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Arsenal 2 Fenerbahce 0: Red-hot Ramsey Gives the Gunners a Turkish Delight

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey (L) celebrates with Yaya Sanogo after scoring his second goal against Fenerbahce (AFP)

Arsenal’s hottest player atm

Emirates Stadium (Champions League)

Arsenal: Ramsey 25′, 72′

Fenerbahce: 0

The job was half done as the Gunners had to put up another good performance that would be enough for Arsene Wenger’s side to qualify for Europe’s elite competition for the 16th season in a row.

The manager had promised to field a strong lineup and he wasn’t bluffing as the Gunners started with basically the same XI that was outstanding in Istanbul with the exceptions of Carl Jenkinson, Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski that all had starting berths. Fenerbahce, on the other hand, made wholesale changes from the team that was piss poor in Turkey as six players were axed from the squad to accommodate the new look lineup.

The visitors almost stunned the hosts with a shock lead with Jenkinson was robbed off the ball after dallying on it. An attack buiit up for Fenerbahce but after a goalmouth scramble, the ball fell to Raul Meireles and his attempt on goal required a reaction save from Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal launched a swift attack with Santi Cazorla teeing up Wilshere but when the ball fell to Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman curled his effort wide of the mark.

Arsenal kept probing for a goal and the breakthrough arrived when Lukas Podolski sent Walcott through but the pass was intercepted by Egemen. Egemen’s attempt to remove the ball from danger was a tame one and the ball rolled to Ramsey’s path leaving the Welshman no choice but to dispatch it into an empty net.

Another moment of uncertainty arrived when Szczesny failed to deal with a long ball but he still managed to smother the ball with Emmanuel Emenike on the prowl. Ramsey then did well to feed Giroud on the left hand side but with Walcott and Podolski free on the far post, Giroud selfishly chose to fire the shot from an acute angle which led to a Volkan Demirel save. Podolski was quick to express his disgust shortly afterwards.

Cazorla then lofted a diagonal ball for Giroud and the striker tried to return back to the Spaniard with a guided header. Egemen intercepted the ball and nodded it back to his goalie but it almost caught Volkan Demirel and he did pretty well to prevent an embarrassing own goal. As the game progressed, Emenike fashioned a chance for himself on the right hand side, blasting a goal-bound shot that was parried to the post by Szczesny. Fenerbahce launched another attack that required another reaction save from Szczesny after Emenike latched unto Dirk Kuyt’s cross.

The second half began on a very sad note for the Gunners as Podolski tweaked his hammy at the early stages of the game. He looked very distraught and required a stretcher to be taken off the pitch. Wenger opted to use Kieran Gibbs as his replacement. There was a comical moment when Emenike dived blatantly in the box but he was caught by the eagle-eyed referee and was brandished a yellow card for trying to con the man with the whistle.

With half an eye on the Spurs game on Sunday, Wenger replaced Giroud with newbie, Yaya Sanogo. Cazorla had a couple of half chances that were saved by the goalie and Arsenal’s next attempt on goal arrived when Walcott fired a free kick into the bar.

The match clincher arrived when Wilshere fashioned a chance for Gibbs and the Englishman drilled an effort into the danger area. The ball was met stylishly by an onrushing Ramsey that sidefooted it into Volkan Demirel’s net to put the game beyond doubt. For a player that has seen the bad side of his own fans, hearing the Gooners sing Ramsey’s songs were heartwarming.

Wenger withdrew Walcott for Ryo Miyaichi and after some great work from Cazorla, Sanogo blasted his effort over the bar. As the game reached its climax, Wilshere was on the end of some malicious challenges from the Fenerbahce players and showed great maturity to keep his cool amidst the turmoil. The Wilshere of old would have gone berserk and he would have tried to get his own pound of flesh.

He almost had a chance to score a goal after some good work from Cazorla and Jenkinson but his right footed effort was fired straight at Volkan Demirel. Late on, Jenko and Miyaichi combined well on the right and he was odds on to break his Arsenal goalscoring duck but his effort was close to the goalie.

In the end, it was a great run-out for Arsene Wenger’s men but he stated in his post-match conference that Podolski will be out for 21 days, which is clearly a problem with Arsenal’s squad very depleted. He also stated that Ramsey has a groin problem but he believes that he’ll be fit enough to play Tottenham.

Ramsey’s vast improvement has been one of Arsenal’s bright sparks so far and one would wonder what could happen if the Gunners still swoop for Yohan Cabaye when Mikel Arteta returns to full fitness. It will be good to see the manager have some selection headaches but Ramsey is becoming indispensable to the team.

