After all of the hype, doubt, and build-up, it’s almost a let-down of sorts to have won 3-0. I had prepared myself for a nail-biter, daring to hope only for an early goal that would earn us at most a draw. To have come away with a fairly easy 3-0 victory is exhilarating, no doubt, but after steeling myself against the worst, I’m feeling more relief than ecstasy. I will happily, happily take it. Let’s give the squad a quick run-down, then, shall we? We’re using a ten-point scale this time ’round…
- Giroud: 6/10. Decent but showed his limitations as an in-the-box finisher, not capable of creating legitimate shots off the dribble. Had Fener’s Demirel been less effective in coming off his line to snuff our crosses, we might have seen some more fireworks from the handsome Frenchman. Give him credit for more than once going tête-à-tête with Fener’s defenders, though.
- Walcott: 8/10. Our only live-wire in the first half, he came alive in the second, delivering an assist on the first goal and earning the penalty on the third. Throughout, he showed his trademark and added a bit of positional awareness, moving beyond just running around and finding seams.
- Rosický: 7/10. Showed verve and energy throughout the match and had a few chances to earn a goal or an assist. Settling for a solid all-around performance is good enough for me, as he, Wilshere, and Ramsey took advantage of Fener to work on a solid balance of attack and defense.
- Cazorla: 7/10. Despite still not being back to full-speed, the diminutive Spaniard managed to offer a solid facsimile of his savoir-faire, dribbling and passing his way through Fener’s defense. It’s a shame he didn’t tally, but his return to full-speed will be a welcome addition, to be sure.
- Wilshere: 8.5/10. Narrowly edged out by Ramsey. No shame there. After taking a scary knock early on, Wilshere rejoined the fray with his signature tough-as-nails approach, patrolling the midfield with an admirable balance of reckless abandon and responsible stewardship.
- Ramsey: 9/10. Man of the match, and not just for his goal and second assist. In Arteta’s absence, Ramsey led the team in tackles, interceptions, and fouls. As always, his tireless work-rate and “everywhere-ness” set the tempo for the rest of the game. To have added a highlight-reel goal is icing on the cake.
- Gibbs: 7.5/10. Great timing on the first goal, but his all-around performance was impressive as well. He was second on the team in clearances (tied with Ramsey, actually), and his efforts went a long way towards neutralizing Kuyt, Meireles, and Gönül on Fener’s right flank.
- Koscielny: INC. Getting kicked in the face 33 minutes in makes it hard to rate a player. That said, he had two clearances by that point; the team-leader after 90′ was Mertesacker with 6. He also had three accurate long-balls in that time, good for 6th-best on the day.
- Jenkinson: 5/10. Did what he was called on to do, helping to neutralize Sow and Emre on the flank without distinguishing himself for good for bad. Very nearly added a 4th goal with a nice shot in the closing seconds.
- Mertesacker: 7/10. Another steady, quiet performance for the German. Six clearances on the day rule the roost, and a solid stewardship of the defense after Koscielny had to leave helped to ensure the clean-sheet.
- Sagna: 6.5/10. Did well both as the starting right-back and when moved to center. Earned four offsides calls on the day, added several strong tackles, and in general reminded us that he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
- Szczesny: 7.5/10. Literally unchallenged in the first half as Fener managed no shots at all, the Szcz came up big in the second half with four or five strong saves. He’s started a nifty little streak by earning a second yellow card in as many matches; perhaps a little feistiness would be welcome from the otherwise laconic Pole…
- Subs (Monreal at 87′, Podolski at 82′). NA. They were on. They didn’t do much. The whistle blew. They walked off. That’s all there is to be said.
A great result that should almost certainly confirm that we’ll advance to the group stage, let’s hope that this also encourages a few players of a certain caliber to look more closely at joining the squad. The 30m the current lot have all but earned can go a long way towards that very goal. Onwards, then. Fulham awaits!