Calm Arsenal get the job done

Posted by Sam Limbert

I'm certain that I wasn't the only Arsenal fan who went through most of Wednesday with an underlying sense of panic. The defeat to Aston Villa had been traumatic, the squad looked stretched and there were plenty of vultures in some parts of the media who were ready to pounce should the Gunners miss out on the Champions League group stages.

Arsenal players had been posting images and videos of the Fenerbahce fans with flares outside the team hotel on Tuesday night, increasing my level of anxiety. The atmosphere was likely to be hostile, and all the suggestions before the game were that the home side would be ready to capitalise on Arsenal's weak state.

However, all of that was dispelled in the controlled and calming 3-0 victory. It might not be the tale of doom that many were hoping for, but for Arsenal fans, the win virtually confirms their place in the group stages and provides a much more solid platform on which to conduct the necessary transfer business.

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For all of the pre-match injury fears, Arsene Wenger was able to field a strong starting 11. Some of the options on the bench were limited, but the Arsenal medical team had done well to get Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky in a good enough condition to play.

The key for Arsenal was going to be killing the atmosphere in the stadium. Despite not scoring in the first half (by denying Fenerbahce any shots at Wojciech Szczensy's goal), the Gunners were able to slowly suck the atmosphere out of the fans. Some of the moves forward from Arsenal were too intricate, and they looked nervous at times in the final third, but there was no denying that Arsenal were in control of the game. That was despite another defensive reshuffle following another unfortunate head injury. This time Laurent Koscielny took a horrible thwack in the face, increasing the feeling of things being against Arsenal.

The Gunners continued to control the match and didn't look panicked by hosts. For all the moaning about too many passes around the box, when the silky moves come off, it's great to watch. It happened for the opening goal, with Ramsey's superb pass allowing Walcott to square the ball for Gibbs to score. A great goal made to look simple.

Arsenal celebrate Aaron Ramsey's goal which put the Gunners two up
GettyImagesArsenal celebrate Aaron Ramsey's goal which put the Gunners two up.

That released any tension Arsenal had, and having shown the virtues of intricate passing, the impressive Ramsey showed why shooting from distance also has its merits. It was some poor goalkeeping from Demirel to let the Welshman's shot slip into the net for the second goal, but Arsenal worked the ball well to create space in front of the Fenerbahce defence.

Having gone 2-0 up, Wojciech Szczesny was called into a bit more action as Arsenal relaxed slightly, but they effectively killed the tie when Theo Walcott was brought down in the box after a sweeping pass from Cazorla. Giroud tucked it away, and the job was virtually done. Fenerbahce have to score at least three to have a chance of extra time next Tuesday, and while Arsenal were good, the home team were surprisingly poor, making a comeback unlikely.

Wenger was right in his press conference before the game by saying that Arsenal do have good players, but the issue at the moment is that they don't have enough of them. The big concern now is how fit the players will be on Saturday lunchtime for the trip to Fulham. Apart from Lukas Podolski, Arsenal have no one else who might break into the starting 11 because the squad is so thin.

With a place in the group stage virtually assured, Arsenal have to push for signings instead of waiting until after the second leg, as theoretically their position in the market will be massively strengthened by the 3-0 win.

Tonight was fraught with danger, but you wouldn't have known that by the way Arsenal played.

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