After a demoralising start to the season in losing 3-1 at home to Aston Villa, Arsenal must now play the away leg of their Champions' League play-off tie against Fenerbahce on Wednesday with a seriously weakened side. The chickens are coming home to roost for Arsène Wenger, who was booed by his own supporters during and after Saturday's game for not having strengthened the squad this summer.
Wenger admitted that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is definitely out of Wednesday's game with a "serious" knee injury and that Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs, who were also taken off on Saturday, are both doubtful. With Mikel Arteta already out for up to six weeks, there are also concerns about three other midfielders, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey, while Santi Cazorla is "not ready" to start a game.
Laurent Koscielny will be available despite being sent off against Villa, although he will be suspended for Saturday's Premier League game at Fulham. As well as criticising the referee Anthony Taylor, Wenger was upset by Villa's approach, which he described as "always on the fringe of correct play, slowing the game down, making the foul in midfield and getting away with it every time".
The task now, he said, over the next couple of days was "not to let the mood drop and to rebuild the confidence of the team" for what looks a difficult task in the intimidating Sukru Saracoglu stadium. Arsenal have never lost a qualifying tie but suddenly the prospect of a 16th successive appearance in the Champions League group stage is at risk.
Meanwhile, Villa's otherwise delighted manager Paul Lambert has criticised the Premier League for forcing his team to play at Chelsea on Wednesday in a game brought forward from Saturday week because the London side play in the European Super Cup that weekend.
"We gave them four or five dates to choose from and all of sudden we are told to play on Wednesday, so I don't get that," he said.
Champions League: Eye on the opposition
Arsenal were not the only side to start their league season with a sobering loss, as their Champions League opponents Fenerbahce crashed to a 3-2 defeat at Konyaspor after being 2-0 ahead in their opening Süper Lig game on Saturday.
Fener raced into a two-goal lead inside the first 27 minutes through former Everton defender Joseph Yobo and an Emre Belozoglu penalty. However, they fell apart in the second half and three strikes in the last 14 minutes earned newly promoted Konyaspor a famous victory.Reuse content