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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
How Arsenal could have done with a win here. With two disastrous results behind them and a foreboding clash with Manchester United waiting on Saturday, this was a perfect opportunity to boost morale, on and off the pitch, but it wasn't to be. Fenerbahce, much improved from their humiliating defeat a fortnight ago, dug deep and secured a share of the points, despite rarely bothering the Arsenal back four.

As always, the Gunners passed the ball around the back nicely, bar a few early wobbles, but they needed something special to break through the Turkish lines and everything special appears to be injured at the moment. The pace of Theo Walcott would have been too much for Roberto Carlos, but he's out with an injury. Emmanuel Adebayor's physical presence would have eventually broken the resistance, but...erm...he's injured as well. Even Manuel Almunia was in on the act, falling ill before kick-off and giving Lukasz Fabianski his first start in Champions League football. Mikael Silvestre, only just back after his lay-off, was a late addition to the list, going down towards the end with a broken nose courtesy of a Turkish elbow. It really wasn't Arsene Wenger's night.

Robin van Persie could have opened the scoring with any one of four clear first half opportunities, but Volkan Demirel somehow managed to get a hand to everything that came near him, even if he didn't always know that much about it. The Turkish international, who invited ridicule by wearing what appeared to be a scarf on a mild autumn evening, may have combined some for-the-cameras saves with a heavy dose of sheer good luck, but it all added up to the same thing. A vital clean sheet for Fenerbahce.

Luis Aragones certainly learned a lesson from the last encounter between these two sides. The old Spanish manager scrapped his reckless offside trap and deployed his defenders deep, where Arsenal's pace couldn't hurt them. Lugano, in particular, was excellent, but every player did his duty and the match was characterised by a series of slowly developed moves that were snuffed out by a well-timed boot, trip or scuff. It wasn't glorious, but it did the job. Arsenal left the field at the break knowing that they'd had more than enough chances to win the game, but a lifeless, insipid second half meant that they couldn't blame ill fortune at the end.

Arsenal fans have made no secret of their distaste with the season's early progress, but they shouldn't despair just yet. They may have lost three games already, but their rivals have all lost one each and none of the English teams escaped midweek without dropping European points. A good result on Saturday will make the Gunners believe again, but with a mounting injury list, a worrying lack of physical strength and that time-honoured problem with penetration, hands up who thinks that they'll get it? Yes, that's what I suspected...



Lukasz Fabianski 6, Cesc Fabregas 6, Kolo Toure 7, Samir Nasri 6, Robin Van Persie 6, Denilson 6, Aaron Ramsey 6 (Abou Diaby 6), Mikael Silvestre 6 (Alexander Song 6), Johan Djourou 6, Gael Clichy 6, Nicklas Bendtner 6 (Carlos Vela 6)


Volkan Demirel 7, Lugano 7, Roberto Carlos 6 (Gokcek Vedersen 6), Edu 6, Kazim Kazim 5 (Ali Bilgan 6), Daniel Guiza 6, Selcuk Sahin 6, Semih Senturk 6, Ugar Boral 6, Claudio Maldonado 6 (Josico 6), Gokhan Gonul 6

Yellow Cards - Djourou, Van Persie (Arsenal) , Sahin, Lugano, Vederson (Fenerbahce)

Red Cards - None

Attendance - 60,003