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Arsenal 1-0 Udinese: Analysis

Wednesday 17th August 2011
In a nerve-wracking, close Champions League Qualifier, Arsenal narrowly beat Udinese 1-0, thanks to an early goal from Theo Walcott. While the result gives Arsenal the advantage in the tie, the narrow margin of victory leaves the London side with plenty of work to do in the second leg.

After a bright start, Arsenal were certainly riding their luck in the second half. With Udinese still in their pre-season, many expected them to tire out come the second forty-five, but that wasn't the case and they were a real threat, showcasing that they could cause real problems for Arsenal when they  head to the Stadio Friuli next week. The Italian side will certainly feel confident of overturning the one goal deficit at home.

The main positive Arsenal fans can take from the game was the superb performance of Aaron Ramsey. With Cesc Fabregas leaving, the young Welshman is now the main playmaker in the Arsenal centre, but the ex-Cardiff player put in an assured performance, controlling the midfield, showing a great eye for a pass and picking up an assist with a good cross for Walcott. More performances like this and Arsenal fans will soon be thinking, Cesc who?

While the game had some other positives, including the performance of  Wojciech Szczesny, for many the night will just flag up the many negatives surrounding the current Arsenal side at the moment. This is mainly the case in defence, with the game highlighting for everyone to see the real lack of strength in depth the squad has defensively.

Not replacing Gael Clichy means they only have the very injury-prone Kieran Gibbs at left back. When he limped off at half time, it meant the team's best centre back Thomas Vermaelen had to move out wide, which further underlines Arsenal's need for a new centre back or two.

And then nine minutes later when Gibbs' replacement Johan Djourou also limped off, the totally inexperienced Carl Jenkinson was thrust in for a tough Gunners debut, though the ex-Charlton man performed impressively, especially as he was playing non-league football only eight months ago.

As well as proving their lack of depth at the back, the game also proved the team has problems up front as well. While Walcott and Gervinho both showed real energy and threat, the same can't be said for Marouane Chamakh. He gave his best Andrey Arshavin impression, just lumbering around showing minimal effort, in fact the Moroccan even makes Nicklas Bendtner look like a quality centre forward. With only a one goal lead to take to Italy, the team will need to score goals out there and when Robin Van Persie is missing, the team lacks edge up top.

With Van Persie suspended and now Jack Wilshere, Gibbs and Djourou holding niggly injuries, the Arsenal team is on its bare bones as it heads into a huge twelve day spell, with Liverpool at home followed by the crunch second leg at Udinese, then the small matter of a trip to Old Trafford.
Simon Paice

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