Fenerbahce stalemate + Wenger gives big hints on starting team against United

I’ll admit that 0-0 at home against a Fenerbahce team we beat 5-2 away doesn’t look too good on paper. And while the 6-4 scoreline that many people were predicting might eventuate never did, this was an acceptable result and a step in the right direction following the weekend loss to Stoke City.

Given the embarassing nature of our defending in the last few games it was satisfying to see the boys keep a clean sheet, even though they could not find a goal at the other end. Robin van Persie came closest on the half-hour when his fierce shot from close range was spectacularly tipped onto the bar by goalkeeper Volkan Demirel, but this was ultimately a day when the Arsenal attack fell a little bit flat.

Arsene Wenger sprung a couple of very welcome surprises in his starting team selection. Johan Djourou returned to the side at centre-back, partnering Mikael Silvestre and pushing captain Kolo Toure onto the right. Meanwhile Aaron Ramsey was a shock starter on the right side of midfield to complete a balanced midfield consisting of Cesc Fabregas, Denilson and Samir Nasri. Even more of a shock was the inclusion of Lukasz Fabianski in goals. He replaced Manuel Almunia who ‘fell sick’ on game day. Up front was a little more predictable with van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner paired in the absence of Emmanuel Adebayor.

I liked the look of the team before kick-off and they started the contest extremely brightly, van Persie having three clear chances before Volkan’s amazing save. One in particular was a real sitter as the Dutchman volleyed hard into the ground from close range instead of placing it into the corner. It’s about time Eduardo had a word to van Persie and let him know that smacking the leather off the ball is not always the best way to score. You just get the feeling that a touch of Eduardo’s subtlety would see the Dutchman find the back of the net more consistently.

It’s seems odd to say but after van Persie’s crossbar hit on the half-hour there really wasn’t much more to cheer for Arsenal fans. Djourou and Silvestre put in a solid shift at the back, as did Toure at right-back, but the midfield and strikers never really clicked, something Fabregas was quick to point out after the final whistle:

“We’ve lacking a little bit of mobility in the final third. I think we’re a bit too nervous. I’ll a little bit frustrating to have so many chances and not score.”

Wenger brought Abou Diaby and Carlos Vela on for Ramsey and Bendtner on the hour mark in an attempt to inject some urgency into Arsenal’s performance. And while the pair were full of run and a little bit of spark it was never going to be enough as our attacks continued to fizzle out.

There was a hell of a lot of blind-alley running going on this match which I feel came down to nervousness. The players without the ball did not have the confidence to pour forward as they usually do and as a result the player with the ball was punished as he waited and waited and waited… for something to happen around him. It was a problem that was clearly evident against Stoke and something which usually tends to happen when Adebayor is not on the pitch, so the manager has quite a job to arrest the issue before the visit of Manchester United on Saturday. Good luck to him is all I can say.

I thought the defence did well to keep a welcome clean sheet even if Fenerbahce never really gave it their all. Although it was a comfortable game for Djourou and Silvestre I think the manager could do worse than to play the pair against United this weekend. It will always be a mystery to me as to why the manager dropped Djourou at the start of the season when he was playing so well alongside William Gallas and I feel that decision has been one of the major contributing factors to our leaky defence. The man has yet to put a foot wrong this season and given the fact that most of the other defenders have been below par I really think he deserves a go in the team. Just my opinion.

The big worry going into the United game was the rather disinterested performance of Nicklas Bendtner. With van Persie suspended and Adebayor injured the big Dane has got to know the huge role he has to play this weekend. Based on that assertion, this was a very disappointing performance. It wasn’t that he was particularly bad, just that he seemed really reluctant to get involved. Maybe he was trying to conserve energy or avoid injury but his performance was nowhere near his best. He must do better against United.

Just as aside, I get the feeling that the team the manager put out today has given us a huge indication of the one he wants to play this weekend. Bacary Sagna’s absence means he’ll probably start, while Silvestre and (if he recovers) Gallas should pair up at the back. The lack of available strikers leads me to think that Wenger is going to go for a five-man midfield and Diaby’s absence from the starting side suggests to me that he is set to play in behind the striker like he did in Turkey. Nasri and Theo Walcott will surely be on the wings with Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield and Denilson protecting the back four. I have to say that I like it and will fancy us to get a result if this indeed how we start. Just don’t tell Sir Alex…

So, an acceptable result and performance today by Arsenal if not the win we were all hoping for. Now onto the big one.

