Fenerbahçe v Arsenal: Patched-up Gunners can secure a draw

This is a game Arsene Wenger can't afford to lose

It hasn't been a great start to the season for either Fenerbahçe or Arsenal says James Horncastle, and in a game that neither side can afford to lose perhaps the value lies in backing the draw on Wednesday night...

You get the impression that this is a game neither can afford to lose. And with that in mind, perhaps there’s value to be had at backing the draw at 3.55.

Back The Draw @ 3.55

Fenerbahçe v Arsenal
Wednesday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 1

Two goals down at half-time of their opening Emirates Cup encounter with Napoli a fortnight ago, Arsenal were booed off the pitch. The fans' reaction was understandable. Promises to seriously strengthen the team earlier in the summer amid talk of an "escalation in financial firepower" had yet to be kept and though Arsenal rallied after the interval to draw 2-2, a mood of frustration prevailed.

Despite encouraging the hope among supporters that things would be different by now, nothing is. In fact, this is the first time since the 1998-99 season that Arsenal didn't have a player making a debut on the opening day of the campaign.

That might be ok if Arsenal were champions like they were back then. But they're not and Saturday's events were another reminder of how far they are away from re-claiming that honour. A 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa was their first opening day defeat at home in 20 years. Exasperation is once again at the levels that followed Arsenal's knock-out from both the League Cup by Bradford and the FA Cup by Blackburn last season.

One can only imagine how a loss to Fenerbahçe in the first leg of their Champions League qualifying play-off would be received. Arsenal's trip to Istanbul arguably couldn't have come at a worse time.

To compound matters, they may be without as many as eight players at the Şükrü Saracoğlu on Wednesday night, including captain Mikel Arteta and the assist-provider for Olivier Giroud's goal at the weekend, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as both left-backs Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs. Makeshift alternative Thomas Vermaelen isn't available either.

The anxiety of Arsenal fans is well-placed. Their opponents are fearsome. Fenerbahçe reached the semi-finals of the Europa League last season and unlike Arsenal, they have reinforced over the summer.

A suspect defence has been tightened up with the acquisitions of centre-back Bruno Alves from Zenit St. Petersburg and left-back Michal Kadlec from Bayer Leverkusen. Up front, Emmanuel Emenike has returned from Spartak Moscow two years after leaving Fenerbahçe following the implication of the player and club in the Turkish match-fixing scandal.

Banned from European competition for two years by UEFA for their alleged part in it, Fenerbahçe's appeal against the decision will be heard on the day of the game and then on Thursday too. Arsenal can't rely on that, however, for their passage to the group stages.

On the bright side, there is encouragement to be found in Fenerbahçe's disappointing start to the season. A Didier Drogba header in extra-time gave rivals Galatasaray victory over them in the Turkish Super Cup. Then, as if that wasn't dispiriting enough, they lost 3-2 to newly promoted Konyaspor on the opening day of the Süper Lig.

So, there's reason to believe that Arsenal can come away from Kadıköy with a result. Borussia Mönchengladbach went there and won 3-0 in the group stages of the Europa League last season. Then again Lazio and eventual finalists Benfica both lost at the Şükrü Saracoğlu in the knock-outs.

Remember, Arsenal did safely navigate the Champions League play-offs two years ago when they overcame Udinese. Robin van Persie was on hand then to help resolve matters. Needless to say he is no longer. Arsenal fans don't need reminding how they could do with a player like him, one capable of winning games single-handedly, especially in circumstances like these.

For all their own problems, Fenerbahçe won't be pushovers. Not with the support they can count on. They're unbeaten in their last three European home games and have won four and drawn two of their previous seven continental encounters.

But considering how poorly both have started the season, it's too close to call. That's reflected on the exchange where Fenerbahçe can be backed to win at 2.789/5 and Arsenal at 2.747/4. You get the impression that this is a game neither can afford to lose. And with that in mind, perhaps there's value to be had at backing the draw at 3.55.

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