Arsenal 1-0 Udinese

ArsenalSzczesny. Sagna. Koscielny. Vermaelen. Gibbs (Djourou 45, Jenkinson 55). Song. Ramsey. Walcott. Rosicky (Frimpong 72). Gervinho. Chamakh. Subs not used: Fabianski. Oxlade-Chambrlain. Arshavin. Bendtner.

Goal: Walcott 4 mins

Udinese – Handanovic. Ekstrand. Benatia. Danilo. Neuton (Pasquale 58). Isla. Ageyman-Badu. Asamoah. Armero. Di Natale. Prinzi (Abdi 88). Subs not used: Belardi. Denis. Vydra. Doubai, Fabbrini

Well it was a win, I guess that is the most important aspect of last nights Champions League qualifying match against Udinese. And if you are looking for further positives, we kept a clean sheet (That’s two in two) but in truth that is about as good as it gets this morning.

There was a good atmosphere around the ground at the start of the game, despite the multitude of late arrivals & empty seats, a real sense that supporters were going to get behind the team. In fact two of the biggest cheers had come during the announcement of the Arsenal substitutes, OAC got a decent ‘welcome to the Arsenal’ reception but it was the announcement of Nicklas Bendtner which received a fantastic response. I’m slightly concerned that many of those celebrating the big Dane’s place on the bench are those who have previously criticised his very existence but have now turned their ire onto Marouane Chamakh who, to be honest with you, deserves that criticism more than Nick ever has – but more of that shortly.

Goal scorer Theo Walcott

There was a terrific tempo straight from the kick off and there was a real sense that Arsenal were in the mood to put the Italians to the sword and the tie to bed before the return leg next week and after just four minutes Theo put us in front.

I’m pretty much going to end my match report there, because after that nothing ever really happened. Yeah the first half continued to be entertaining and we certainly produced some decent football for the most part but the longer the half went on the more the Italians came at us, Di Natale was the catalyst and orchestrater of much of it, and the more we started to panic like a man who has allowed John Terry to give his wife a lift to the shops. Don’t get me wrong we didn’t just sit back and soak up waves of Italian pressure, we we’re getting forward just as much as they were but just like Saturday our decision making and clinicalness in the final third was approaching pathetic.

Don't Panic

Gervinho needs that first goal, he takes players on & gets into the box but then seems to panic like a rabbit in headlights and the ball gets stuck in his feet, he doesn’t lay it off quickly enough or seem to know which option to take. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way criticising the Ivorian or judging him so early into his Arsenal career. I’ve no doubt he’ll be a fantastic player for us and at times he looks mustard, but in the two competitive games he has played so far it’s in front of goal that he has wilted a little and needs to find that composure. Maybe he is trying too hard to make something happen, but it’ll come & hopefully soon.

Similarly Theo Walcott seemed to suffer the same issues. There were moments last night when he was taking the game by the scruff of the neck, battling hard for the ball & to win back possession and to create openings. He took his goal well and showed glimpses of his ability to play up front. But at other times he was just too toothless. He had two great chances in the second half, both set up by Aaron Ramsey, to extend our lead and in both instances he fluffed his lines. One shot he attempted to place in the top left hand corner, a la Henry, when he should have just put his laces through it. Another was hit with all the power of a wet sponge. Again, this isn’t a criticism & like Gervinho I’m sure it’ll come good but right now, and this season as a whole, we can ill afford dress rehearsals. The time for that has passed.

Three players who stayed switched on all night were Szczesny, Koscielny & Vermaelan. They are the holy trinity and foundation of which we need to build upon.

Number 1!

Chezzer has such a presence about him, he commands that area like a storm trooper on coke and seems utterly fearless of anything coming his way. His attitude since the CC Final has been tremendous and is in stark contrast to the response of our other GK’s when they’ve been involved in similar situations. The young Pole won’t be phased by anyone or anything and I think that, without getting too carried away, he could go on to be held in the same regard as the likes of David Seaman. As Jamie Dalton said last night, if De Gae is worth £18m how much would Szczesny go for?

Koscielny just continues to grow as does his partnership with Tommy Vermaelan. There is no doubt that we should be looking to bring in another experienced centre half, like Cahill, but if we do I don’t think it should be at the expense of this partnership (Maybe that is why Wenger is unwilling to splash £17m on a player who would mainly be sat on the bench?). The two complement each other so well and as with the keeper I don’t want to get carried away but this could be the defensive pairing we have been lacking recently?

The pairing was briefly broken up last night as Kieran Gibbs was replaced by Johan Djourou at half time, I’m not sure if that substitution was due to an injury to the left back or something to do with the bloke sat in front of me who, upon hearing the half time whistle, announced to all around him that neither Gibbs nor Aaron Ramsey should ever be allowed to play for Arsenal again. I’m guessing that given Gibbs injury record & this idiots obviously limited knowledge of football that it was the former.

