Make no mistake, Arsenal were very very good last night and fully deserved their 3-0 win away in Istanbul, however all of Fenerbahce’s problems, in both halves, were of their own making with respective full backs Bekir İrtegün and Michal Kadlec having noticeably poor evenings.
Bekir was stationed on the right hand side whilst Kadlec was entrusted with the task of shackling the quick Theo Walcott on the left with it being clear right from the off that Arsenal were looking to get at Fenerbahce via Walcott down the right hand channel. Walcott ably supported by Bacary Sagna were very effective down the right flank and gave Kadlec a really tough opening spell with Arsenal’s central midfield pairing of Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere focusing the majority of their passing through to Walcott.
Over on the opposite flank, Bekir was having great difficulty staying in position with the Turkish fullback being far too often drawn into the middle of the defence which caused an element of confusion for Bruno Alves in the middle. As a result of this, a huge gap was left in the right back position which had to be filled on numerous occasions by Dirk Kuyt who as we all know isn’t the most competent defender, being a centre forward by nature. Bekir made Kuyt’s night all the more difficult with his poor passing, when the Fenerbahce fullback did make inroads into the Arsenal half it looked as if he was passing it with his eyes shut, every single pass was going wayward and not reaching its target. Dirk Kuyt was left having to do the work of two men down Fenerbahce’s right hand side and unfortunately for Ersun Yanal’s side the Dutchman was having enough trouble doing the work of one to start with.
At left back Michal Kadlec in the first half was getting away with his poor positioning due to the fact Walcott was drifting inside on too many occasions which gave Bruno Alves the opportunity to track his movements and stop him breaking into the penalty area. Alves did this well and Arsenal, near the end of the first half, were becoming slightly frustrated at their own inability to break through the Fenerbahce defence down the right hand side. Sagna would be overlapping Walcott and receive the ball whilst Walcott would want the one-two return ball yet found himself running into the brick wall that was Bruno Alves. It was Bruno Alves’ ‘mopping up’ if you like, for Kadlec’s mistakes that kept Fenerbahce level heading into the break.
At half time with the clear lack of positional awareness and confidence, I was of the belief that Arsene Wenger should switch Walcott to the left side of midfield in order for him to run at Bekir and make life even more difficult for Kuyt. However Ersun Yanal had also spotted the glaringly obvious weakness in the Fenerbahce first half performance and replaced Bekir with the experienced Gokhan Gonul who had just completed his recovery from a shoulder injury suffered way back in May. Gonul entered the pitch and instantly there was a greater sense of not only positional awareness but also authority in the right full back position and in truth there was very little joy to be had for Arsenal down the left hand flank for the rest of the match.
At left back however Michal Kadlec carried his dreadful first half form into the second period only in the second half he was given no help by Bruno Alves. Walcott had been smart enough to recognize he was getting little to no joy in trying to run through the experience Portuguese centre half and the former Southampton man began to hug the touchline and directly run at Kadlec with the former Sparta Prague full back having absolutely no answer to Walcott’s pace.
With Alves now out of the equation, Theo Walcott had far more success in the second half. Kadlec appeared scared of Walcott every time he was in possession down the right hand side and this just gave Walcott the confidence to keep running at him. The problem was that Kadlec had at no point either before the match or over the course of the ninety minutes taken into account the speed of Walcott and as such he didn’t adjust his positioning to suit marking a player quicker than himself.
It is common sense if you are up against a winger who is so much quicker than yourself you don’t want to be too tight to him, because if he turns you or the ball goes over your head then you are basically out of the game, you have to just take a couple of steps back and give yourself a chance to get into a position by where you can win the ball or force the opponent out of play. Kadlec completely ignore this common sense and was touch tight to Walcott all evening long and it proved to be his downfall when it came to the third Arsenal goal.
Cazorla’s crossfield pass was a thing of beauty, it was inch perfect for Walcott however he was given a huge boost courtesy of Kadlec’s starting position. The Czech full back was so tight to Walcott that they were almost starting their run in a level position, there was only going to be one winner of this footrace and Walcott broke away and got directly in front of Kadlec. This is the point where as a defender the alarm bells start going off in your head as you realise “I’m in trouble here” and Kadlec was in serious trouble. The instant Walcott controlled the ball there was only going to be one outcome with Kadlec unsurprisingly bringing Walcott down from behind with referee Gianluca Rocchi having no choice but to award a penalty which Olivier Giroud duly dispatched to effectively secure Arsenal’s progress into the Champions League Group Stage for a sixteenth successive year.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4