Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsene Wenger's side travel to Turkey to take on Fenerbahce in the Champions League play-off on Wednesday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Engin Bas for their views.
Fenerbahce started their league campaign with a surprise 3-2 defeat against newly-promoted Konyaspor, but with manager Ersun Yanal set to welcome various players back from injury for this game, Arsenal are in for a tough test.
Last year’s Turkish runners-up generally play three forwards spread across the width of the pitch - Yanal likes fast, mobile players that attack directly. Moussa Sow will probably start on the left, from where he cuts into the box to devastating effect, while Dirk Kuyt has continued in the right-sided position he became accustomed to at Liverpool.
"In the centre of the pitch, Fenerbahce are technical and feisty, an approach epitomised by captain Emre Belözo?lu, a tidy passer and a tough tackler"
Pierre Webo is a reliable central striker, capable of working the channels and getting on the end of crosses. Another fast attacker, newcomer Emmanuel Emenike, is versatile and capable of playing in any of the three positions - he was excellent in Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations victory earlier this year.
In the centre of the pitch, Fenerbahce are technical and feisty, an approach epitomised by captain Emre Belözo?lu, a tidy passer and a tough tackler. Raul Meireles offers something similar, while Mehmet Topal sits deeper and distributes the ball calmly. Another option, the Brazilian Christian, plays higher up and offers a long-range shooting threat.
Fenerbache’s main transfer business this summer involved strengthening the back four: Portuguese centre-back Bruno Alves was signed from Zenit St Petersburg and is a huge physical presence, and excellent in the air.
Michael Kadlec, who arrives from Leverkusen, is a more cultured defender capable of playing at left-back, and is an excellent free-kick taker, particularly when he can whip the ball in from wide positions. Mehmet Topuz is a classic modern full back - converted from a midfielder, he’s energetic and workmanlike on the right, and overlaps well.
In goal, Volkan Demirel is a Turkish international prone to the odd error, but he’s a fine penalty stopper.
Fenerbahce see this match as a fresh start. They have been defeated by Galatasaray in the Turkish Super Cup and sacrificed a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 against Konyaspor in their first match of the league season. It will be a good motivation for the rest of the season if they can eliminate the Gunners.
Moussa Sow is a huge danger when he meets the ball. But Fenerbahce's main power is in midfield, where they have players such as Emre Belozoglu, Alper Potuk, Mehmet Topal and Raul Meireles. Arsenal have to cut the supply to Sow.
"Fenerbahce's main power is in midfield, where they have players such as Emre Belozoglu, Alper Potuk, Mehmet Topal and Raul Meireles"
Fenerbahce's weakness is at the back. Joseph Yobo is quite old now and there were question marks over the back-up players, so they signed Portuguese defender Bruno Alves who, despite showing his quality against Galatasaray in the Super Cup, was sent off for two bookable offences.
Along with Alves, Fenerbahce also signed Michael Kadlec, Emmanuel Emmenike and Potuk during the summer. Potuk was one of the best Turkish performers last year. He plays directly and never stops. Aged 22, he is a new star in the Turkish national team as well. Signing Emenike was a spectacular piece of business but he has yet to really settle.
Arsenal must take Fenerbahce seriously because otherwise they may pay a heavy price. I am expecting a score that Fenerbahce can consider acceptable ahead of the second leg.
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