Arsenal Progress Is Business As Usual
Champions League 4th Qualifying Round, 2nd Leg
Udinese Calcio 1 – 2 Arsenal
1 – 0 di Natale (39)
1 – 1 van Persie (55)
1 – 2 Walcott (69)
Szczesny world class penalty save (57)
If this was a season defining match, the season is defined as business as usual.
Arsenal overcame the negative headlines beforehand and destroyed a million tabloid layouts by winning in northern Italy to qualify for the Champions League for the fourteenth consecutive season. Afterwards Arsène resisted the temptation to stick out his tongue and shout, “Ner-ne-ner-ne-ner” to his detractors, settling for his sardines and trawlers moment by bringing up a pilot analogy.
In all seriousness, this was a much needed victory, hard fought for a match that Arsenal were largely comfortable in. Udinese threatened as they had done in the first leg, Arsenal exploited their hosts defensive weaknesses in equal measure. If Arsenal had the woodwork and Wojciech Szczesny to thank for the scores being level until close to half-time, the Italians had Samir Handanovic to be grateful to as well, the Slovenian goalkeeper producing a brace of double saves from close range that would have led to a more emphatic scoreline at the final whistle.
Despite the win, Wenger and Robin van Persie spoke of their desire for new signings in their post-match interviews. The manager gave no promises about newcomers arriving before the weekend, other than it was his desire to strengthen his squad before the window closes. Given the zealousness with which his critics were hammering his players, it is naive to believe that there will be any less relentlessness before the weekend. Reason has gone out of the window as far as this squad is concerned, too many happy to criticise.
We know that they could do with a newcomer or two to strengthen but they could do with support as well, especially since this season has seen them fight harder for each other than anything in the two previous.
From the kick-off, both sides were determined that this match be finished within 90 minutes. Samir Nasri moaned that Arsenal fans lost the passion in the move to The Emirates; it was a two-way street with more passion being displayed by the midfield in one performance this evening than Nasri has managed in the whole of 2011 wearing an Arsenal shirt. Can’t wait for Manchester City to visit The Emirates this season although Nasri will probably show his customary lack of bottle and not show up.
Emmanuel Frimpong snapped into tackles, hassled and harried during the first half, with Alex Song providing a defensive partnership which stifled Udinese attacks in the first half. When more guile was needed to gain the equaliser, Tomas Rosicky was on hand to give a cameo performance that served as a reminder as to why Arsène prised him from Borussia Dortmund in the first place.
In the back four, Carl Jenkinson served notice of the potential with a solid performance at right back whilst Bacary Sagna sat comfortably on the wrong side of the pitch whilst in the middle Vermaelen and Djourou were kept busy by the once more lively di Natale. The Italians leading scorer found a formidable opponent in Szczesny. And when the young Pole was beaten, the battle became between di Natale and the woodwork, the score even at the end, one in-off, one bounced out.
It was a similar score with Szczesny, a looping header found the net in the first half as Udinese made their pressure pay. Pinzi’s pass begged for the finish it got as di Natale found the space to deliver a blow just before half-time. Szczesny would have his revenge in the second half. As Handanovic had done in the first, producing an outstanding double save immediately after the opening goal, Szczesny produced an outstanding penalty save when the referee displayed as much incompetence as Massimo Busacca. The softest of handballs, a well-struck spot kick and an outstretched palm to turn it over the bar. As the ball span onto the top of the net, you could sense the belief drain from the Italian team.
If Theo Walcott wants to play centrally, he would have learned a lot from the more experienced Udinese player. Too often Walcott found himself shooting from distance, his craft a homage to Thierry Henry with sidefooted shots Theo’s forte. Too often they were comfortable for Handanovic to save, parry and generally gather.
Even so, Walcott pounced fifteen minutes after his captain had volleyed home from the impressive Gervinho’s cross. Walcott’s finish was more definitive when Sagna sent him clear, Handanovic comprehensively beaten.
To the chagrin of many, the draw for the Champions League will feature Arsenal, pot one, a seeded team. Sunday is another day. Today is about yesterday. Lets enjoy looking back before looking forward.
Posted on August 25, 2011, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Transfer Gossip. Bookmark the permalink. 345 Comments.