27 August 2013

Match Preview: Fenerbahçe vs. Arsenal (0-3 agg.), Emirates Stadium, UEFA Champions League, August 27, 2013

Arsenal looks for its first home win of the season.
(Photo courtesy Jeremy Couture)
Having heaped derision on Fenerbahçe ahead of the first leg of Arsenal's Champions League qualifier in Istanbul last week -- a decision I made largely in order to avoid having to think too hard about the terrible, aorta-straining implications of a bad result -- it's probably time for a slightly more sensible look at the Turkish club and its prospects for overturning a three-goal deficit at the Emirates in the second leg on Tuesday.

Those prospects are, to put it bluntly, not great, based on the first leg's evidence. Fenerbahçe didn't look able to keep up with Arsenal, getting eaten alive in midfield by Jack Wilshere and consensus man of the match Aaron Ramsey. Grievously wounding Laurent Koscielny proved an unprofitable strategy. Despite the isolated chance or two after the game would have been beyond doubt (for other clubs), the Gunners were firmly in control for most of the match, and the scoreline seemed appropriate for the performance.

Still, as a lazy writer, I can't help but be mildly superstitious heading into today's game. Down three away goals, massive underdogs, and with the prospect of a failed appeal over the match-fixing allegations threatening to bounce them from the group stage even if they were to overcome Arsenal? If it happened in a movie, you'd walk out. Just too unlikely. But such is the stuff of which sporting legend is made.

So if you'll excuse the awful cliché, Arsenal still can't take Fenerbahçe lightly in the second leg. If we get the kind of shapeless, empty-headed performance we've seen from the team in recent disasters*, Fenerbahçe do have enough attacking talent to snatch a goal or two, and then we'll all start freaking out like a bunch of British soldiers on LSD.

Except with more incoherent babbling and crying.

Since the first leg, Fenerbahçe have had a 1-0 win against Eskişeherispor -- coincidentally, one of the other teams implicated in the match-fixing scandal -- thanks to a goal from Dirk Kuyt, and manager Ersun Yanal appears to say in Turkey's HT Spor newspaper that a 4-0 result would not surprise him.

As an aside: I say he appears to be saying this because Google Translate is about as useful as a chocolate tennis racket when it comes to the Turkish language. Frankly, I can't tell if he means 4-0 for his guys, 4-0 to the Arsenal, or even 26-4 to Zenit St. Petersburg based on the translation provided. Also, Google appears to translate "Fenerbahçe " as "Liverpool." (No, seriously -- doesn't seem to work on the main site, but the web page translator does it consistently.)

Is Dirk Kuyt's influence truly that far-reaching? It certainly makes me a little more curious about what Brendan Rodgers REALLY had in those envelopes. Also, Ankara-based club Gençlerbirliği renders as "Chelsea," though this is clearly a mistake, as the Turkish team was founded in 1923, while Chelsea didn't exist until 2004.

At any rate -- despite how horrifically wrong I was in my breezy prediction of a win over Villa, I'm afraid I'm going to have to predict a reasonably comfortable Arsenal win again. The performance against Fulham was encouraging, Jack is apparently back, and for the next few days, until the transfer window closes with no new signings but Flamini and Diaby, all seems more or less right with the Arsenal world. My sincerest apologies, but I see this one shaking out exactly the same way as the first game: 3-0, Arsenal.

Possible starting XIs:

Liverpoobahçe: Volkan; Irtegun, Yobo, Alves, Kadlec; Emre, Topal, Meireles; Sow, Eminike, Kuyt.

Arsenal: Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Sagna, Gibbs; Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud, Walcott.


*You know exactly the ones I mean, go and look it up if you don't. I'll get you started: Bradford City. /drinks


  1. Jon, I prefer when you make fun of our opponents, not us (Arsenal fans). We may babble and cry, but we're not Fenerbahce fans.

    1. I can't help myself sometimes. For example, your Blogger pic makes me want to call you Darth Shep.