Finishing touch still eludes the young guns

Arsenal 0 Fenerbahce 0

Only one English team in the Champions League could conspire to get 17 shots on target during the course of a game and still fail to score a goal and only one could do it, at times, with such style. That might be why Arsène Wenger turned on his heel and stomped down the tunnel at full-time without even a glance at his players or opponents.

Once again Wenger's team and their expansive, often ultimately ineffective, style has them in danger of disappearing up their nether regions at such a critical juncture in the season. This draw made it three consecutive games without a victory and, on Saturday, Manchester United are visiting a battered Arsenal side low on confidence who struggled and failed to put away Fenerbahce despite 64 per cent of the possession and all the key chances.

Saturday is shaping up to be the red-letter day for Arsenal's season. Potentially seven first-team players could be missing and that awkward question once again hangs over the heads of Wenger's team: what are Arsenal for? To win trophies or simply to entertain us with their passing flurries, their pleasing invention, before they fade into directionless mediocrity as they did in the second half last night? On last night's evidence it is the latter.

This draw is no disaster in terms of qualification for the next stages of the Champions League because Arsenal are still top of Group G by two points and will reach the knockout stage providing they win one of their last two games starting with Dynamo Kiev at home on 25 November. But that would be to ignore the bigger questions that are being asked about this team as they try to reach Christmas still a competitive force in the Premier League title race.

The list of the missing could yet include Mikaël Silvestre who appeared to break his nose last night when Semih Senturk, one of Turkey's Euro 2008 heroes, swung an elbow the Frenchman's way that did not look entirely accidental. Manuel Almunia was ruled out with an upset stomach and the untried, and frankly unconvincing goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, may yet have to play against United. Robin van Persie, last night's best player, is suspended for Saturday. Not exactly a cause for optimism.

Nonetheless, Arsenal played some lovely football in the first half. Ineffective but lovely all the same. As Barack Obama might say, it is time for Arsenal to bend the arc of history but lately the arc of history has been pointing just about everywhere apart from the Emirates Stadium. They would settle for just bending a decent cross into the box and putting it in the goal via Nicklas Bendtner's kneecap or Kolo Touré's backside. More matter, less art would suit Arsenal just fine right now.

It is not easy for Wenger when he is picking teams from the scraps of a squad that was never really properly reinforced in the summer anyway. Last night he picked Aaron Ramsey, 17, to play against the famous Roberto Carlos, 35, and to be fair to the young Welshman he did very well before, like the rest of his team-mates, he faded in the second half. Wenger had a central defensive pairing of Johan Djourou and Silvestre with Touré at right-back which is no one's idea of a balanced back four.

Let me count the ways that Arsenal missed. Van Persie could have had, at a conservative estimate, three goals. Samir Nasri could not get his feet sorted out in time to get a shot away in the first half when the ball dropped to him in the box. Bendtner sent Diego Lugano in so completely the wrong direction on 32 minutes that the old joke about the defender having to apply for re-admission to the stadium was applicable. The Danish striker then had his shot pushed onto the bar by goalkeeper Volkan Demirel.

So it continued with the introduction of Carlos Vela and Abou Diaby, who did not give Arsenal any greater cutting edge in front of goal. "We know that if we score a goal we can open up teams who come to defend," said Cesc Fabregas. "But we don't want to make excuses. If we don't win then there are players who will come in to take our places."

Who is he kidding? There are no more players left to Wenger unless he wants to press the Carling Cup kids into service. Fabianski did not inspire confidence when he failed to come off his line to see off the danger when Ugur Boral was played through on goal. For Wenger there were potential problems wherever he looked and United are likely to make a lot more trouble for them than Fenerbahce ever managed.

It was Arsenal's first goalless draw since February and the first time they have failed to score in Europe this season. They are not yet in a position where their backs are pushed up against a cold wall but you feel that is only a matter of time when United visit on Saturday.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Fabianski; Touré, Djourou, Silvestre (song, 82), Clichy; Ramsey (Diaby, 59), Fabregas, Denilson, Nasri; Bendtner (Vela, 59 ), Van Persie. Substitutes not used: Mannone (gk), Sagna, Wilshere, Gibbs.

Fenerbahce (4-4-1-1): Demirel; Gonul, Edu, Lugano, Carlos (Vederson, 69); Kazim-Richards (Bilgin, 58), Maldonado (Josico, 68), Sahin, Boral; Senturk; Guiza. Substitutes not used: Babacan (gk), Yilmaz, Cakmak, Deivid.

Referee: R Rosetti (Italy)

Group G

Results: Dynamo Kiev 1 Arsenal 1; Porto 3 Fenerbahce 1; Arsenal 4 Porto 0; Fenerbahce 0 Dynamo Kiev 0; Fenerbahce 2 Arsenal 5; Porto 0 Dynamo Kiev 1; Arsenal 0 Fenerbahce 0; Dynamo Kiev 1 Porto 2.

Arsenal's remaining group fixtures: 25 Nov: Dynamo Kiev (h); 10 Dec: Porto (a).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices