Another season, another dance with Europe's elite.
Arsenal clinched a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the 16th consecutive season with a 2-0 victory over Fenerbahce in the second leg of their playoff tie on Tuesday night at Emirates Stadium in London.
With last week's 3-0 triumph in Turkey, Arsenal won the tie 5-0 and will feature in Thursday's draw in Monaco.
With Champions League qualification secured, Arsenal now can turn their attention back to the Premier League and the final days of the summer transfer window.
Both promise fireworks in the coming days. On Sunday, the Gunners host rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby. One day later, the transfer window closes.
FT 2-0 #afc (5-0 on agg). Ramsey excellent in easy win. Podolski & Ramsey injury worries for Wenger. Time to focus on transfers...— James Olley (@JamesOlley) August 27, 2013
FT AFC 2-0 FEN (5-0 agg). Comprehensive win. Ramsey outstanding again. Knocks that he, Poldi & Jack picked up demonstrate need for signings.— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) August 27, 2013
Despite John Cross of the Daily Mirror reporting that the club has £70 million available for transfers this summer, Arsenal have made just one signing—French forward Yaya Sanogo, who joined on a free transfer from Auxerre.
Manager Arsene Wenger spoke with Press Association (h/t The Guardian) about his hope of adding "special" players to the squad, which has already been stretched early in the season due to injuries.
Wenger, however, has hinted that he will maintain his customarily cautious approach in the market.
I'm guided by my conscience to do as well as I can for this club and by the vision of the game I want to play. I feel with the players I have I can play the football we want to play. I'm a great admirer of the spirit, the attitude of these players. They are special and if I want to add something it has to be special.
And yet, even considering the emphatic nature of Arsenal's two-legged victory, Tuesday's action again demonstrated the need for action in the transfer market.
Forward Lukas Podolski and midfielder Aaron Ramsey both left the pitch early with injuries, whereas midfielder Jack Wilshere required treatment late in the second half following a full-bodied challenge.
After the match, Wenger told PhysioRoom.com that he expects Podolski to miss three weeks. He also said Wilshere should be available for Sunday's match against Tottenham, while Ramsey's injury requires further assessment.
Before his departure, though, Ramsey was brilliant. The Welshman scored both goals, one coming in each half, and was Arsenal's standout performer.
Wenger on Ramsey's performance: "I especially liked his second goal. It was a good finish... He is improving from week to week" #AFCvFEN— Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) August 27, 2013
The opener came in the 25th minute. Podolski played a ball through the Fener defense for Theo Walcott. A defender reached the ball first but tipped it into the path of Ramsey, who swept home from short range.
That gave Arsenal a 4-0 advantage on aggregate and allowed the hosts to coast in the second half.
The second goal came in the 72nd minute following a lovely move started by Santi Cazorla on the left. Gibbs, a second-half substitute for the injured Podolski, crossed for Ramsey, who finished deftly with a first-time volley.
It was no more than Arsenal deserved against an overmatched Fenerbahce squad. Now, with Champions League football secured yet again, the league and transfer market should come into sharper focus.
Key Player Grades
Aaron Ramsey: A+
With apologies to Cazorla, Ramsey was Arsenal's standout performer. The Welshman scored both goals and turned in an impressive all-around display in midfield.
Aaron Ramsey's improvement over the past 12 months is absolutely unbelievable. Arguably Arsenal's best player so far this season.— Tom (@FourFourTom) August 27, 2013
Beyond the two goals, Ramsey led Arsenal in touches (99) and completed 91 percent of his passes. He was not dispossessed a single time in the midfield, nor did he commit any turnovers. Meanwhile, he made one interception and three clearances.
Santi Cazorla: A
Cazorla sparkled throughout, fashioning chances for his teammates with creative passing and dribbling, and even coming close to a second-half goal.
The Spaniard also chipped in defensively with three interceptions, two tackles and two clearances.
Wojciech Szczesny: B
Tuesday's match showed the good and bad of Szczesny.
In the first half, the Polish goalkeeper nearly committed another costly error when failing to properly collect a high ball in his box. Fortunately, though, Emmanuel Emenike was whistled for a foul on the play.
He made another poor decision early in second half, sliding in late as Emenike chased the ball along the edge of the box. Emenike helped him out with a dive, however, which earned the Fener player a booking.
At other times, Szczesny was excellent.
First, he made a nice reaction save after some sloppy early defending. Later in the first half, he made two excellent saves on Emenike, pushing one effort off the post and saving moments later from close range (Emenike was ruled offside on the latter).
Szczesny is better when having to be instinctive, rather than mulling over a decision, like choosing to come for a cross.— James Dall (@JamesDallESPN) August 27, 2013
Full Arsenal Player Grades
|Kieran Gibbs (for Podolski 49')||A-|
|Yaya Sanogo (for Giroud 60')||C|
|Ryo Miyaichi (for Walcott 75')||No rating|
Lineups via UEFA.com
Arsenal host Tottenham in the North London derby on Sunday. Fenerbahce return to the Turkish league to play Sivasspor on Saturday.
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.