It was pleasant seeing him give his team a Turkish Delight.


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Arsenal vs. Fenerbahce Preview: No Room for Complacency

The Gunners ran riot in Turkey last week

After the much talked-about defeat to Aston Villa, Arsenal responded with a brilliant performance against Fenerbahce in their volatile Sukru Saracoglu stadium, leaving the home side humbled and stunned. The Turkish press had labelled Arsenal as a wounded lion but Arsene Wenger’s side preyed on them, putting one foot into the Group Stages of the Champions League.

That night, Aaron Ramsey was Arsenal’s standout performer as he was directly involved in two goals, providing a key pass in the build up to the match opener and scoring the second himself. After Theo Walcott was scythed down in the box, Olivier Giroud wasted no time in dispatching the spot kick.

Seven days have elapsed since the Gunners’ victory and they are set to welcome their Turkish opponents on the back of another good performance against Fulham. Lukas Podolski has found himself in the fringes in recent times but it was heartwarming seeing the German score a brace, as it must have done wonders to his shaky confidence. The Turks also went back to winning ways after a run of three straight defeats (Galatasaray, Konyaspor and Arsenal) with a solitary Dirk Kuyt goal that was enough to get all three points against Eskisehirspor in the SuperLiga.

I’m sure that you would fancy making a free football bet on the game, but with Arsenal on the ascendancy, complacency must be avoided. Last season, eventual winners of the Champions League, Bayern Munich, went back home with a stellar performance at the Emirates but they were stunned at home by a spirited Arsenal side that was one goal away from a quarterfinal berth. Complacency must be avoided at all costs.

Arsenal also cannot afford to deal with anymore injuries, as Laurent Koscielny suffered a face injury after he was kicked by Pierre Webo. Arsenal physio, Colin Lewin, labelled it as the worst cut he has ever seen. The usual suspects are still out injured but Thomas Vermaelen is getting closer to full fitness with each passing day.

Prior to the German invasion of Schalke 04 and FC Bayern last season, Arsenal’s Champions League record at the Emirates was impregnable, as the Gunners had not lost at home since the ill-fated semifinal clash against Manchester United in 2009. Following that loss, the Gunners had won 14 out of 19 games at home in Europe which included famous wins over Barcelona and AC Milan.

I’d expect their manager, Ersun Yanal, to field his strongest lineup possible with Volkan Demirel between the sticks while Gokhan Gonul, Kadlec, Joseph Yobo and Bruno Alves will be the defensive rearguard. The midfield would be relatively unchanged with Mehmet Topaz protecting the back four while Raul Meireles and skipper, Emre Belozoglu, will support the attack.

Dirk Kuyt and Moussa Sow wll attack through the flanks and I expect new signing, Emmanuel Emenike, to start ahead of Pierre Webo. The Nigerian forward stung Wojciech Szczesny’s palm with a thunderous shot and he would be odds on to continue marauding the forward line with the hopes of scoring a goal or two.

To Arsenal news, the manager, Arsene Wenger, has promised not to overhaul the squad with wholesale changes,

“It will be stability in the team. “Maybe one or two who are a bit injured [will be rested], but 95 per cent of the team who played at Fulham will play [on Tuesday] night. It will show consistency and, therefore, I’m already focused today to go into this game with full commitment. For me, top-level sport is just about consistency.

“It says it all [that I won’t rest players]. It shows how important it is to us. It’s of course a very, very, very important tie for us.

“We want to be in the group stage the next day, and that demands attitude and commitment and desire to play the game with full power, like we love to do.”

This I must say, is great news.

Some Arsenal fans were hoping to see the likes of Yaya Sanogo and Gedion Zelalem, but they can come on with half an hour to go, when the business has been done, rather than starting the game. However, I’d expect Lukasz Fabianski to play his first game this season in place of Wojciech Szczesny, that could do with a breather before the heated North London Derby clash.

I also expect an unchanged defense from the victory against Fulham with Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker retaining their places in the heart of Arsenal’s defense. Wenger has confirmed that Koscielny is fit and ready for action but he also stated that he has not decided whether to start him or not. With the game done and dusted, I hope he rests the Frenchman because he’ll be key in Sunday’s clash.

Nacho Monreal is working his way to full fitness and I’d expect him to replace Kieran Gibbs that could also do with a breather. Jenkinson will retain his place on the right.

In midfield, the manager is set to welcome Jack Wilshere into the squad and he’s odds on to play alongside the red-hot Aaron Ramsey with Tomas Rosicky at the tip of the midfield. In attack, Lukas Podolski would retain his place and he would play alongside Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott.

