As well as Arsenal played at Fenerbahce last week, Arsène Wenger admits the ‘fine margins’ went for his team.
That why he is guarding against any complacency on Tuesday as the two teams complete their Champions League play-off with the second leg at Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal had gone to Turkey in the shadow of that opening-day defeat to Aston Villa. Make no mistake, Paul Lambert’s were highly impressive on the day but the home side might have escaped with a point had Brad Guzan not pulled off two impressive saves at 2-1 in the dying minutes.
It has been hidden by the headlines of that 3-0 success of course, but Wojciech Szczesny did exactly the same at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium last Wednesday.
We had two good games recently, at Fenerbahce and against Fulham, and we just want to continue that run. We go into the game to win it without thinking about the result of the first gameArsène Wenger
A late brace would have given Ersun Yanal’s side hope of a comeback. As it stands, the only way to progress is to inflict on Arsenal just their third three-goal home defeat in European competition for 50 years.
“You qualify in the Champions League when you're ahead after the two games,” said Wenger. “And what we want to make sure is that we mentally prepare for that.
“It is a fight, everybody wants to give his best, and we want to finish the job.
“We have a decent advantage but we want to get over the line, therefore it's just about us winning the game.
“I feel we had two good games recently, at Fenerbahce and against Fulham, and we just want to continue that run. We go into the game to win it without thinking about the result of the first game.
“It was not as comfortable as people saw it on television. I was on the bench and it was highly committed.
“I have big experience in the Champions League, I think I have over 150 games, and I know that if you want to knock somebody out you need attitude and commitment, or you don't do it. That is what is at stake for us.”
Success on Wednesday would see Arsenal qualify for the group stage for the 16th successive year - only Manchester United and Real Madrid boast better records.
It is a tally Wenger holds dear to his heart.
Despite the state of the tie and the upcoming visit of Tottenham, the manager has promised to broadly stick with the squad from Saturday. At his pre-match press conference the manager confirmed that Jack Wilshere would start but he was less sure about the involvement of Laurent Koscielny, even though the centre back is fit after suffering a nasty gash to his head in Turkey.
Like Arsenal, Fenerbahce grabbed their first domestic win of the season on Saturday; Dirk Kuyt scoring the only goal against Eskisehirspor.
Straight after the first leg, all the visiting players stuck to the “still-a-job-to-do” mantra in the mixed zone and Carl Jenkinson repeated it in the pre-match press conference.
“I have watched Fenerbahce games in the past and I have seen clips too,” he said. “Moussa Sow is a good player. Kuyt and Raul Meireles have experience in the Premier League. We will have to be on our mettle as it is not going to be an easy game for us.
“We feel we need to be playing at the pinnacle and that's the Champions League. If you want to improve and test yourself against the best players in the world, you have to be in it. That's what makes this game so important. We have to go and finish the job.”
I know that if you want to knock somebody out you need attitude and commitment, or you don't do itArsène Wenger
Everything is against Fenerbahce. Arsenal have won all 11 of their Champions League qualifiers, while the Turkish side have scored only three goals in their eight previous trips to England and have only once tasted victory.
But, should Wenger’s men progress as expected on Tuesday, it will be the product of 40 games - 38 in the Premier League and two play-offs legs - not just the last 180 minutes.
That is a footballing journey as gruelling and arduous as the Tour de France.
An analogy that entices you to suggest this game is the prologue - a short, sharp time-trial before the main race.
Arsenal’s healthy lead will allow them a little freewheeling on Tuesday evening but even then you have to look out for punctures - just in case.
And then they have to get straight back on the bike for the group stage as, of course, no-one will be peddling down the Champs D’Elysee in the yellow jersey before next May.
Arsenal: Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Vermaelen (back), Arteta (thigh), Diaby (knee).
* Should the aggregate scores be level after 90 minutes, the team with the greater number of away goals will progress. Should Fenerbahce win 3-0, there will be a period of extra-time and then a penalty shoot-out if the score remains the same.
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