Arsenal stroll back into Europe, but Wenger sweats on injuries
Aaron Ramsey nets twice but joins Wilshere on injury list as Podolski pulls hamstring
Arsenal 2 Fenerbahce 0 (Arsenal win 5-0 on aggregate). Funny to think that ten days ago Arsenal were in crisis. Three wins later and Arsenal are back in the right half of the Premier League and back in the Champions League for the 16th consecutive year.
A comfortable 2-0 defeat of Turkish side Fenerbahce at the Emirates on Tuesday night emphasized the gulf in class between the Gunners and their Turkish opponents. Having trounced the Turks 3-0 in the first leg the previous week, Arsenal barely bothered to break into a sweat as they made sure of qualification into the group stage.
Once Aaron Ramsey had finished a neat move started down the right flank on 25 minutes, any thoughts of a remarkable Fenerbahce fightback were over and the home side capped a one-sided encounter with another Ramsey goal in the final quarter.
But the victory came at a cost for the Gunners. Striker Lukas Podolski, who scored twice for Arsenal in their 3-1 defeat of Fulham at the weekend, is out for three weeks with a pulled hamstring, and there was also concerns about twinges to Ramsey's groin and Jack Wilshere's ankle. "We paid a heavy price on the injury front because we lost Podolski, he's definitely out for 21 days," said Wenger. "I don't know how bad Ramsey is. I don't know how Wilshere responds. We have to check that [on Wednesday] morning."
While Wenger checks on the health of his players, the name of his club goes into the hat for Thursday's group stage draw. Curiously, considering they had to go through the qualification process to get this far, Arsenal are seeded sixth in UEFA's Champions League coefficient rankings. The seedings, as the UEFA website explains, are "based on the results of clubs competing in the current UEFA Champions League... combined with those of the previous four seasons".
Thus Arsenal's consistency in recent seasons has been rewarded with a spot in the top tier of seeds alongside Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester Utd, Porto and Benfica. They could still face the likes of Manchester City, Juventus or Borussia Dortmund but the Gunners could also strike lucky and end up grouped with Marseille, FC Copenhagen and Austria Vienna.
Between now and then, Arsenal will hope to add to their squad although Wenger stonewalled on the subject of possible transfer targets during the post-match press conference. Instead, he preferred to dwell on Arsenal's feat of qualifying for their 16th consecutive season of Champions League football.
"Of course it's an achievement because if you look at the clubs in Europe who have done it, there are only three clubs [Manchester United and Real Madrid the others] that have done it in the whole of Europe," he said. "It shows that we have been remarkably consistent. Our ambition is much higher than that and I take that on board from everybody." ·