Have your say on Arsenal’s draw with Fenerbahce by leaving a comment



  1. I wouldnt mind the addition of Volkan if possible in the summer…

    I agree with your lineup but I think you are being a bit generous with your assessment of Bendtner… If im Wenger I am worried about playing him as the lone striker against United… I would even consider Vela for his pace up front or maybe Walcott though I would prefer him on the wing… Almunia should be back in between the sticks as United is not a good game to throw Fabiansky into the fire… I honestly like our chances as Wenger will have everyone up and ready…

  2. The analysis of RVP and how he missed a sitter by smacking the ball into the ground is the first stupid error. Do you watch the games? Or just make up your reports from various other sources? His shot would have gone on target had a defender not made an excellent block which sent the ball down and then spining back up over the bar. Not RVP’s fault at all.

  3. Out of interest, is there an unwritten code between newspapers and blogs which says “thou shalt not criticise Fabregas”?

    Just wondered because he was poor last night as he has been for most of the season. Whether he is struggling for fitness or just form I’m not sure but more than any other player he looks in need of a break (shame our squad is so light that we can’t afford that).

    After Djourou’s performance, I’d be disappointed if we didn’t see him more often this season. He was a real positive from the game as he won most of his headers and looked solid at set pieces. He’ll make errors now and then but I’d rather have someone like him challenging for everything then two players standing off and allowing the long shots every time.

  4. The team is lacking confidence becuse we didn’ beat the scum and that made sure we lost at stoke and couldn’t win against fenerbahce.that’s because we need players to show character.I would play Diaby in all games and give cesc the armband for the extra responsibility.He needs it considering how his sharpness and smiles have gone this year.My team against utd:
    sagna djourou Gallas Clichy
    walcott denilson fabregas nasri

    Vela and ramsey to take part in the second half for sure.

    Buys for january:

    Zapata in defence.
    Shay given in goal
    veloso as def. midfielder and wait for edoardo and rosicky to get back for the push.my worry is we should have been a point behind the leaders and instead we are 6 points.If we drop too many points in the meantime we will be far away.

  5. Agree that Djourou deserves his chance, if only because what has gone before him hasn’t set the world alight. He is positive in his attitude and he is listeming to the media, who say it’s ok to kick players(joke).
    He was wreckless in the first half challange, but it was a challange, Gallas take note.
    Thought Kolo showed he is capable of being the leader we desire. Sagna will surely be ok for Saturday and should be right back, so Kolo and Djourou ??
    Unfortunatly can’t see that happening and think either Gallas or Silvestre or both will play.
    Ramsey done ok, but tends to cut inside where Theo would have skinned Carlos with pace on the outside, not a criticism of Ramsey but with Fenerbache concedeing ground up to the penalty area, Arron was taking the ballinto an already conjested area.
    Four points and five goals from Fennerbache would have been very acceptable two weeks ago, still is…

  6. The real question is – Who will the lone striker be? Bendtner? I guess thats more likely, but he was lousy yesterday.

    In the meantime, the manager has been going ga-ga over Vela saying that he’s the answer to our striker problem with Ade and RvP out

  7. Good piece. to be frank, was excited Bentdner starting but his performance was a horror. My usual excuse for Bendtner was he needed games to get himself up to par with the senior team. But after that performance, its clear alot of the players are not taking games seriously, include the fringe players.

    Ramsey was a delight. I be rooting for him to start vs MU. Nasri had an off day, looked a bit lost but i guess anyone would be when the strikers play with their mood rings on.Once the strikers achieve consistency, we would be able to see Nasri playing to their strength.

    Djourou and Silvestre played well for their first central partnership.

    In short, I rather watch this group of players, working out their kinks, being cautious and nervous than watching the seniors playing with disinterest.

  8. i am extremely worried for the match coming sat vs MU.without Walcott ,Abe and van P ,we will be lacking firing power up front in a big way.i was so frustrated watching a team with 60% possesion but no goals,remember MU are a better team than Faner and they have all the firing power.i am going to watch with one eye only.

  9. nino RVP is suspended so how can he start against man u. and gerry thomson i think that your critisism of ramsey is unfair there is a reason he cuts inside he is not a winger he is a central midfielder and when you play sme1 out of position they will always make a few mistakes he was by far our best player and looked like the only 1 who really was out to impress

  10. Josh1, I did say it WASN’T a criticism of Ramsey, but it was a comment that the space he was going into was already crowded. I agree that he was one of our better players on the night.

