Arsenal reach Champions League for 16th consecutive year
Arsenal has made it to the group stage of the European Champions League for the 16th straight season after another impressive clean sheet over Fenerbahce of Turkey. Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey scored a goal in each half at Emirates Stadium in London as the Gunners earned a 2-0 victory on the night and a 5-0 win on aggregate over the two legs. Arsenal has now won all 12 of their Champions League playoff qualifying matches over the years and will be present in the group stage draw on Thursday.
Manager Arsene Wenger now has just a few more days until the transfer window closes on Monday September 2 and it’ll be interesting to see if and how he strengthens the squad by then. The Gunners suffered another injury in the match as Lukas Podolski was taken off in the 50th minute with what appeared to be a torn hamstring and was replaced by Kieran Gibbs. The German international forward was just getting into a groove as he scored a pair of goals on the weekend in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Fulham.
As always, there are rumours circling around as to who Wenger has on his radar and may attempt to sign. The latest crop of players who are believed to be in his sights include Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema and Angel di Maria. If Podolski is out of action with a long-term injury it’ll be imperative for Wenger to sign at least one player before the deadline.
The starting 11 was the same for the Fenerbahce match as it was against Fulham with the exception of Jack Wilshere starting instead of Tomas Rosicky in the midfield and Nacho Monreal taking Kieran Gibbs’ place at left back. Fenerbahce made half a dozen changes to their squad from last week’s first leg with the biggest one being Emmanuel Emenike utilized as the team’s striker rather than Pierre Webo.
Arsenal got off to an uncharacteristic slow start in the match with Caner Erkin waltzing into the 18-yard box after 12 minutes without a challenge. Carl Jenkinson finally showed up on the scene, but the ball fell to Raul Meireles. Luckily for the Gunners, his shot deflected off of centre-back Bacary Sagna and into the arms of waiting goaltender Wojciech Szczesny.
The 22-year-old Ramsey opened the scoring though in the 25th minute. Podolski carried the ball into the penalty area and laid it off to Theo Walcott. He was tackled, but the ball squirted over to the feet of Ramsey who hammered it home. Both teams had a few chances during the remainder of the first half, but it ended 1-0 to Arsenal.
Ramsey put the game and the tie away with his second goal of the night in the 72nd minute. Gibbs sped down the left side of the pitch and delivered a perfect low cross which Ramsey expertly guided into the net past the helpless keeper Volkan Demirel. The Gunners won both legs rather comfortably and will now wait until Thursday to see who they’re up against in the group stage. Their next match is at home on Sunday when they take on arch enemy Tottenham in a huge Premier League showdown.
Arsenal Player Ratings-Tues. Aug. 27
Arsenal 2-0 Fenerbahce-Champions League Qualifying Round 2nd Leg
Szczesny had a fine game with several important saves when he was called upon. He may have made a couple of minor errors, but was solid overall.
Jenkinson was okay, but not really a force. He had a few slipups in his own end and didn’t contribute too much to the attack. He got better as the game went on and should have scored from six yards out near the end of the match but Demirel made a superb save.
Sagna had another good game at centre-back, but was turned inside out by Emenike in the second half. Other than that, he wasn’t bad at all.
Mertersacker was his usual consistent self and dealt with just about everything that came his way.
This was Monreal’s first start of the season and he handled things pretty well. He also joined the attack when he could.
Ramsey has really started the season in excellent form. Along with scoring both goals he was all over the pitch and very energetic in all aspects of the game. Was taken off after for
A good game by Wilshere with his usual fine link-up play and runs. He was the recipient of several fouls toward the end of the game, but kept on ticking.
Santi Cazorla 8.5
Cazorla was probably the second-best Gunner on the pitch next to Ramsey. His runs and passing were excellent and he also chipped in with some fine tackles. He was a joy to watch.
Podolski came off in the 50th minute with a hamstring problem and was replaced by Gibbs. He was having a good game up until then and helped set up Ramsey’s first marker.
Walcott hasn’t scored yet, but is still helping create goals and chances with his speed and crossing. Was taken off in the 74th minute for Ryo Miyaichi
This was the first match Giroud has failed to score in, but he had a couple of good chances. However, his finishing was off tonight and he was replaced by Yaya Sanogo after an hour.
Came on for Podolski after 50 minutes and set up Ramsey for his second goal.
Came on after 60 minutes for Giroud. He still has some work to do, especially with his shooting and ball control.
Miyaichi played for the first time this season when he replaced Walcott after 74 minutes. The Japanese winger delivered a great cross, but wasn’t really noticeable for anything else.