play was also affecting Arsenal in the final third, as they seemed unable or reluctant to pass in the final third, as Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski took shots when there were better options to pass to. But, play improved, with Cazorla nearly slipping in Nacho Monreal, before Arsenal scored. Lukas Podolski bundled his way through the middle and right, and then, the combination of Podolski, Walcott and Egemen Korkmaz saw the ball fall to Aaron Ramsey, who completed the task of tapping the ball in to make it 1-0.

Fenerbahce continued to pour forward, though, with Szczesny making some smart saves from Moussa Sow. Amongst that, Per Mertesacker did a cruyff turn, and Olivier Giroud shanked a near post cutback from Nacho Monreal, before the half ended.

From the second half, Lukas Podolski set down the left hand side, and then pulled up with an injured hamstring and had to be stretchered off. From then, it became the Santi Cazorla show, with the little Spaniard doing brilliantly to evade progressively nastier Fenerbahce tackles. Jack Wilshere was less fortunate, with the Englishman being continually scythed down by the defeated Fenerbahce players, who, aside from some pointless longshots and a terrible dive, offered very little in the second half.

Arsenal brought on Yaya Sanogo for his home debut, and he contributed to Arsenal's second goal, winning the ball back and playing some nice passes with Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere, who threaded Gibbs through to cross to Ramsey, who sent a lovely side-footed volley into the corner of the net to make it 2-0. After that Ryo Miyaichi came on for his first Arsenal appearance in 18 months, and he set up a chance for Carl Jenkinson at the death, with the full-back unlucky not to score his first senior goal, as his hard hit shot was well saved. Moments earlier, Jenkinson had sent one of the worst long range shots ever in the approximate range of the clock.

Of note, though, was the tweak picked up by Aaron Ramsey, who came off with a couple of minutes to go. His status for Sunday is as of yet unknown, which highlights the problems when you play the same 11-14 players in 4 matches of high intensity at the beginning of the season. Most teams rotate at this point in the season because players often aren't ready for 4 intense matches right away, but Arsenal haven't been able to. With Champions League football now secured, there really are no excuses if Arsenal fail to strengthen the squad: simply put, we cannot rely on these 14-15 players to play upwards of 50 matches.

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