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Wednesday, 28 August 2013 00:00

Arsenal 2 Fenerbahce 0 (agg 5-0): Gunners win but Lukas Podolski injury hastens need for Arsene Wenger to spend

German carried off on a stretcher due to hamstring injury as Arsenal book place in Champions League
by Greg Leedham at the Emirates Stadium

Football: Few fans will remember this game next week, let alone in years to come. What matters though for Arsenal is that they have qualified for the Champions League for a 14th consecutive season.

Aaron Ramsey's close-range strike on 25 minutes put this tie beyond all doubt and the Gunners can look forward to dining at European club football's top table for another year at least. The Welshman added a second midway through the second half to take his total in the tie to three.

For all the talk of crisis — real, orchestrated or imagined — this is a competition in which Arsenal feel at home.

The hard work was done in Istanbul last week, of course, when Arsene Wenger's side plundered three goals to all but assure their passage.

Nonetheless Wenger named a full-strength line-up against a side that needed four goals to stand any chance of progressing. It was an admirable decision in some ways, perhaps made in the belief that another win would further bolster his side's confidence ahead of Sunday's clash with Tottenham.

However it was made to look like folly at the beginning of the second half when German forward Lukas Podolski appeared to pull his hamstring and had to be stretchered off.

Podolski scored a brace in Arsenal's win at Fulham last Saturday, but now faces a spell on the sidelines. The Gunners have looked amateurish in their efforts to sign a world-class striker this summer — now though it surely essential that they do just that with the transfer window due to shut next Monday.

Wenger threw on defender Kieran Gibbs as a grimacing Podolski was carried around the edge of the pitch. Not long after, Olivier Giroud was also withdrawn, presumably as a precaution, and Yaya Sanogo, the club's only summer signing, came on.

The changes failed to spark a game that had long since gone flat. Arsenal fans — the official attendance based on tickets sold said there were 56,271 though surely it was closer to 40,000 — began leaving for the exits with 20 minutes to go.

Fenerbahce, roared on by their magnificent support, troubled the home side early on. Wojciech Szczesny pulled off a couple of excellent stops from Raul Meireles and Emmanuel Emenike.

However any faint hope they had of progressing was extinguished when Theo Walcott darted into the area and the ball fell to Ramsey who finished easily.

His second was a peach. Gibbs drove down the left flank and clipped a ball to the Welshman who stroked his volley into the corner of the net.

Late in the game, Wenger was given another scare when Jack Wilshere was clipped by Meireles. The Englishman sat on the turf, looking forlorn for a good minute. A stretcher was brought on, but he waved it away. Such a sight was surely another kick up the backside for Wenger to add to his squad. It should be a busy few days behind the scenes at the north London club.

For now, Arsenal know that they will definitely be playing Champions League football next season. Sunday's Premier League clash with Tottenham will give them an early indication as to whether they'll be playing in it in 12 months' time.

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