The last time Fenerbahce managed to make it into the Champions League group stage they played two matches against Arsenal, failing to win in both of them. In order to make it into the group stage in 2013, they’re going to have to go through the North London club, going into the first leg between the teams with plenty of problems.
Arsenal are missing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the next three months as the latest meaningful absence that seems to be hitting the team from every direction. Mikel Arteta is also out, which makes the availability of Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal seem a little bit less important considering their huge problems in the middle of the pitch.
For Fenerbahce, who have once again made quite a few impressive signings during the offseason, a win at home against Arsenal might not matter all that much. The team is currently appealing the decision to suspend them from the European competitions this season due to a case of match-fixing, something that has also kept Metalist out of the Champions League playoffs as well.
For now, however, the names Fenerbahce have lined up to play against the Gunners are a concern – Emanuel Emenike arrived from Russia, joined by Alper Potuk, Bruno Alves, Michal Kadlec and Sameul Holmen, joining forces with Moussa Sow, Raul Meireles, Mehmet Topal, Cristian and others, all brought together to put the team in the group stage for the first time since the 2008-2009 season.
Last season most of this group might have failed to win the league, finishing second behind Galatasaray for a second straight season, but they did reach the semifinal of the Europa League, showing that they are going to pose a much bigger problem than what Arsenal are used to facing at this stage of the competition.
The Gunners have a big problem with teams that counter attack in numbers, and Fener seem like quite a handful with Potuk and Emenike attacking through the middle, while Sow and Kuyt will probably occupy the wings, pushed forward by Cristian and Emre. If Jack Wilshere and whoever partners with him in the middle of the pitch is overwhelmed by these numbers and the intensity Fenerbahce are surely going to present at home, it’s going to be a very long night for Arsene Wenger, already feeling quite a lot of pressure.
Prediction – Turkish sides tend to disappoint in big home matches, attacking a little bit too much without thinking, even against the strongest of opposition. Arsenal had a lot of misfortune leading to their first home defeat of the season. While they do look like a very dysfunctional side at the moment, they should come away from Istanbul with a decent result for the second leg.