I expect both starting lineups to look like this,

The Champions League comes up next tomorrow and the Gunners would be odds on to be among the first seeds. However, it’s time to put this game to bed once and for all.

Here’s to a great game of football.


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Fenerbahce 0 Arsenal 3: Qualification Sealed as Gunners Run Riot in Turkey

The team celebrate

Sukru Saracoglu (Champions League)

Fenerbahce – 0

Arsenal – Gibbs 51′, Ramsey 64′, Giroud 71′

After a humiliating home defeat in the hands of Aston Villa, the Gunners arrived in Turkey with a big fish to fry as Champions League football beckoned for the winner of the two-legged affair. Tuesday night results proved that some teams certainly weren’t pushovers so Wenger responded well by fielding his strongest XI available, and the physios must be commended for making Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs fit for the game, despite their injury woes last weekend.

Early on, there was an injury scare when a Fenerbahce midfielder stepped on Jack Wilshere’s foot but Arsenal’s first meaningful attack came when Santi Cazorla sent Theo Walcott through on goal but Fenerbahce’s goalie, Volkan Demirel, read the game well to intercept the ball with a clearance, but the ball fell to Tomas Rosicky’s path that swung it into Olivier Giroud’s head. The Frenchman’s header was just wide of the mark.

The next noteworthy highlight in the first half occurred when Laurent Koscielny and Pierre Webo went for the ball but the striker’s foot slammed Kos on the face, causing the French defender to hit the deck. After Arsenal’s physios confirmed that he wasn’t fit enough to continue the game, Arsene Wenger summoned the services of Carl Jenkinson, forcing Sagna to play alongside Per Mertesacker in the heart of the defense.

Santi Cazorla did well to tee Wilshere up at the edge of the area but there was no Gunner that attacked the near post when Wilshere lofted the cross into the box. Right at the end of the first half, Wilshere teed up Giroud with a neat through ball but the forward blasting the ball over the bar after some pressure from a defender.

The home team was piss poor in the first half but they awoke a bit from their slumber at the start of the second half when Mehmet Topaz closed Ramsey down and laid a pass to Kuyt. The Dutch powerhouse killed a bird in the sky with his proposed effort on goal.

The breakthrough arrived when Ramsey dallied on the ball a bit before threaded an inch-perfect through balk for Walcott in behind the Fenerbahce defense. The wonger opened his eye to see Gibbs on the far post, drilled a cross to the left back and the rest they say, was history. Gibbs showed good technique to blast the ball into the roof with a first time shot.

Wilshere made one of his trademark darting run into the box but he was robbed by Walcott in the danger area. The striker’s tame effort on goal was a bit poor as Volkan Demirel was on hand to make a save. At the other end, Webo flicked the ball towards Sow but Szczesny showed good bravery to go for the ball and he got a whack on his head for his troubles.

Arsenal’s second goal arrived when an unmarked Ramsey guided the ball to the edge of the box before blasting a low drive that was parried into the net by Volkan Demirel. For a keeper of his quality, that would go down as a blooper but Arsenal didn’t care.

The Turks pressed for an equalizer and won the ball after a casual back pass from Ramsey but they failed to capitalize on the chance as Raul Meireles’ shot was wide off the mark. Szczesny attempted to go and get the ball and was adjudged to be wasting time by the referee so he was brandished a yellow card.

Arsenal drove a nail in Fenerbahce’s coffin when Kadlec fouled Walcott in the box. Giroud stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way with a well-taken spot kick. That turned out to be his last contribution as he was withdrawn for Lukas Podolski. Shortly afterwards, Nacho Monreal made his long awaited return as he came in for Walcott in the closing stages.

Right at the death, Fenerbahce tried to salvage a consolation goal with a powerful shot from Emmanuel Emenike but Szczesny had other ideas as he made a brilliant stop to seal his first clean sheet of the season. With the ref’s whistle blown, the Gunners celebrated an all-important victory that ensures another passage to the Champions League Group Stages, which could be a determining factor for any players they want to purchase before the transfer window closes.

In his post-match conference, Wenger spoke about the good performance and shared some information about the extent of Koscielny’s head injury, which is now a major concern. Arsenal desperately needs a center back as they are thin-bare at the back. And while the Gunners make those last minute trolley dashes in the transfer window, they shouldn’t forget to pick up a holding midfielder and a striker while they are at it.

As Walcott stated in an interview with some media vultures, it was crucial to start well and the Gunners put up a commanding performance away from home yet again. Let’s hope for the same this weekend.


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