  11. Good point. If he puts the team you suggest out, then we have a chance. But they HAVE to perform! Play well, score and hopefully win.

    If not and if we get hammered, I think that his indicates that we are on a clear road backwards and our stars may start to feel there is little to play for.

    All does not seem well in the dressing room and the next two weeks need to set the season back on track. Here’s keeping fingers x’d!

  12. Whenever Djourou has started, Arsenal have not conceded. Arsenal 1-0 West Brom, Arsenal 6-0 Sheff United and Arsenal 0-0 Fenerbahce, I see no reason to drop him from the Man United squad. I hope Vela plays v United but I predict Niklas to start upfront in a 4-5-1 like SF said. The same 5-man midfield that played v Fenerbahce in Turkey however having Niklas instead of Ade upfront on his own is a risk if you ask me, Diaby will be vital in the weekend game! Fabianski has played twice this season and kept 2 clean sheets, thats just to get you thinking about the keeper to choose.

  13. Shay Given would be a great addition as would Veloso… Joao Moutinho is great too but not defenzive enough… Is appiah still out of a job? Guess he wasnt even near good enough… Yaya may still be an option as well…

  14. @Jay-Jay: I agree, that Nicklas alone upfront is a risk, but it might be too premature to play Vela there. That said, I am secretly hoping its Vela who plays rather than the Dane.

    And will it be Cesc, Denilson and Song again in central mf, or will he risk Ramsey?

  15. the lining prediction is not bad….and last night they tried there best but it also enabled the team to recognize the lack of real goal scorer…….anyhow i believe djourou deserves a first team as he did well last night…….and i want to prove that manuel almunia is worth it big matches…..espcialy with the devils……

  16. @ Mike – You’re absolutely right, I can’t believe I missed that. My only excuse is that it was 5.45am in the morning over here and I haven’t seen any replays since. Apologies.

  17. Bendtner can start up front and do a good job in the air. Arsenal won’t get much luck in the air against Ferdinand and Vidic so if crosses go in, you want Bendtner in there. The danger will be a Man Utd counter-attack which Arsenal may find themselves subsceptible to. Djourou should start, Wenger’s apparent blind faith in Gallas is ridiculous. If you want to drop a player, tell everyone he was dropped – not injured. If he really is injured, then don’t throw him in against Utd who have pace to burn, and will stretch him. I’d like to see Ramsey – the guy has no fear and he isn’t short of a trick or two. Diaby will start also, I am sure of that. I just hope Arsenal don’t keep passing it all day, they really have to stop doing that. Going 2-0 up against United is the killer, but we only ever seem to get 1-0 up at most or have to come from behind all the time. Lots of movement is needed, and don’t be scared to let United have the ball and let us play counter-attack as we have a few good ball winners in the side.

  18. I agree about Djourou- he should play with Silvestre on Saturday, but we all know Gallas will return. It’s harsh to criticise Fabregas. He’s our only world class player and he’s been carrying this team for the last 2 seasons. The lad’s knackered, having played throughout the summer with Spain and hardly getting a rest this season. His Sky interview told a story. He looked weary and totally pissed off. He’ll be considering his future in the summer. RvP still needs 4 or 5 chances before he tucks one away. He snatches at chances, and yes, he always looks to break the net. His game hasn’t improved one jot for 3 years. He’ll always be a scorer of great goals (occasionally) rather than a great goalscorer. Bendtner, I’m afraid, currently is simply not good enough. His first touch is poor and he runs up too many blind alleys. Watch him on the ball; he’s looking down at the ball rather than looking up for options as the better players always do. He may make the grade in the future, but I don’t think he’ll ever be an Arsenal player. He’s a big strong lad and he’d be more at home with Blackburn, Bolton or Stoke. I’d play Vela on Saturday as the lone striker. Bendtner doesn’t have the touch or the ability to hold the ball up. I’d also play Song as the DM. Denilson did OK last night, but he had an easy ride against a team who were unadventurous going forward. That won’t be the case on Saturday. Song is more physically suited to the task this weekend. Saturday is a defining moment for this season. Another defeat, especially one without fight and spirit will leave us in a sorry state. A fighting draw or a win will kick start the season. The form book and the state of the opposing squads means we’ll start as firm underdogs. The lads need to show what they’re made of.

  19. The thing about Fabregas is that he needs a great player to play next to him. At the moment he doesn’t have that and I’m not prepared to judge him on his performances until someone better than Denilson is in there. Harsh on Denilson but ultimately fair, I feel.

