Fenerbahce Preview: A Good Response is Absolutely Key
Yesterday’s Champions League fixtures had an exciting outlook with PSV Eindhoven salvaging a draw against AC Milan, Carlos Vela’s Real Sociedad winning away against Lyon (you need to see Antoine Griezmann’s goal!!!) and the shock result of the night being the victory for Kazakh outfit, Shakhtar Karagandy, over Celtic.
Meanwhile, the world of Arsenal was plunged into turmoil following an opening day debacle in the hands of Aston Villa and the backlash has been incessant with fans voicing their frustrations over the lack of transfer activity. Arsene Wenger and his transfer dealing negotiators certainly have some business to do off the pitch but on it, the Gunners face a stern test in the form of Turkish giants, Fenerbahce SK.
The Turkish club’s participation in the Champions League has been under threat following some match-fixing scandals they were involved in but they’ve been allowed to play today’s qualifier against Arsenal as the hearing of their appeal will take place today. They were handed the ban in June, but reinstated in this season’s Champions League while an appeal is heard.
The Gunners head to Turkey low on confidence but as expected, the manager and some of his players have gone vocal about their renewed hopes for the encounter. Arsene Wenger has reiterated his desire to strengthen his team for the forthcoming campaign but he has shifted all focus to tonight’s game. Wojciech Szczesny has stated that he wants his team to play with confidence while stand-in captain, Per Mertesacker, believes that the first 20 minutes of the game would be vital.
At Arsenal, the usual suspects, Abou Diaby (knee), Thomas Vermaelen (back),Mikel Arteta (back) and Ryo Miyaichi (rib) are still out injured but there’s some good news concerning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as the manager has confirmed that he would be out for only six weeks, unlike the initial reports circulating in the media that he was going to be out for all eternity. On the bright side, Kieran Gibbs, Nacho Monreal and Bacary Sagna are available for selection.
Fenerbahce will be light in goal as their first-choice goalie, Volkan Demirel, will be suspended and young goalie, Erun Erten, is still recovering from a cruciate ligament injury he suffered last season. They will also be without the services of fullback, Gokhan Gonul, that suffered a horrific injury in the Europa League semifinal against SL Benfica last season.
If the Gunners think that they would have a stroll in the park against Fenerbahce, they’ll be in for a massive surprise as the Turkish side have some household names in European football in several positions of the pitch. In their defense, Arsenal will to contend with the brute strength of Bruno Alves and Joseph Yobo. These are established internationals that have vast experience from playing in other football leagues.
In their midfield, they have another familiar face, Raul Meireles, that took the Premier League by storm in his debut campaign with Liverpool before he was sold to Chelsea. The workhorse can cover every blade of grass for his team and Arsenal has to be weary about the threat he poses from long distance, as he’s well renowned for firing surface to goal missiles from his right foot. The Gunners also have to be weary about the technical prowess of Emre Belozoglu, another Premier League export, as he was fondly remembered by the Newcastle fans in his stint there.
Fenerbahce poses their biggest threat in attack and there are four players that the Gunners would ignore to their own peril; Milos Krasic, Dirk Kuyt, Moussa Sow and 2013 African Cup of Nations Golden Boot winner, Emmanuel Emenike.
Krasic’s pace and dribbling skills makes him a difficult player to come up against, and the Gunners also have to try their best to stop him from getting to the byline because he’s an accomplished crosser of the ball. A massive player like Dirk Kuyt needs no introduction, as the Gunners are very familiar with him from their duels in the Premier League in the yesteryear. The African duo of Sow and Emenike have reserves of pace that could come in handy and the Gunners also have to bear in mind that they are good finishers as well.
To team news, I would expect Wojciech Szczesny to remain in goal despite his comical displays against Aston Villa. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker would start at the heart of the defense but they will be flanked by Carl Jenkinson on the right and Kieran GIbbs (who has a plaster on his face) on the left.
Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere would be given another chance to play together in the midfield double pivot and we can only hope that they connect this time. Tomas Rosicky would play as the creative hub of the team and for Heaven’s sake, I pray he comes to today’s game with his shooting boots. The attack would be spearheaded by Olivier Giroud and he will be flanked by Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott.
My expected lineup for both sides would look like this,
This is a key fixture for Arsene Wenger and his team, so a good response is absolutely key as the Gunners season hinges on their performance over the two legs.
Here’s to an Arsenal victory.
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