Arsenal vs Fenerbahce
5th November 08
OK, my first attempt here, so I had to look at Brice's previous match preview to follow the format. When I saw the first sentence in which he described the Arsenal team as 'devastated' going into the Stoke game, I don't know what adjective I can use now. But I'm an optimist, so let's say it's an Arsenal team that needs to bounce back from a series of disappointing results. A home game against Fenerbahce could be an opportunity for us to 'pick up the pieces and put them back together quickly' (Brice's words recycled) before the big league game against Man Utd. The Arsenal team, albeit depleted, should also fight for a win in order to virtually secure qualification to the Champions League knock-out stage.
The manager was honest about the situation and challenge ahead. 'We have not been efficient with our results in the last two games. That is why it is important to come back and win.'
When the press and pundits alike questioned the mental strength and 'courage' of his team after failing to win ugly, Wenger was defiant as ever: 'The problem is not the bravery of my players ... the problem is we have not been efficient in some games. Let's re-establish what we have not done well recently - defended well as a team - and continue to play the game we can play in a positive way.'
'We have four home games on the trot now. So we want to qualify in the Champions League and come back in a strong way in the Premier League.' The boss is also correct in saying that but he's also cautious and wary of the trouble that Fener could cause, saying that 'We are ready and focused. But, at the same time, we respect Fenerbahce because we know that they are a very good footballing side.'
The manager of this very good footballing side has been under enormous pressure as the Turkish team are still in ninth place of the Turkish Super Lig. After letting their lead slip, Fener's encounter with Eskisehirspor ended a 2-2 draw last Saturday. Losing their captain Alex to injury at the same time, Luis Aragonés seemed cautious ahead of their visit to the Emirates, citing a very familiar player that he had coached at the international level as our major threat, 'Fàbregas is an extraordinary player but principally what bothers me is my own team. We have our strengths and we have to show them. We made some mistakes in the first game but every game is different in the Champions League and we go out to win every game - tomorrow that will be our aim.'
It is pretty clear that both teams go into this game wanting to put on a better defensive show than the goalfest a fortnight ago.
Arsenal Team News:
Wenger will be forced to make changes all over the pitch today. We are without Emmanuel Adebayor (ankle, latest club news says he's ruled out for three weeks), Theo Walcott (shoulder) and Emmanuel Eboue (knee) in attack and captain William Gallas (hamstring) at the back, in addition of course to Eduardo (ankle) and Tomas Rosicky (hamstring).
If I were to make a guess, Wenger might be forced to play Robin van Persie simply because he will be suspended for the red card he earned against Stoke for the coming three league games (argh).
It would make sense for Wenger to use a couple of younger players like Djourou, Ramsey and Wilshere to rest the more established guys for the Man Utd game. So the line-up is anyone's guess really.
Possible starting XI: Almunia; Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Clichy; Denilson, Song, Fabregas, Nasri; van Persie, Bendtner
Player to watch: Robin van Persie
If Wenger plays him, he will have to put in one hell of a good game to kind of redeem himself after the Stoke game and show what he's truly made of.
For me, also interesting to watch is the 12th man at home. I know it's a very cliched thing to say, but it's high time that the home fans really get behind the team and sing their lungs out when their support is needed most.
Fenerbahce Team News:
Captain Alex has a thigh strain and will miss the game. Fortunately for Fener, they have the fit-again Deivid available and he will shoulder the playmaking responsibilities in the absence of Alex.
Player to watch: Daniel Guiza
We know he finished the last La Liga season as the top goalscorer. Although he took a bit of time to adapt to the Turkish league, the last CL encounter told us that he's still a goalscoring threat for Fener. His strike partner, Semih Sentürk, was also dangerous going forward as we witnessed. The fact that they have been limiting the appearances of Kazim Kazim, the London-born Turkey international (and Arsenal fan may I add), although the forward's good performances made him a favourite among Fener fans last season.
Match Facts & Stats
Roberto Rosetti The Italian is an experienced ref who also worked at EURO 2008. Can't tell you anything more than that really...
I have to say that I'm not good at predicting results. All I can say is that I want a home win, any kind of win at all!
8/11 (Sat) - Man Utd (H) - Premier League
1/11 (Tue) - Wigan (H) - Carling Cup
5/11 (Sat) - Aston Villa (H) - Premier League