Maybe Champions League football brings out something else from Arsenal, who seemed composed, calm and concentrated as they made sure they’ll be in the group stage. Theo Walcott proved, and not for the first time, that he’s the most dangerous player when used correctly, while Aaron Ramsey showed that he’s probably a better player than Jack Wilshere, even if no one likes to mention it.
The story of both players can be summed up in two words: Arsene Wenger. Or the longer version, which is using them in their right positions, something Wenger gets to decide. When Walcott is on the right wing but isn’t limited to the flanks and gets to roam in the middle a bit more freely than usual, he and Arsenal are a much better team. He finds more favorable one on one matchups (like the one with Kadlec, who he absolutely torched in the 3-0 victory), and is a lot more unpredictable.
For Ramsey, it’s about playing in the middle. Wenger has used too often on the left as he deploys something that’s much closer to 4-5-1 than a 4-3-3, but uses central midfielders on the wing more often than not. Santi Cazorla was back – not in full shape, but he’s a much better player than Ramsey if you have to pick between the two on the left side of the midfield.
Ramsey scored the second goal and helped Walcott with the first one, aiding Kieran Gibbs score his first ever goal for Arsenal in European competition and only fourth overall. Instead of being the automatic choice for Wenger at left back, he keeps battling with new players for the position, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to get a bit more credit from his French manager.
The way Arsenal played was smart. Turkish teams are always a bit too eager to score and attack in home matches, and Fenerbahce, despite the wealth of international talent on the side, are no different. Arsenal calmed the match down in the first half, sucking out all the energy from the opposition and the fans. In the second half, they started attacking with a bit more purpose, and it resulted in three goals in the span of 26 minutes, with Olivier Giroud adding one from the spot.
This doesn’t prove Wenger had a good summer, but it does show that even with a limited choice at his hands, Arsenal are still good enough to put on quality displays, but it doesn’t answer a lot of the questions fans have about the team’s performance during the summer away from the pitch. No one is doubting the quality of the current side, but everyone knows it has a very defined ceiling.
Wenger can now move on to dealing with more problems, as Laurent Koscielny got kicked in the face, resulting in a fractured skull. This creates a huge problem for the weekend match against Fulham, and will probably force him to use someone who isn’t a centre back at the position in order to fill the lineup. Nothing is going to be easy for Arsenal this season, and one impressive away win in the Champions League playoffs isn’t going to change that.