Thursday, 25 August 2011

Udinese review -Vermaelen's injury scare -New M'Vila bid -Arteta on radar?

Morning Gooners.

Well that was a relief wasn't it? We're through to the group stages of the Champions League and it feels great we won't be spending Thursday nights watching football. We can leave that to those lot down the road.

For me the turning point in the game was Wojciech Szczesny's penalty save. It was massive. Had that strike gone in, we would have been in for some nervous moments in the last 30 minutes of the game. To be fair to them Udinese gave us a good game and probably deserve to play in the Champions League proper. They play some nice football, attacking football with pace, which is rare for an Italian side.

But there could be just one team to progress, despite the rumours Arsenal would go through before the game no matter the result because of Fenerbahce's withdrawal. However the team didn't take any chances and progressed with a 3-1 aggregate win.

Arsene Wenger handed Champions League debuts to Carl Jenkinson and Emmanuel Frimpong as the manager looked to contain the Gunner's advantage. The first 45 minutes were pretty frantic with end to end attacking. However the Arsenal defence stood firm with Bacary Sagna switching to left back and Jenkinson playing in his preferred position.

Frimpong and Song played in front of the defence and would have been the perfect shield had the Cameroon international not strayed from his position. Song joined in the attack far too often for my liking, leaving the 19-year-old exposed. Frimpong - who was yesterday called up by the England under-21s - was forced into making some crunching tackles, most of which were fair, but you could see he could be left walking a disciplinary tight rope if he were booked.

Arsenal had plenty of early possession and should have taken their chances in front of goal. Theo Walcott and Gervinho wasted some good chances. It was the Italians though who found the net first though.

They attacked down the centre and our marking was poor. Di Natale pulling off Johan Djourou's shoulder to gain the extra yard and his looping header went over Szczesny's head into the net.

At half time it was all square and Arsene Wenger is the first  to blink and makes an attacking change with Tomas Rosicky brought on for Frimpong. It was harsh on the teenager but Arsenal needed an away goal and the Czech international provided us with some midfield guile we lacked.

And Rosicky was involved with the equalizer on the night. Gervinho found space on the left and dribbled his way into the box and beat his man to the byline. His cross was dummied by the Czech and found van Persie on the edge of the six yard box to drive the ball home. Arsenal had the vital away goal.

However the lead was not to last and three minutes later the Italians had the ball on the penalty spot after the assistant referee spotted  that the ball had hit Thomas Vermaelen's hand from a corner. It looked more ball to hand than hand to ball from the replays but the referee gave the home team a lifeline.

Di Natale stepped up to take the spot kick and powered the ball to Szczesny's right. The keeper went the right way and managed to get a hand onto the ball and deflect the shot over the cross bar. A world class save from a goal keeper who is growing into his role by the second. That save was pivotal to the game. Had the Italian's scored it would have left Arsenal facing a tricky remaining 30 minutes.

Instead it allowed us the freedom to attack and ten minutes after Szczesny's stunning save, Theo Walcott put the tie beyond doubt. He powered passed his man on the left and beat the keeper at his near post to seal Arsenal's place in the group stages of the Champions League.

Although there were 20 minutes still remaining, you couldn't see Arsenal gifting the Italians anything. And as the final whistle blew, you could hear the Away Fans in fine voice. The traveling Gooners were the side's 12 man and did us all proud.

Afterwards Arsene Wenger said
"It was a massive game for us. I heard it enough yesterday in the press conferences to be convinced of it. We responded in a very positive way, even after being down 1-0.  
"We had a fantastic second half and created chance after chance. I am very happy because we kept our composure when we were down 1-0. We kept dominating and playing the football we want to play."

The Gunners go into this afternoons draw for the group stages in pot one.

There was worrying news post match when Arsene Wenger told Canel Plus that Thomas Vermaelen was struggling for Sunday's game with Manchester United. Hopefully he'll be fit and we'll find out more at Wenger's press conference on Friday.

The manager and Ivan Gazidis now have until midday on Friday to sign players who will be eligible for Sunday's match at Old Trafford. Now our position in the group stages is confirmed, we've got to go out and  sign the players we need to compete for the rest of the season.

Winning last night's match with a threadbare squad is not an excuse not to spend. We need reinforcements to complement the young players we've already signed this summer. And we have the money. There is nothing stopping the manager from signing new players.

The Guardian report this morning we've made an improved offer to Rennes for midfielder Yann M'Vila, in the region of £22m. The Daily Star throw the name of Everton's Mikel Arteta into the mix.

Finally for now, Samir Nasri completed his move to Manchester City and has left with a parting shot aimed at all Gooners. If you didn't believe what the away fans were singing at Newcastle was true before, I think we can be left in no doubt about it now.




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