Well Arsenal qualified for the knockout stages of Champions league for an unprecedented 16th consecutive year by winning their 12th play-off tie out of 12 – but what learning points can we take from playing a poor Fenerbahce side?
Is Ramsey back to his best
The major plus was once again Aaron Ramsey. His work rate and movement culminated in him scoring 2 goals, the second of which was more reminiscent of a centre forward than centre midfield. Ramsey now seems to be enjoying a more forward role and has stepped upto the mark to stake a claim for regular starter in the place of injured Arteta.
Sagna now a centre back?
Another plus point was Sagna’s impressive stand-in performance at centre half. He’s always been a top defender but went off the boil after a couple of serious injuries in the last few seasons. His vision, strength and speed off sets any initial positioning problems he will encounter from switching inside. Sagna and Per seem to have struck up a good understanding although tougher tests in the next few weeks will decide if his switch to centre half is permanent.
So if Sagna continues to operate at centre half, is Carl Jenkinson a suitable replacement? From last night’s performance, it’s looking positive. Once again it’s hard to judge based on playing a team as poor as the Turks going forward but Jenks defended well enough and got forward to support both midfielders and forwards-which culminated in a great shot that he was unlucky not to score with. Let’s be honest, what Arsenal fan doesn’t have a soft spot for Carl?
The goalkeeping situation
I’m afraid the positives and negatives about our Goalkeeper are all too familiar. Great saves and a willingness to come off his line to command his box are off set by nervous moments of ball dropping and an apparent need to bring down the sprinting centre forward. Szczesny was lucky not to give a penalty away last night (Striker was subsequently booked for diving) with his dash and sliding tackle that was reminiscent of his penalty against Villa. A number of times he flapped at crosses and his kicking can be wasteful. There’s no doubting his shot stopping is superb and the rest should be coachable-but maybe Gerry Payton is the problem. He’s been at Arsenal for 9 seasons and maybe a fresh approach is needed.
Last and most serious point is the injury to Podolski. This has reinforced a lot of Arsenal fans point of view regarding the strength of the squad. After releasing a vast amount of squad players and not replacing with any new faces (apart from 1 young, injury prone striker) and all the additional injuries (Ox, Kos, Arteta, TV, Diaby) the squad is looking like it could break at any time. Jack took a knock, Aaron had to come off early and the Spurs to come on Sunday. If Arsene doesn’t strengthen before end of transfer window, then all the Arsenal positives will be wasted and the fans will have to endure another season of no trophy and worry of not qualifying for Champions League.