Arsenal bounce back: Wenger enjoys his Turkish delight
Sighs of relief all round - and progress to Champions League group stage could win over transfer targets
Fenerbahce 0 Arsenal 3. There have been some dire displays from Arsenal at the Emirates in recent years but it would require a truly diabolical performance in next Tuesday's second leg to prevent the Gunners advancing to the group stage of the Champions League.
In their play-off first-leg clash in Istanbul last night, Arsenal dominated Fenerbahce, scoring three second-half goals and making last Saturday's 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa seem like just a bad dream.
"I think we controlled the game and, of course, we wanted a great response after the disappointment on Saturday," said manager Arsene Wenger, who has endured his fair share of stick from fans and football writers in recent days.
The result will have far-reaching implications for Arsenal's season. Not only are the Gunners all but guaranteed to progress to the lucrative group stage but that prospect will be a carrot for transfer targets in the 11 days remaining before the window closes.
Wenger admitted last night that "the transfer market starts for me now and a lot of activity will happen between now and September 2". But the Frenchman preferred to focus in the present as he savoured the sweet taste of victory, lavishing praise on a team that only four days earlier had been the laughing stock of the Premier League.
He said Arsenal had not come into the game "shaking" - instead they were "resolute, determined and with a desire to take the game to Fenerbahce. "We could have been a little bit shaky after what happened on Saturday, so for us it was very important to start on the front foot. That was vital tonight for us and we did it well."
Prior to the match, Fenerbahce fans had threatened an intimidating welcome for their English guests but from the start it was their side who seemed overawed by the occasion. Arsenal controlled the first period though it wasn't until six minutes into the second half that Kieran Gibbs broke the stalemate.
A slick interchange of passing between the outstanding Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott led to the English winger sliding the ball across the six-yard box for Gibbs to fire home past Volkan Demirel. The Fenerbahce keeper then failed to keep out a fizzing low shot from Ramsey on 64 minutes before he was also beaten from the penalty spot by Olivier Giroud after Michal Kadlec's foul on Walcott.
"We are now in a strong position but we want to finish the job next Tuesday," said Wenger, whose only concern was the first-half head injury to Laurent Koscielny. The French centre-back was taken to hospital after being kicked by Pierre Webo and Wenger said later: "We have to check that there's no bone broken. He opened the skull but it's very deep, it's very, very deep." ·