Arsenal 1 Udinese 0: Nervy but good enough

With subsequent bans for van Persie, Nasri and Wenger, a team that showed lack of creativity was to be deficient again with the new club captain missing out after Massimo Busacca’s antics in March. I predicted a lineup that had a 90.9% match with the starting XI yesterday. Rosicky was deemed fit enough to play so he was deployed in the attacking midfield role.

Everybody expected another dull encounter like the one that was witnessed three days ago but Arsenal got off to a flyer after Walcott was on the end of a delightful team move. Chamakh and Sagna connected well before he chipped it in for Ramsey. I wrote in yesterday’s post that the burden of creativity was to be rested on Ramsey’s able shoulders and he lived up to the bidding yesterday with a superb assist for Walcott.

With just 4 minutes gone, Ramsey got on the end of Sagna’s chipped pass, opened his eyes to see an onrushing Walcott before drilling a perfectly weighted ball for the winger who wasted no time in smashing the ball home. The relief around the Emirates was evident with the fans roaring in celebration. Walcott even had the time to perform a golf-like celebration because he decided to swing the air with both hands locked together.

Walcott swung in a corner from the right and Koscielny was the first to get the ball with a good header into the danger area but Gervinho and Vermaelen decided to become Shaolin masters by attempting aerial kicks for the ball at the same time but they both missed and the ball went out for a goal kick.

Udinese hit Arsenal on the break and almost had a chance to equalize but Song did well to read the danger by making a very vital interception in the box. Walcott decided to track back and fouled an Udinese player. Di Natale curled the free kick but the bar came to Szczesny’s rescue.

Walcott stung the keeper’s hand with a shot from outside the box but a Colombian chap called Armelo got the Emirates to a stand still with a lovely individual solo run that almost ended in Szczesny’s goal. The bloke received the ball in his half and started his amazing run. When faced with Ramsey, Song and Sagna close to the centre circle, he injected a burst of pace to evade the players as if they were not there. In a matter of seconds, he was one on one with Szczesny but Arsenal’s goalie made himself very big to make a wonderful save. As Szczesny parried the ball, it rolled aimlessly to another Udinese player who fired the trigger immediately but Song was on hand to make a vital interception to send the ball out for a corner.

Walcott swung in another corner but Chamakh was adjudged to have fouled the defender so a free kick was awarded to the opposing side. Udinese attacked again and a ball that was going out as a goal kick was uncharacteristically kicked back into Arsenal’s danger area by Kieran Gibbs. Di Natale fired his effort wide though.

The last highlight of the first half epitomized Arsenal’s improved defensive abilities. Vermaelen geared himself up to launch a torpedo from a free kick but his shot smashed the wall and the ball bounced straight to a Udinese player who started a counter attack. The ball took an awkward bounce and Kieran Gibbs found himself as the last man with Szczesny miles away from him. Everybody expected young Gibbs to head the ball back to Szczesny or control the ball before executing a back pass but Gibbs had other ideas. With the ball in the air and an Udinese player charging at Gibbs, the left back intelligently nodded the ball back into Udinese’s half despite his body facing Szczesny’s goal. Sagna got the ball and did the rest.

At halftime it was 1-0 to the Arsenal. A famous phrase we’ve gotten used to with time.

At the start of the second half, Johan Djourou was stripped and ready for action. His hairstyle was a mess though but he was sent into the pitch to replace Kieran Gibbs and I learnt that Mr. Gibbsy had suffered a hamstring injury. A familiar story for Arsenal’s injury-plagued full back. Captain Vermaelen moved to the left hand side and the Arsenal fans witnessed the famous ‘Djourcielny’ combination at the heart of the defense.

With everything going on well at the back for Arsenal, Koscielny went to activate Clichy’s famous Self Destruct chip and almost undid all the good work he had done on the pitch with a poor pass to an Udinese player who wasted no time in launching an attack that would have paid dividends for them if not for the anticipation skills of Djourou. Szczesny had it covered though.