  20. Last month we had a flurry of activity on here with various quotes by Cesc allegedly showing he would return to Spain sooner than later.

    I firmly believed Cesc would stay with us for another 3-5 seasons.
    From what I saw tonight I am changing my mind.

    He has been poor this season:

    His workrate has dropped.
    His pass accuracy has dropped.
    His goals have dried up.
    His body language on the pitch is negative.

    Reasons Why?


    He has no proper partner to be a central defensive midfielder.

    This means Cesc has to help out the below par players next to him.
    He therefore plays deep like he did two seasons ago, and is not pushed forward like last season, where he is more effective as an attacking player.


    His good mates Senderos, Flamini and Hleb have gone.

    I think he is thoroughly fed up, and is seriously considering going home this summer.

  21. i think you will find nasri played 90 mins and it was ramsey who made way for diaby , and when bendtner went off it was the biggest cheer of the night, he was awful ,, and when your target man is on a different wave length to the others there are massive problems , specially when we are shy in front of goal at the moment with not a goal to shout about in the last 3 games ! 1 against stoke courtsey of 137 defelections, nothing last night and a own goal against west ham with the second one in the 91 min that onlt happened while west ham pushed for the draw and were exposed at the back, ( obviously taking the spurs game out if it which was another game of missed chances and defensive vunrability) I feel this seasons poor start and floundering team confidence is going to cost us cesc at the end of the season

  22. Vinam i think you’re right 2a extent but its a bit early to say he will leave. Now I’m no expert in the science of body language but you wouldn’t need to be an expert looking at Cesc Fabregas last night. He looked totally frustrated and forlorn. I’ve never seen Cesc look so down. His shoulders were slumped and he didn’t really seem up for it. I know that players have bad days and bad games but his performances haven’t been up to the standard of last season. And last night was his worst. Maybe its just the fact he misses his mates Hleb, Senderos and Flamini. They were all very close off the field so perhaps Cesc needs to get over the fact they are not there anymore. The teams plight certainly isn’t helping matters. Arsenal are lacking form and confidence and when that happens teams tend to look to their best player for inspiration. Fabregas is Arsenal’s best player but at the age of 21 that is too much pressure for him too handle. Hence the reason he isn’t captain. Last season he had Flamini as his side-kick and I’d argue that their partnership would have developed to be as good as the Vieira-Petit combination. This season Denilson is his partner and I think that together they have struggled. Denilson is a good player but I don’t think that he is up to playing every week consistently yet. I think Denilson is a good stand by for Cesc at the moment and will be a great player in the future but Cesc needs more than he offers. Saying that I thought Denilson had a decent game last night. I’m not saying that Cesc Fabregas wants to leave Arsenal, far from it, but I do feel he is becoming increasingly frustrated at the direction of the club at the moment. We had such a promising team last season and went desperately close to winning honours. He then wins the Euro’s with Spain only for Arsenal to be struggling this season. No wonder he is frustrated.

  23. Vinam I think you’re spot on and I think its almost a foregone conclusion that he will leave next year.

    All his quotes at the end of last season and over the summer were pretty positive for this season but now it sounds like he’s fighting an uphill battle.

    For my money, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was promised a stronger team this year only to see very little in the way of replacements and three of his close friends leave the club.

    Its a shame because he should have seen in another great team but being hamstrung by the manager and having crap surrounding him has left me in no doubt that we’ll be looking for another talisman next season.

  24. @ Spanish Fry ah in that case I can let you off.

    Arsenal vs Utd

    Sagna Toure Djourou Clichy
    Walcott Cesc Denilson Nasri
    Diaby(or Vela)

    That’s what I have been told anyway.

  25. @ Mike – Haha, thanks. Who told you about the starting side? IIt would be strange to see Wenger go for Djourou and Toure if Gallas and Silvestre are available. Not that I’d be complaining.

  26. Our crap performance yesterday will do us a favour come Saturday, because it gives ManUre a false sense of security going into the game. I like to see Djourou playing alongside Silvestre on Saturday, Kolo slotting into DM, Sagna start at RB and Diaby playing behind NickyB. Should Fabianski play, then atleast we shall have cut off one route for their goal (headers). Watch out, we will do really well and go on to win the game. You will see.

