My Soccer World

Football: No Home Comforts For Frustrated Arsenal

Posted on: November 6, 2008

LONDON: Arsenal couldn’t shake off the scars from their battering at Stoke as Arsene Wenger’s side were forced to settle for a frustrating 0-0 draw against Fenerbahce in the Champions League on Wednesday.

After that chastening defeat against Stoke last weekend, the Gunners desperately needed a win in the Group G clash at the Emirates Stadium to get back on track.

But, although Arsenal dominated for long periods, the psychological damage inflicted by Stoke had clearly left its mark. The hosts were unable to find the cutting edge needed to kill off dogged opposition and a series of poor finishes left Wenger’s team without a win in three matches.

While Arsenal should still qualify for the second round with a win over Dynamo Kiev later this month, Wenger must be concerned by the way his players are struggling to rediscover the verve they showed last season.

Wenger made five changes to the team battered at Stoke on Saturday, with Lukasz Fabianski replacing ill goalkeeper Manuel Almunia and Robin van Persie, Aaron Ramsey, Johan Djourou and Samir Nasri also coming in.

Arsenal desperately needed a fast start to restore some confidence and van Persie nearly provided it as he raced on to a sublime chip from Cesc Fabregas, but the Dutch striker poked his shot just wide.

Ramsey brought Fenerbahce keeper Volkan Demirel into action for the first time as the Welsh midfielder clevely worked space and drove in a low shot.

With Fenerbahce taking a far less aggressive approach than Stoke, Wenger’s side looked far more comfortable and were able to weave their intricate patterns in midfield.

A flowing move between Nasri and Fabregas gave the Spanish midfielder a sight of goal. His flicked effort was palmed out by Demirel to van Persie, whose shot appeared destined for the goal until a brave block deflected it over.

Van Persie went even closer in the 32nd minute. He received Kolo Toure’s pass with his back to goal and turned Lugano before lashing in a shot that Demirel pushed onto the crossbar.

Arsenal had scored five against the Turks in Istanbul and once again they were able to slice through the Fenerbahce defence at will. It took another fine stop from Demirel to deny Nasri as the French winger cut in from the left and curled his shot towards the far corner.

Toure’s long-range free-kick was pushed over by Demirel early in the second half. But Fenerbahce almost stole the lead moments later when Fabianski’s indecision allowed Ugar Boral to run through and draw a sprawling save from the Arsenal keeper.

Wenger responded by sending on Mexican forward Carlos Vela for Nicklas Bendtner. The switch didn’t add any spark to the misfiring Gunners however and van Persie tamely headed over Gael Clichy’s cross.

As the half wore on, Arsenal looked increasingly vexed by their failure to break the deadlock and Van Persie and Fabregas exchanged angry glares after running into each other.

When Van Persie was booked for a scything lunge, Wenger was a picture of frustration as he rose to protest at the referee’s decision.

It got even worse for Wenger when Semih Senturk caught Mikael Silvestre with an elbow that left the defender with a blooded nose. Abou Diaby, another second half substitute, nearly glanced in van Persie’s curling free-kick but Arsenal had run out of ideas.

Results:

Celtic (SCO) 1 Manchester United (ENG) 1

Aalborg (DEN) 2 Villarreal (ESP) 2

Lyon (FRA) 2 Steaua Bucharest (ROM) 0

Fiorentina (ITA) 1 Bayern Munich (GER) 1

Dynamo Kiev (UKR) 1 FC Porto (POR) 2

Arsenal (ENG) 0 Fenerbahce (TUR) 0

Real Madrid (ESP) 0 Juventus (ITA) 2

BATE Borisov (BLR) 0 Saint Petersburg 2

– AFP/de

Channel News Asia

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