It was the night that we needed after what has been a largely inactive transfer window and a terrible opening of the Premier League against Aston Villa. We needed a victory in order to restore some self-confidence and one of the most important matches of the season offered a huge opportunity for us to do so.
The Gunners embraced that opportunity in style.
It was visible from the very start that our players were determined to make up for that nasty defeat against Aston Villa. Our midfield trio Ramsey-Wilshere-Rosicky functioned very well, all players looked more mobile than on Saturday and our passing game gave us all the possession we needed.
Theo Walcott showed Michal Kadlec from the very start that the Czech international wouldn’t have an easy game. Still, none of two promising attacks that involved Walcott didn’t produce a chance for Arsenal. Our first dangerous attempt came after Rosicky made a cross from the right flank for Giroud but the Frenchman’s header went wide. After one of Walcott’s attempts to break the Turkish side on the right flank, Ramsey picked up the ball 20 meters from the goal and fired a low shot but it went wide. Fenerbahce weren’t very dangerous and – apart from one dangerous cross that Koscielny cleared – they barely kicked the ball properly in the first half, but their most dangerous kick deprived us of the aforementioned Koscielny. The French defender came off with a lot of blood on his face and it looked very dangerous. Arsene Wenger stated after the game that Koscielny had to be taken to the hospital. Jenkinson replaced Koscielny, which meant Sagna would take up a role in central defense while Jenkinson would operate on the right.
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Walcott and Giroud had their chances to give us a lead before the half-time, but neither of them were successful so both teams went the half-time break with clean sheets.
The start of the second half saw Fenerbahce firing a first dangerous shot on Szczesny’s goal. Ramsey’s mistake allowed Kuintoyt to find himself in a good position to shoot but his drive ended just over the bar.
If there is a term connected with Arsenal that has been used in a positive way, it is the “British core”. In the 51st minute, they combined together perfectly. Aaron Ramsey – who gave an astonishing performance tonight – sent a delightful through ball for Walcott on the right flank. Walcott made a sharp low cross to the far post where Kieran Gibbs stabbed the ball into the roof of the net.
It was a goal of relief for Arsenal and it could have been followed by another one, but Wilshere’s burst through the middle wasn’t rewarded with Walcott’s goal as the ball was blocked by Volcan Demirel’s face. Wilshere was the next in line to try but his shot from a wide angle, but it was also was saved by Demirel. Still, it was obvious that Arsenal had deserved their second goal of the game.
And, who would be a better candidate to score than Aaron Ramsey? The Welshman came near the D-area with the ball, totally unchallenged by the home defenders. Ramsey fired a low shot Demirel’s right-hand corner. The Turkish goalkeeper managed only to touch the ball before it went into the net.
It seems that Ramsey’s goal made Arsenal loosen their grip on defense as Moussa Sow found himself with two chances to score but, luckily, he didn’t convert neither of them. Arsenal punished Sow’s misses with the third goal of the game. Cazorla’s brilliant pass released Walcott in the box where he was brought down by Kadlec. Rocchi pointed to the spot and Olivier Giroud converted the penalty with his usual choice of the right goalkeeper’s corner.
It was the goal that probably secured Arsenal 16th consecutive participation in the Champions’ League but it wasn’t the end of the chances. Emenike, who came in for the home side, injected some fresh blood in home attack and came close to scoring goal but Szczesny denied him in a promising situation. At the very end, Jenkinson fired a left-footed shot from the outside of the box but Demirel made a fine save after which Rocchi blew his whistle for the last time tonight.
Some might say that Fenerbahce weren’t exactly too demanding opponents, but in front of their home crowd and with quality players like Sow, Bruno Alves and Emenike in their side, they are a tough nut to crack. That makes this victory even more important and gives us hope that there might be some light for us in the following weeks. When our players look determined like they were tonight and our creative department do their role properly, Wenger and fans can be relaxed.
Also, it should be pointed out that Arsenal’s run away from home has been stretched to a seventh victory in a row (Bayern, Swansea, West Brom, Fulham, QPR, Newcastle, Fenerbahce). Let’s hope it will be prolonged to eight after Saturday!
on the game…
I believe we played in a very, very heated atmosphere against a good team but we had a proactive attitude from the first minute on and that was certainly was very important tonight. We did not come in shaking but came in resolute and determined and with a desire to take the game to them and overall we were in control. This team has shown a lot of mental strength. I told you yesterday that you had forgotten that this team has lost only one game since March under very, very special circumstance. Of course the environment we faced was difficult but the only way to do it is to go out there and play football like you want to play.
on Koscielny’s injury…
Laurent Kosielny’s [injury] has opened very deeply the skull and we had to take him to hospital. I was not happy with the kick because I feel always that you can ease a bit off. Only the player in the end will know what he did. We are concerned because we had to send him to hospital to see if he has not broken a bone. We are waiting for him to come back now. We are waiting for information to find out if he can fly home with us. We faced a lot of challenges on Saturday and tonight again. That is part of the intensity of the game. Today, of course, there was so much at stake you can understand that. This special challenge, I don’t know really what to think about it. When I saw it, I was angry. But I don’t know if the player can explain to you exactly what he did.
on if he needs to bolster the midfield…
Quality-wise we don’t need anybody but number-wise we are short as I told you yesterday. We lost Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arteta and Diaby – three international midfielders. That is why we are short. We tried to bring one in but we are working on that. You have to understand there is still a long way to go. The transfer market starts for me now and a lot of activity will happen between now and September 2. From August 21 until September 2 you have 12 days, so a lot will happen. It starts now.
He was great tonight. I think he is now a stature, a physical presence. All our midfielders were good tonight.
on why the window intensifies at the end of August…
It is like a poker game. People hold their cards as long as possible and see what is happening out there. In the end, they go for decisions. First everybody goes on holiday and nobody wants to do anything. Then in many clubs there are manager changes. They need to know the squad before they make a decision. Many, many things but it is always like that.
on Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury…
It could be a bit longer than what I said. There is no surgery – it will be between six and 12 weeks.
on if the Luis Suarez transfer is dead…
Yes. Absolutely no chance of that.
on the quality of the midfield…
Our technical quality was very important tonight. The fact that we can go away and keep possession of the ball – certainly that was very, very important. And, as you underline, the quality of our midfield was vital tonight.
Sagna Mertesacker (c) Koscielny Gibbs
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