That was Djourou’s last contribution in the match because he was substituted after just 9 minutes for new signing Carl Jenkinson. His versatility ensured that he was drafted into the left back position while Vermaelen went back to his favored centre back position to continue his amazing partnership with Kos100%tackle.

Udinese threatened twice with weak efforts but Ramsey showed again why Fabregas has labeled him as Arsenal’s next star with a delightful defense splitting pass that went straight to Walcott’s feet but the finish was the A in atrocious. Rosicky also had another chance at the edge of the box with the ball on his left side but he tried a Quaresma-like shot with the outside of his right boot and the effort went over the bar.

That was TR7’s last act on the pitch because he was substituted shortly for another Champions League debutant, Emmanuel Frimpong. Nicklas Bendtner was shown warming up so Frimpong’s entry meant that B52 still has a chance of playing Champions League football in his potential new club.

Frimpong was eager to make his mark in the game and he made it because he was the culprit that gave away two fouls in quick succession. The first was high up in the midfield and the second was on the edge of Arsenal’s 18-yard box. Di Natale curled a lovely free kick that was destined for the net but Szczesny made another unbelievable save cementing his status as Arsenal’s number 1. Fabianski will have to wait for him to get injured before he can have a chance at Arsenal’s goal but I believe that he’s going to be Arsenal’s Cup keeper.

Walcott fed Gervinho who dribbled past three players before winning a corner. Ramsey showed some great work before supplying Gervinho with another good pass. The defender played the ball on the ivorian to win a free kick but he caught the player on the follow up although I feel that Gervinho fell inside the box again thanks to the ‘Eboue effect’

Gervinho would have created the assist of the match after evading four players to pass the ball to a Walcott that was free inside the box. The Englishman fired the ball first time but Udinese’s goalie made a top drawer save to leave the tie at 1-0.

At the sound of the ref’s whistle, the banned Wenger breathed a sigh of relief as his boys held the fort in a very nervy performance.

Gooner Daily ratings

Szczesny (8.0) made top quality saves to keep his second clean sheet in a row.

Gibbs (7.0) had a very good first half but injury took its toll on the youngster again.

Sagna (7.0) was very combative down the right and anticipated the ball very well.

Vermaelen (6.5) and his partner Koscielny (6.5) had very good nights at the office.

Song (7.0) mopped up very well and protected his back four admirably.

Ramsey (8.0) put up a great show in midfield and supplied the assist for the only goal of the game.
Rosicky (5.5) had another disappointing outing and is presently a cause for concern.

Gervinho (7.5) was very direct with his running and switched flanks with consummate ease.

Walcott (7.0) had a well-taken goal but spurned a lot of chances to increase the score line.

Chamakh (3.0) was very appalling yesterday. I’m now in the opinion that Carlos Vela or NB52 should be drafted in as rVp’s replacement because Chamakh can’t be banked upon at the moment.

Jenkinson (6.5) had a decent outing on his Champions League debut. I still feel that he’s too tall to be a full back but that’s his calling.

Frimpong (6.5) was very aggressive in midfield and surprised everyone with his burst of pace on the left hand side.

Djourou didn’t stay long enough to get a rating.

With a score line as precarious as Arsenal’s slender 1-0 victory against Udinese, the Gunners have it all to do when the visit Frulli next week Wednesday. At least the club will have the services of rVp, Nasri and Wilshere as well as Wenger on the sidelines so it’s going to be a feisty affair.

However, all eyes should be turned to this weekend’s lunch time fixture against Liverpool. At least, there’ll be no Farmer Eboue to foul Lucas Leiva in the 101st minute. 🙂

The tweet of the day goes to @msnarun

“@msnarun: Except for missing out Rosicky in the team, u got the rest 10 correct! Fabregas said he would watch the game tonight but his tweets told that he was practising for the supercup and was going to sleep!”

So much for the ….”Best of luck tonight, I’ll be watching as usual.”

Fabregas, you sly fox.


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Posted on August 17, 2011, in Arsenal, Champions League, Match Report and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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