I`m a bit pushed for time today, which shouldn`t be too much of a problem because I don`t see this match report taking too long! After a couple of disappointing results, we needed a response from players and supporters against Fenerbahce. Neither responded. The Boss rung in the changes, with Almunia going down to a stomach upset (it`s getting more and more difficult to keep up with these diplomatic injuries), whilst Johan Djourou and Aaron Ramsey were awarded starting berths, both performed admirably too. I lost myself a fiver before kick off, having seen the team line ups in the pub pre match, I insisted to Lord Lowe that Djourou would line up at right back with Toure in the centre. What was that Smiths` song? Bigmouth Strikes Again. The fans were the first to disappoint, the official attendance may have been given at 60,003, but that is frankly, a wild overestimation as I think there were at least 10,000 empty seats. Countenanced with the fact that N5 has an enormous Turkish community, there were a lot of Fenerbahce sympathisers in the home end. I bet the stay aways all manage to find a way to the match on Saturday.
This gives the club serious food for thought, because if the season really does go a shape of the pear, then there`s already at least 10,000 who don`t want to turn up because of one away defeat. With the pricing structure the club have adopted for tickets, the club have put store in the most fickle of supporters to preserve their financial wellbeing. (I sit in the expensive seats and about 80% of the season ticket holders around me were not present). The ironic thing is, I bet not one of those stay aways even went to Stoke. The team started relatively positively, with the away side understandably well organised with numbers back, Fabregas clipped a sumptuous through ball to van Persie, who could not quite wrap his leg around the ball, causing him to scuff wide under close attention from Demirel. Van Persie would prove to be arch tormentor again, wriggling to the by line, pulling back a cross which Demirel palmed into the path of Nasri, but the ball became stuck under his feet and the chance drifted away. An amazing piece of defending would deny van Persie yet again, Fabregas` shot was tipped away by Demirel, van Persie latched onto the rebound from close range, but Lugano extended an elastic limb to sensationally block with the goal winking at the van Persie.
The Dutchman, keen to make amends for his weekend misdemeanour, would come closer still. Fatty Toure slid an excellent guided pass, cutting a swathe through the luminous Yellow backline; van Persie cutely turned Lugano only to lash a rising shot onto the crossbar via the fingertips of Demirel. Certain names continue to reappear in this report. But the wind left Arsenal`s sails thereafter; Nasri`s curling shot was rather theatrically beaten away by the Turkish keeper. Ramsey looked industrious on the right, often plundering in field to become involved, Djourou and Silvestre stood up to what little threat the away side could pose. But with Bendtner woefully out of sorts, the Gunners struggled to muster the cutting edge. Those that have campaigned for the dropping of Adebayor might like to rethink on the evidence of this match. The Turks should have been down to ten men early in the second half, van Persie allowed Cesc`s through ball to drift past him and his marker, clearing his way to goal, only to be cynically hacked down by Lugano. It was the absolute epitome of a professional foul, if I had to explain the professional foul to a pod person from Jupiter, I would show them that incident. The clueless referee thought it only a booking. That said, I don`t think Fenerbahce going down to ten men would have aided our cause much.
Toure curled the subsequent free kick straight at Demirel. From there on in, Arsenal pretty much gave up and settled on 0-0. Diaby briefly threatened when he headed van Persie`s free kick just over, but Fenerbahce were well settled and organised at the back, despite the twin introductions of Vela and Diaby, the Gunners could not find any spark on Bonfire night. Van Persie, until then our chief threat, completely disappeared from the match, reappearing only briefly to get himself booked for a rash tackle. Fabregas misplaced more passes than in any game I can ever remember from him, Fatty Toure looked completely and utterly shot after about 50 minutes and the Gunners didn`t have the penetration to feed the pace of Vela or the guile of van Persie. Though every time Vela got in any kind of position, he promptly wasted three seconds tossing the ball precisely onto the correct part of his left boot. There was an incident with two minutes left that summed up our antipathy, Clichy won the ball, charged forwards about forty yards only to find that not a single Arsenal player had followed him, leaving him with little choice but to meekly cut the ball back to a midfield lacking in tempo. There were positives from the night, Ramsey put in a good hour on the right, I like his exuberance and his desire to be involved. Denilson was outstanding in the holding role, winning numerous tackles before distributing the ball simply and effectively. Dare I say it, but in the last couple of matches he seems to have got the hang of keeping his game simple, which is what that position demands. Now he just needs his other midfielders to chip in and help him! Djourou and Silvestre, though seldom threatened, had solid evenings. Djourou in particular caught the eye simply because, gasp, he won headers. Convincingly. But in reality, without Adebayor, we simply do not pose a constant enough threat to opposition defences, van Persie drifts out of games for too long to put constant pressure on a backline, whilst Bendtner is still very much a rough diamond. One has to wonder how on earth we are going to trouble United on Saturday, but football ahs a very funny way of surprising you.LD.