“We achieved that on the night simply because we played our own game. Everywhere we go we try to win and that’s the attitude we’ll have this time.
“We have been to all the big stadiums in Europe, in all the heated atmospheres, and we always try to play.”
Arsène Wenger was recalling the 5-2 win at Fenerbahce in October 2008, one of the more rampant Champions League victories of recent years and an obvious discussion point ahead of Wednesday’s play-off first leg in Istanbul.
The hosts went into that Group G game on a run of 15 European games without defeat at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium and the arena certainly lived to its intimidating reputation before kick-off.
"We have been to all the big stadiums in Europe, in all the heated atmospheres, and we always try to play"
But it did not stop Arsenal scoring twice in the opening 11 minutes.
Matters see-sawed somewhat after that but the night was capped by a 17-year-old Aaron Ramsey joyously slotting home his first goal for the Club with the final kick of the game.
As fond as those memories may be, that encounter was mired in the middle of a group. This one is the first half a two-legged shoot-out. It is exposed and the margin for error is smaller.
So think Udinese away for a better comparison. Two years ago, Arsenal were handed arguably the toughest draw possible in the play-off against a side that would go on challenge for Serie A that season.
They only got through thanks to a magnificent away performance in the second game. After Antonio di Natale had levelled up the tie just before half time, Arsenal scored twice in quick succession and also saw Wojciech Szczesny make a superb penalty save.
It was a stirring occasion, the memory of which may cloud the build-up to the game. In fact, Arsenal had gone to Italy in the wake of a hugely-disappointing defeat to Liverpool at Emirates Stadium. The reaction was audible inside the ground after the final whistle and, at times, knee-jerk in the wider footballing world during the days that followed.
Saturday’s defeat to Villa had a similar feel.
"Since March we have lost one game and under very special circumstances... we know we have quality and we want to show that again at Fenerbahce"
But, remember, Arsenal's record in Champions League qualifiers is a perfect (P10 W10 D0 L0 F24 A3), while 15 straight seasons in the Champions League group stage suggests that their powers of recovery are consistently underestimated. Only Manchester United (18 this season) and Real Madrid (17) can boast a better record.
“[Responding] is part of our job,” said Wenger. “Since March we have lost one game and under very special circumstances. So we have that deeply ingrained in us. We know we have quality and we want to show that again at Fenerbahce.
“We’ve analysed Saturday’s game well. It was really special to lose a game like that and I believe you can consider it is accidental when you look at what happened on the pitch.”
The result was a blow but the biggest concern were the injuries collected.
In the end the only casualty is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who will be missing for an absolute minimum of six weeks, much more like three months, having damaged knee ligaments.
Bacary Sagna, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky are fit having all been doubtful on Saturday evening. Kieran Gibbs will play with a plaster on his cut eyebrow but Nacho Monreal is fit for the first time this season and will be on the bench.
The season of the 5-2 was Fenerbahce’s last in the Champions League but they came mighty close last term. Spartak Moscow knocked them out at this stage but Ersun Yanal’s side went on to reach their first semi-final in European competition before losing to Benfica in the Europa League.
"Raul Meireles, Joseph Yobo and Dirk Kuyt played in England while Moussa Sow played in France. We will respect them but we will prepare ourselves to produce a top-quality performance"
"Fenerbahce have a very experienced team with quality players,” said Wenger. “We know some of them very well. Raul Meireles, Joseph Yobo and Dirk Kuyt played in England while Moussa Sow played in France.
“We will respect them but we will prepare ourselves to produce a top-quality performance.”
Of course, there is the little matter of their ongoing appeal against a two-year ban from European competition over match-fixing allegations. The Court of Arbitration for Sport will offer its decision next Wednesday morning, the day after the second leg.
“Honestly we don’t really know the story so we don’t want to speak about that,” commented Wenger on the eve of the game. “We want to win on the pitch. That’s all we want to focus on.”
Indeed, the manager has stated that this game is arguably the most important of the season. He said something similar ahead of that sweltering night in north-east Italy two years ago.
That is because the Villa defeat is recoverable; Manchester United lost their first game last season and won the Premier League at a canter. But an exit from the Champions League inside the first four games of the season would indelibly stain the 50-or-so to follow.
You could argue Arsenal’s last European game turned their fortunes last season. Although they went out at Bayern Munich despite winning the second leg of their last-16 tie 2-0, the defensive re-organisation introduced that night kickstarted an impressive domestic run.
It culminated with a nailbiter at Newcastle on the final day to secure fourth spot. You always knew that the qualifier would possess a similar tension.
“It is exciting because it’s a big game and a decisive one,” concluded an enthusiastic Wenger. “How difficult it is, you simply don’t know.
“But you just want to prepare as well as you can and bounce back very quickly from Saturday with a good performance.
“And that is what I think we will do.”
Arsenal: Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Diaby (knee), Arteta (thigh), Vermaelen (back), Ryo (rib)
Arsenal will be wearing their red and white home shirt, and red socks on Wednesday evening, blue shorts will replace the usual white ones. This is due to a colour clash with Fenerbahce's kit.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.