The Istanbul club approach their Champions League clash with the Gunners fighting match-fixing charges and in a poor run of early-season form
By Enis Koylu
Antonio Luna, a player most Arsenal fans were unlikely to have heard of prior to Saturday, collected Andreas Weimann's pass, strode through the Gunners defence and calmly stroked the ball past Wojciech Szczesny to clinch a 3-1 win for Aston Villa at the Emirates.
A chorus of boos rang out to cap a nightmare start to the season for followers of the north Londoners. Under-fire manager Arsene Wenger is under intense pressure to spend in the transfer market and Wednesday's trip to face one of Turkey's biggest clubs, last season's Europa League semi-finalists Fenerbahce, is already being painted as a do-or-die clash.
However, things are far from rosy at the Sukru Saracoglu. A few hours after Arsenal had lost to Villa, Fener, in new coach Ersun Yanal's first Super Lig match in charge of the club, let a two-goal lead slip to newly-promoted Konyaspor in the space of 12 short minutes before going down 3-2.
|FENER'S SHAKY START TO THE SEASON|
|Red Bull Salzburg||1-1||Fenerbahce|
|Fenerbahce||3-1||Red Bull Salzburg|
It was a truly calamitous result and one in keeping with how their season has begun. Having been drawn against Red Bull Salzburg - the Austrian Bundesliga runners-up - in the third round of Champions League qualifying, they needed a 95th-minute penalty to snatch a draw after a laborious away performance and even fell behind at home before eventually rescuing a 4-2 aggregate win.
In the Turkish Supercup, they toiled for 120 minutes against Galatasaray but still lost thanks to Didier Drogba's extra-time winner.
This comes under an unfortunate backdrop of a match-fixing scandal, which has reared its ugly head yet again.
Uefa had ruled that Fenerbahce, along with fellow Istanbul giants Besiktas, would be unable to compete in the Champions League due to two-year-old allegations which they had been cleared of by the Turkish authorities, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) suspended the ban until the end of August.
It has made for a farcical summer. Following the match-fixing controversy, Fener's efforts in the transfer market have been stunted. Their public pursuit of primary target, Benfica star Oscar Cardozo, has lingered on and hinges on their participation in Europe next term.
More puzzlingly, they have sought to bring Emmanuel Emenike, who spent four days behind bars when the match-fixing charges first surfaced, back to the club he left in 2011 without kicking a ball. The Nigerian called it a homecoming of sorts, a far cry from his vow never to return to the country when he first departed for Spartak Moscow.
Portuguese centre back Bruno Alves, now in his thirties and past his best, has also been brought in from Zenit St Petersburg, although, on the plus side, midfielder Samuel Holmen and defender Michal Kadlec are both solid purchases, while young schemer Alper Potuk possesses a huge amount of promise.
The protracted exit of former boss Aykut Kocaman has also cast a shadow over the club for almost a year. The former striker, a club legend from his playing days, first attempted to leave in December and finally sealed his exit in May after a reported bust-up with the board during which he demanded the sale of all of Fener's foreign players.
It took the club a whole month to appoint Yanal to replace him, offering him a one-year deal - hardly a display of confidence in his abilities amid rather fanciful rumours of luring Joachim Low back to the club when his contract with Germany expires at the end of the World Cup.
To top it all, Arsenal will approach the two-legged tie knowing that an aggregate victory will ensure that they are among the 32 teams in the draw for the Champions League group stage. Fener are aware that even a Herculean effort could yet prove in vain, with CAS' decision due the day after the return fixture in London.
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