Arsenal Player Ratings versus Fenerbahce

Jack Wilshere

Arsenal traveled to Istanbul on Wednesday night to face a tough test in their Champions League qualification play-off against Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

The Gunners’ went in to the crucial fixture off the back of a disappointing 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa in their opening game of the Premier League season last Saturday.

However, they managed to return with an emphatic and comprehensive 3-0 win over Fenerbahce, diminishing the hosts chances of overturning Arsenal’s away goal advantage on the return leg at the Emirates.

Wojciech Szczesny (8)

The Arsenal number on has been under pressure in recent months – concerns over his form and fitness have led to calls for him to be replaced as the undisputed number one or, at least, challenged by some quality competition.

After a poor game on Saturday the 23-year-old Pole redeemed himself with a number of key saves that ensured the Gunners kept hold of their lead in the tie.

There was none of the poor decision-making we saw on Saturday – he was fully focused and alert to the danger of most prominently Fenerbahce’s Moussa Sow and Emmanuel Emenike in the second half.

Sczcesny was much busier in the second half as Fenerbahce came out with more conviction but in the last ten minutes of the game, the Arsenal stopper made three fantastic saves – he had good command of his area, good communication and he never looked nervous.

Per Mertesacker (6)

The German giant kept himself out of the limelight on Wednesday which is exactly what you want from a centre-back – he was calm and collected as usual, he made a decent number of tackles and interceptions, he was alert to dangerous situations and his reading of the game and anticipation was key to the Gunners’ clean sheet on the final whistle.

Laurent Koscielny (6)

Prior to his nasty head injury 33 minutes in, the Frenchman was dominant in Arsenal’s backline. He seemed up for the handbags with Fenerbahce, especially on set pieces and aerial duels and he was holding his line and position well.

Unfortunately he couldn’t make it to half time – Colin Lewin described the gash on his head as one of the worst he’d seen.

Bacary Sagna (7.5)

The fullback had a horrific fall on Saturday and there were major concerns over whether he’d made Wednesday’s game but, from his performance you wouldn’t have known it.

His display was the epitome of what Arsenal have come to expect from Bacary Sagna – he was keen to get forward and link-up with Theo Walcott on the right flank, he was strong in air, he made a fine tackle in the second half that completely eliminated Fenerbahce’s momentary threat.

After Koscielny's injury, Sagna moved inside to centre-back and I believe the clean sheet speaks for itself. He just slotted in to cover for his teammate and he kept good communication with Carl Jenkinson, marshalling the youngster.

Kieran Gibbs (8)

On the opposite of the back four, Kieran Gibbs suffered a gash to the head on Saturday (head injuries appear to be the fashion at present) but, like Sagna, you wouldn’t have known it (I’ll admit, the bandage on his head was a give-away).

He had one of the finest performances I’ve seen him have in a long time. I believe the time Gibbs was so pivotal to Arsenal was on the final game of 2011/12 season when a last-ditch tackle ensured they qualified for the Champions League.

Defensively, he was strong and intelligent and going forward he was vital to the win. His goal just after half-time on 51 minutes hit Fenerbahce just as they were starting to wake from their slumber. They had been poor in the first half but had come back out fighting and, despite Arsenal’s domination of possession and chances, they hadn’t converted that into a goal.

Theo Walcott’s cross from the right found the left-back in a position perfect for him to stretch a tap in and the fullback didn’t miss.

Aaron Ramsey (9)

Another of Arsenal’s goalscorers, Aaron Ramsey was Man of the Match for me – I think that may well have been his finest display in an Arsenal shirt. It was as if he’d transformed into a superhero on the flight to Istanbul.

He completely destroyed any play Fenerbahce attempted to create in midfield. When he wasn’t hassling and nipping at his opponents, he was tackling and challenging for every ball, dropping deep to protect the defence and then charging forward, bursting into the box where he found himself ambling with the ball looking for a pass on and decided he’d just have a pop himself.

Volkan Demirel won’t be pleased with his handling of the Ramsey goal but the young Welshman fully deserved the applause for his outstanding performance. That second goal on 64 minutes really took the wind out of Fenerbahce’s sails and from that point, it felt as though the half an hour that followed it might be just a formality.

Aaron Ramsey has really taken to his role – in the absence of Mikel Arteta, the Welshman has really stepped up and it was impressive to see him work so hard at aspects of the game that aren’t necessarily natural to him.

Jack Wilshere (8)

You rarely ever see Jack Wilshere have a bad game and Wednesday was no exception to the rule. The young Englishman was a true leader on the pitch, he was feisty and focused.

He made a number of key challenges, breaking up the play as partnership with Ramsey, and going forward some of Arsenal’s passing really exposed the gulf in quality between them and Fenerbahce – especially in the first half.

He controlled the tempo of the game and switch the play from flank to flank well – by the end of the game, Fenerbahce were just chasing shadows and that was largely down to the combination play between Wilshere, and Tomas Rosicky.

Tomas Rosicky (7.5)

The man they call Mozart had a solid game – as the most experience member of Arsenal’s midfield trio, he marshalled the team – at one point I saw him gesturing the whole team to move up towards a Fenerbahce throw in – he may not be the captain but he is certainly a key senior player.

His passing and creative work was good (not the best I’ve seen from him, to be honest) but his work ethic and his determination was impressive – in the first half when Arsenal were enjoying possession but hadn’t scored, he settled the team down, ensured they didn’t panic or frustrate and kept the attitude positive.

Santi Cazorla (7)

The tiny Spaniard had a good game - I always feel he has less impact on the game out on the flank but he does combine well on the edge of the box with the central midfielders when he’s deployed there.

He finds space and creates space and that was crucial to Arsenal’s build-up play. His passing is always top notch and his technique and control never let him down. I still feel he’s lacking a little bit of sharpness and match fitness but that’s to be expected when he’s barely had a rest this summer.

Theo Walcott (7)

I thought Walcott was poor in the first half – his crossing and passing wasn’t penetrative, he failed with two or three final balls in and around the box and his finishing was not up to his usual high standards.

He still has a tendency to go missing but in the second half he seemed to wake up and get himself involved in a more decisive manner. He got the assist for the first goal and his pace is always a great outlet for Arsenal on the break as was demonstrated by his earning of the penalty in the second half, which redeems him for what was a fairly anonymous and ineffectual display from him earlier on.

Olivier Giroud (6)

I thought the French frontman was the worst performer for the Gunners on the night. Fenerbahce were poor but yet he was almost completely ineffectual on the game. He got involved unnecessarily with some argy-bargy in the box early on and, despite his strength and aerial ability, he failed to hold the ball up sufficiently, his control let him down on a number of occasions and the fact that a fullback was in the box for a tap in he should have really been on the end of sums up his performance.

His positioning and movement was sub-standard all night and the only redeeming aspect of his game was his solid penalty to ensure the tie was put to bed. He was calm and collected and put it away without any doubt.

Substitutes:

Carl Jenkinson (7)

The young fullback came on for the injured Koscielny and slotted in beside Sagna straight away. He was focused, on-task and committed. He got himself forward and put in some half-decent crosses. Defensively, he looked solid and alert and he kept is nerve under pressure.

Lukas Podolski (N/A)

The German forward came on with 8 minutes left and by that point there wasn’t much for him to do. He replaced Giroud and he was just as ineffectual as the Frenchman was for the previous 82 minutes. He didn’t really get a chance to express himself.

Nacho Monreal (N/A)

Came on after 87 minutes.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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