Arsenal entered their Champions League qualifier against Fenerbache. They were facing a major crisis as the team came off losing its Premier League opener 3-1 at home to Aston Villa while being exposed in the process.
To compound things, the anger directed at manager Arsene Wenger among Arsenal fans was universal given the team’s inability and or unwillingness to bring in top-class talent so far this summer. All this made the game against Fenerbache the biggest test by far in the last few years for Wenger and Arsenal.
All Arsenal did with so much outside doubt and uncertainty was respond by playing a very composed game as they thoroughly dominated and outplayed Fenerbache by beating them 3-0, all but wrappin up their passage into the Champions League group stage in the process.
Arsenal came out played in a 4-2-3-1 formation with no surprise omissions. While there was no change in formation or player inclusion, what did change was the attitude and roles played by certain players.
In their against Aston Villa, Arsenal found itself being exposed defensively because an injury forced them to re-arrange where the defenders played and because the holding midfielders did not track back to adequately protect the defenders.
Against Fenerbache, this was not the case as Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshire both did a great job of alternating who did the dirty work and stayed back to protect the defense.
And while Laurent Koscielny had to leave the game early because of a cut over his eye, the defense this time did a better job of having players like Bacary Sagna play out of position.
Because of the improved defense play, with some help form an inadequate Fenerbache attack, Arsenal were able to settle into the game quickly and take a hostile crowd out of it.
While Arsenal’s attacking play lacked some zip in the final third for the first 45 minutes, it was able to find it in the second half. The opening goal by Kieran Gibbs thanks to a pass from Theo Walcott was the product of great buildup play started by an Aaron Ramsey pass to Walcott. Arsenal’s subsequent goals were all a result of their attack pressuring Fenerbache and causing them to commit mistakes.
Now Arsenal will be able to play much more relaxed in the return leg at home next Tuesday, but more importantly, they have given themselves some breathing room and space to be able to turn things around on the field of play with this important result.
Just as importantly, now Arsenal can engage with potential transfer targets, and hopefully give the club the necessary push to bring in two or three players which will help improve the overall quality and depth of this squad.