After a shock opening day 3-1 reversal at the hands of Aston Villa, Arsenal’s array of detractors were out in force before their crucial Champions League play-off trip to Fenerbahce.
The Turkish side had finished second in the SuperLig the season before, and a tricky tie at the 50,000-capacity Sukru Saracoglu Stadium was anticipated.
Would Arsene Wenger pay the ultimate sacrifice for failing to add to his squad by crashing out of the Champions League at the first time of asking? His side’s limp display at home to Villa had suggested it was a possibility.
But Wenger insisted he and his players were not panicking, and they duly came out 3-0 winners, with goals from Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and in-form Olivier Giroud.
It was a commanding display from the Gunners that made a mockery of those suggesting that Arsenal were in crisis after only one game. Their following 3-1 defeat of Fulham at Craven Cottage only emphasised it.
But with qualification all-but-secured, Wenger’s next target will be to placate the significant number of Arsenal fans still worried about a lack of investment, and a convincing home win will go a long way to doing this.
That reason, along with Wenger being unwilling to take any risks when it comes to Champions League qualification, means that Arsenal are likely to name a near full-strength team. Those concerned fans might well point out that Wenger doesn’t have the resources that offer him the luxury of rotation anyway.
After playing only 20 minutes at the weekend, Jack Wilshere is likely to be given another opportunity to start alongside Aaron Ramsey in midfield, with the young pairing far from overawed in the engine room in Turkey. The absence of Mikel Arteta’s experience was barely noticeable as the two belied their years to control the game with quiet assurance.
It’s a duo Wenger sees as the future of Arsenal and is desperate to see thrive, believing that the two compliment each other well and offer an effective base in the middle, able to support the more gung-ho attacking threats of Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott.
As Ramsey showed in Istanbul, he’s not shy of having a pop, and should he be treated to more generous goalkeeping from Fener’s Vilkan Demirel, he’s 14/1 to score first, while his midfield partner Wilshere is 9/2 to notch his first goal since January at any time in the match.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.