Arsenal will face Turkish side Fenerbahce in a Champions League playoff tie that will determine which side will advance to the group stages of the tournament. This game has some interesting storylines on both sides, but it is Arsenal that has the most to lose.
The Gunners finished in fourth place last season to gain a berth to the playoff round, but it took a lot to get there. Many fans expected new players to come in and build on that end to the season, but have only seen Yaya Sanogo brought to the club. With only 12 days until the transfer window closes, actions must be taken quickly.
If Arsenal fails to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, it could have an effect on the players that may or may not come to the Emirates. Top-quality players want Champions League football, and it is a deal-breaker for some. The club is having trouble bringing in quality players as it is, so imagine how hard it would be if they lost to Fenerbahce.
Arsenal has been able to boast Champions League football for the last 16 seasons. An opening game loss to Aston Villa and a disappointing summer have left many fans angry and seeking answers. No Champions League might be the breaking point for some of them.
The pressure has also been mounting on Arsène Wenger as he is the man that has been blamed the most for the lack of signings. If the team disappoints on Wednesday, his seat will be even hotter, and the manager will have a lot of explaining to do.
Fenerbahce will have a hearing to determine if they will even be eligible to participate in the group stages should they beat Arsenal, but the stakes aren’t as high as they are for the English club. Both teams lost their most recent domestic matches, and they will be looking to gain confidence.
Arsenal has been given a boost before the match with some good news coming in regarding injuries. All players involved in the clash with Villa, bar Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, should be healthy and available. This is great news after initial reports suggested as many as five players could miss Wednesday’s game.
With a somewhat healthy squad, the Gunners should be able to take care of business in Turkey and get the club back on the right track. The team knows how massive this is for them and will look to dominate early. Per Mertesacker has spoken of the necessity of controlling the game for the first 20 minutes in order to quiet the crowd and take control. This is something that Arsenal must do in order to gain the confidence they need and fuel them to victory in a tough atmosphere.
Anything short qualification will be an unthinkable disappointment for a club that had every opportunity to strengthen this summer. A title run is the last thing expected of this team, but Champions League football is a start. A win will not placate the fans completely, but it will certainly not add to the flames like a loss would.
I believe Arsenal will come out strong and win by two goals, but in a season that has already had its drama, nobody can predict what will happen.