Djourou slotted in beside Koscielny, as he did for the majority of last season, and Thomas Vermaelen moved across to the left back berth. That is a situation we have been praying we wouldn’t find ourselves in after the departure of Gael Clichy & with Armand Traore having picked up an injury in the reserves win over United on Monday night there is a fear we could see it more often. Johan Djourou obviously sensing the fans fears & disappointment got himself injured after just ten minutes of coming on and was himself replaced by Carl Jenkinson who made his Champions League debut ( A meteoric rise for a player who was playing non league football at Eastbourne at Christmas)

TV switched back to centre half & Jenks, who is a right back by trade, slotted into the left back position. Without criticising the youngster it is obviously not his best position and we can ill afford the make do & mend option of playing him there if the injuries to Traore & Gibbs keep them out of up coming games.

Great expectations

In my opinion it was the midfield, and Marouane Chamakh, that really lacked any real inspiration & drive. We really missed the industry of Jack Wilshere, as we did up in Newcastle, and to be honest it’s actually a bit of a worry that we’re now almost reliant on a young lad who has only had one full season of first team football. Even if that was an impressive season. Tomas Rosicky is a player I have a lot of time for, unlike many I don’t think he should be shipped out but neither do I think he should be an automatic starter. He is a good squad player nowadays & a great guy to have around the squad but some of that guile and inspiration that he had before his long-term absence seems to have left him which is so disappointing. He certainly tried last night, but it just seemed to me that he was too indecisive when he found himself with the ball at his feet, maybe it was the movement & positioning of others, but he never seemed to just lay the ball off and move. He was always stopping, turning and taking any pace out of a move & allowing an Italian to nip in and nick the ball.

Aaron Ramsey is maybe suffering a little of that expectation that is being directed in Jack’s direction. He had a decent game last night but he shouldn’t be taking the burden of those who are injured, suspended, sulking or departed.

So in the end we clung onto our 1-0 win and that isn’t the worst result to be taking to Italy next Wednesday, where we’ll have our new captain Robin Van Persie back from suspension and hopefully a fully fit Jack Wilshere plus a couple of new faces (oh the hollow refuge of hope, it’s like an old friend)

Off the pace

What we certainly don’t need to be seeing is the toothlessness of Chamakh. As Dave said last night, he did what he had to do off the ball for the most part (in the first half at least) and maybe you could argue he didn’t get much in return for that but lets be honest, since Christmas he has been as much use as a chocolate fireguard. A new striker is as imperative as a centre half & a creative midfielder in my opinion.

It’s too early to tell but we could be going into the game against Liverpool on Saturday incredibly light on players. I can’t remember our squad ever being so thin under Wenger, maybe if everyone was fully fit and firing on all cylinders it would look a little more padded out but what are the chances of that happening anytime soon.

I’m glad that, a few solitary voices aside, we didn’t hear any of the ‘Spend some Fucking money’ chants last night, but that doesn’t change the fact that we need to. Or rather Arsene does.

Sshhh no talking

Speaking of the gaffer, he has managed to get himself embroiled in a falling out with UEFA. Banished from having any direct contact with his team last night & forced to watch the game from club level due to his audacity at questioning officials, Wenger claimed that he had come to an agreement with a UEFA official prior to the match that he could speak to Boro Primorac & that Boro could pass details/directions onto a member of staff who could then pass the info onto Pat Rice.

Apparently UEFA didn’t take kindly to this and at half time informed the pair that this could not continue. As a response to this Wenger refused to give any post match interviews and will now most likely find himself in further hot water with the European governing body. We’ll have to await the outcome of that one but you can bet your life that when the Frenchman gives his views on the situation they’ll be non complimentary.

So now the focus is on Liverpool, as I said, right now the squad is looking depleted and it’s hard to imagine what side we’ll be putting out against them. Two player who won’t be involved are Emmanuel Eboue & Carlos Vela, the former completed his switch to Galatasaray yesterday & the later has gone on a season long loan to Real Sociedad.

It’s also highly unlikely that we’ll see Samir Nasri in the red & white of The Arsenal in that or any other game. There were suggestions yesterday that he had claimed via Facebook that he would soon complete a move away from the club. The player himself has moved to distance himself from any accreditation to the page on the social network via Twitter but many of the papers are claiming it is a genuine account & thus genuine quotes from the Frenchman.

Who knows either way, but as this continues it looks ever more likely that he’ll soon depart the club. It’s a move we need sorted sooner rather than later.

So that is that for today, sorry this post has come a little later than usual but the people who pay my wages seem to think I should give their wants & needs first priority.

Thanks for reading.



One Response to Arsenal 1-0 Udinese

  1. Pingback: Banking the Sheikh’s money « Up The Arsenal

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