  27. Correct me if Im wrong but we dont need to go into the transfer market for a new Centre Back. Whenever the Swiss Rock Djourou has played, Arsenal have kept a clean sheet. In last night¿s game against Fenerbahce he was immense and even though he committed the foul that led to the yellow card, it showed that he will let his opponents know that ¿he is there¿. He and Silvestre had a good night and Djourou just attacked anything and everything in the air which is EXACTLY what we need. We had that type of defender in Senderos, but Djourou has pace as well. If we are going to struggle to score goals we at least need to make sure we don¿t concede. Another thing. Fabianski was impressive in goal – much better than ¿Ow! My Face!¿ Almunia. Rather than do nothing at least Fabianski will go and punch the ball at the risk of his own well being unlike Almunia who would stand there and hope for the best.

  28. Wnger is merely commenting on the tiredness of our players to divert attention away from them.
    He is a master of the media and is drawing attention to himself to avoid his players becoming overly scrutinised and losing their confidence – even more so than know.
    Give Wenger and the team a break.

    And to the anonymous guy who thinks we will fall into mid table obscurity, go support another team.
    We are 4th and havent played at all well this year. Once we start playing well we will take apart team and maybe this year we will peak at the right time.
    Get behind the team on Saturday, I’m sick of hearing the booing of players when people like me would give an arm and a leg to be an Arsenal member.

  29. Man U game will definitely be a show-piece. With everyone giving the Gunners a hard time with the crisis talk (crisis? at 4th?), 4 first teamers out with injuries, talk of infighting and huge speculation on the future of major players. This is a chance for the Gunners to pick up the gauntlet and show everyone what they can do.

    Even if we lose (finger’s crossed!) but if we can put up a spirited display, i’m sure Gunners will bounce back. It’s still early in the season to say the title race is over. Last season no. of games lost should not be an indication as the other teams have improved and its no longer a battle of the top 4 but a more balanced and competitive league.

    I’m definitely watching the game vs MU and i’m pretty certain we come out winners. In fact, i take it one step further by being the only guy in the Gunners red and white in a Man U pub!

  30. Good prediction by Spanishfry on the team that will play against Manu. Wenger will play almost similar team like you predicted.

    I would love to give Ramsey and Fabianski and Djourou chance to shine though. My team:

    Sagna Gallas/Djourou/Silly Clichy
    …….. Ramsey Cesc…………
    Walcott ………………Nasri

    Good points SF: Bentdner was abysmal. I rate him but I was not happy with his performance. He needs to improve and play a good 90 minutes if we are to beat United.

  31. Today I watched Flamini and Senderos play in Milan shirt against Braga. Senderos was not convincing. Flamini is still the same Flamini we had last season. He gives everything, tackles every ball and good passing as well.

    Ronaldinho scored a cracker in dying minutes. Milan are my 2nd team after Arsenal foreva.

  32. Flamini barely plays!! There was talks in italy about 3 weeks ago that he is getting very frustrated and may look to leave if he doesnt start seeing more playing time. Keep in mind Beckham is now in Milano. I imagine even tho Beckham isnt very good, AC will play him to make money off jersey sells etc. So the Arsenal jinx lives on!!

  33. @ ramugunner – You should support a REAL football team like the Partenopei (S.S.C. Napoli) :D. They are the up and coming team in the Serie A, the “Arsenal” of Italy that play football and are slowly working their way up the table by buying better and better players each year.

  34. SF mate,

    Milan were playing 4-3-3 with Emerson, Gattusso and Flamini in the middle. Flamini was on the right side most of the part but all 3 CM’s were switching their position. I was surprised by Ancellotti’s team with 3 CDM’S. Milan has 3 good CDM’s and we have none. Maybe they will allow us to pick one of them. I would bring back Flamster.


    That’s a good suggestion, mate. But can’t leave Arsenal. Although Our current team is full of craps, Wenger might is in his downfall and Arsenal Board is full of cheap basters, Arsenal is in my heart and vein. I have been watching Arsenal since I was 8 years old. Can’t help myself.

    Napoli are a good team and one of the team I admire in Italy. Young promising players, encouraging manager, passing game and good transfer policy; Ditto Arsenal. I was sad when they lose against Milan although I support Milan in Italy. Santacrose has been a revelation at Napoli and he is a kind of defender we need. Lavezzi, Hamsik, Gargano are better than many players we have at Arsenal.

  35. Im not sayin leave Arsenal. I am like you and have Arsenal in my blood. Im sayin dont support AC lol. Here in Italy, i support Napoli. Since they are a the most like Arsenal team here

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