I hate to say I told you so, but I fucking told you so. In yesterday’s preview I stated that the team would have enough to win on the night but not make it simple and that is exactly what happened.
The match started and within 20 seconds we saw the attacking threat of the hosts. Despite that there was a clear determination to be positive, to ensure they are the attacking threat and boy did they try. In contrast to the first game they saw a lot more of the ball and a lot of it was in the oppositions half as well. Despite that there was a significant threat from Udinese on the break and this was apparent more than ever just before the break. Unfortunately Frimpong did not close down quick enough and a great ball was played into the clinical De Natalia, who finished in some style.
This prompted us to continue our assault and the persistence paid off when Van Persie converted shortly after the break from some fantastic work from Gervinho. It was some great work and one of the few times he managed to get some end product was ably supported by the predator that is Van Persie. Just when you thought it would be simple, Udinese got a very generous penalty but Sczeczny pulled a rabbit out of a hat. It was a truly phenomenal save and one which I feel may have settled the tie.
If that didn’t then surely Walcott’s superb run and finish settled the tie and ensured any embarrassment was spared. We are in the Champions League, but was there any doubt? Sure there was but I’ll be smug as fuck anyway… You know why? Because I’ve had precious little to celebrate in recent memory regarding Arsenal so I shall be happy and I shall boast and I shall emphasise my utter faith that this was the natural outcome.
That is until I realise that despite a fantastic result and performance it was not faultless and it certainly wasn’t against the well oiled machine that is Manchester United. Then comes the sinking feeling that we have lost our best players on top of the fact that no replacements are forthcoming and we are again looking at a very scary prospect.
In all honesty I didn’t doubt that we would qualify for the Champions League but the build up by ITV outdid all their pathetic work in the past. They couldn’t have made our situation out to be any worse if they tried. Hold on, wait. What am I saying? They did try, and for once ITV succeeded.
So with the positives:
Theo Walcott: He was immense. I am one of his biggest critics. I have doubted his technical ability on many occasion but I have to say I was proven wrong on this occasion and hopefully many others; his first touch looked assured and his movement was second to none. He caused them all sorts of problems and despite a big miss was a real positive.
Gervinho: Again looked very threatening and got in behind the defence a few times. His final ball looks suspect at times as does his decision making but as he gets in behind so many times, a final ball success as low as his is still successful when compared to other players.
Vermaelan/Sczeczny/Sagna: Again they all looked world class and in most cases the whole defence did. The only times they were caught out I felt was generally down to the holding pair not working together in tandem. This is natural as they haven’t played together too much but there was too much space in the hole between defence and midfield which resulted in a goal.
Champions League Proper: We have maintained our status as a Champions League club and that is imperative. If only to attract the type of player we need to ensure this continues.
I sincerely hope this is now the case and before long you shall see the wealth of talent that has been linked with us unveiled. I genuinely would love to see some of these players at the club, particularly a player in the mould of Hazard. Whilst my preference is Moutinho, I suspect that won’t happen for whatever reason causes us to not go for any of the world class players we should. Either way, now is the time to move forward, we have ensured that the CL funding is there and as such we must assert our presence in the league as a force by ensuring top quality has been bought in and ideally before the crucial fixture at Old Trafford at that.
I suspect this game will be very different to recent fixtures between the two sides. I would imagine the recent caution shown by Ferguson in these ties will be replaced by a ruthless attempt to take advantage of our current predicament. We still have an injury crisis and unfortunately for us it is in perhaps the most important part of the park, right in the middle of it. So whilst it may be easy to get carried away and talk about how we have fought away our demons, it is abundantly clear, we are unfortunately very short of creativity. What could be worse for the most creative team in the Premiership? Another 10 injuries I suppose but not much else. So we do go into this game with a tag of underdogs and having watched United I am a little worried. More than usual for this fixture, but that is not to say we cannot win. There are always upsets and it is possible we may win and deserve it but without some major investment, ideally before registration on Friday this will be a difficulty beyond the task we have just passed.
With that said, transfer news for the day has seen us linked to Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila again as well as Kaka and a host of equally unlikely targets. Unfortunately for us, we will probably be the last ones to find out about any deal so speculating is on the whole pointless. It is said though, that the Kaka loan deal is off and it would need to be permanent which I would say pretty much rules us out due to the risk with that transfer. It was fun while it lasted, eh?
In other news, it was interesting to see the comments by Robin Van Persie post match last night. He heaped the pressure on the manager with his comments regarding transfers and that may not be the ideal role of a captain but it is certainly interesting to note. Especially considering the rumours of a “disagreement” between the two regarding transfer plans and whilst it is easy to give those claims credence after his comments, it could well be coincidence and require lots of speculation.
He essentially contradicted the manager and declared his hope that we purchase some top quality given the level of funds we have available to us. Wenger on the other hand was understandably more subdued. He mentioned that although he is trying, he cannot give us any news. That is not to say there are no transfers forthcoming as ITV would have you believe, just he does not want to falsely raise hopes given the current mood. Either way you would hope there will be a very concerted effort to improve things with regard to personnel. Just as important is that it is done before the weekend as we need all the help we can get at the moment. But unfortunately that is all we can do, hope.
With that I shall leave you to enjoy the day.
Also a big happy birthday to Chetan Sharma, have a good one.