Worries For Wenger Already

Image courtesy of foxsports.com.au/Ian Kington/AFP
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger is under pressure. Image courtesy of foxsports.com.au/Ian Kington/AFP
If Arsene Wenger was hoping for a trouble-free start to the season, he hasn’t got it. Not only has Arsenal failed so far to land a big coup in the transfer market, a sobering 3-1 home loss to last year’s strugglers Aston Villa in its EPL opener. The Gunners now face a very tricky Play Off Round tie with Turkish powerhouse Fenerbache, just to make it through to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. The north London side has been in the competition every year and Wenger has been at the helm for each campaign, but questions are again being asked as to how long he will remain in the top job.

Fenerbache has major issues of its own. The Turks have been handed a two-year ban from European competitions following a long-running domestic match-fixing case. Former Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt wrote to UEFA during the off-season and pleaded with the organisation to allow the club to participate with an appeal to be heard this week. There is a possibility the English side could lose the tie, but still advance to the group stage, although that is a bridge UEFA will cross if it comes to that point.

Arsenal made it through to the final 16 in the Champions League last season and finished on a high in the Premier League going 11 matches unbeaten to finish the season. But the club has now gone eight years without a major trophy. Wenger also has several injury worries with Thomas Vermaelen (back), Mikael Arteta (hamstring), Nacho Monreal (back) and Abou Diaby (knee) all missing the defeat to Villa. To compound those problems, Kieran Gibbs (head), Bacary Sagna (neck) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) all picked up injuries in the defeat. The only good news is that England midfielder Jack Wilshere has had his first injury-free off-season in three years.

These teams have faced each other just twice. Both matches were in the 2008/09 Champions League with Arsenal thumping Fenerbache in Istanbul 5-2 before the teams played out a scoreless draw at Emirates Stadium.


Click here to bet on UEFA Champions League Play Off Round matches