Udinese thoughts: Pride, Passion and Pace. Lots of pace.

The Champions League Trophy

Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

In the run up to this game, I’d have been lying if I’d said I wasn’t worried.  When I saw the XI we’d be fielding, those concerns only grew.  I was sat in an Irish bar in Italy, far removed from the constant team news bulletins and probable line-ups I’m accustomed to.  As I watched the team emerge from the tunnel, I saw their faces: youthful, raw, and understandably anxious.  Six months ago, Carl Jenkinson was playing conference football.  This was Emmanuel Frimpong’s second senior start.  And here they were, in the preliminary stages of the world’s greatest club competition: the Champions League.

I was nervous, but I was a mere TV viewer; not even in the stadium in the stadium to lend my support.  These lads were right in the firing line, directly responsible for securing the cash and cachet that Champions League football begins.  By the end of the night, their furrowed brows had turned to smiles, and my panic to pride.

It’s not just Frimpong and Jenkinson.  Compared to some others, their contribution was modest.  To a man, they stepped up and responded brilliantly, providing a reprieve for a manager and a club who have been struck by blow after blow in recent weeks.

You all know the result by now, and how it came about, so I don’t need to dwell on the detail of the game.  I’m sure we were all fearful when Di Natale’s header looped beyond Szczesny and in to the net, drawing Udinese level, but the fact remained that a single Arsenal goal would leave the Italians needing three.

When that goal eventually came, it was no surprise that Gervinho was the creator.  I thought the Ivorian was superb.  His movement, speed, and ability to dart in from either the right or left make him a nightmare to mark, whilst his close control means he’ll win plenty of penalties over the coming months.  We saw all this against Newcastle, but against Udinese we saw something else: end product.  Driving in from the left, he dragged the ball beyond a defender, accelerated to the byline, and cut it back for the waiting Van Persie to sidefoot home.

That should have been that, but Arsenal being Arsenal, we almost found a way to throw it away.  A very debatable penalty was awarded for a supposed handball by Thomas Vermaelen, and it required a quite stunning save from Szczesny to deny Di Natale a goal that could have transformed the tie.

As it was, Arsenal ended up putting the seal on the victory in style.  Bacary Sagna, whose solidity in the unfamiliar role of left-back is just another exhibit in the growing list of evidence that he’s one of Arsene’s best ever signings, played in Theo Walcott, who scooted beyond the defence and finished confidently in to the near post.

Walcott and Gervinho were ultimately too much for Udinese to cope with.  The summer additions of Gervinho, Chamberlain, Ryo and Campbell suggested Arsene was keen to provide an objection of pace, and these two provided that in spades.  They also allowed us to recapture what was one a crucial component of our game: the lightening counter-attack.

There were other impressive showings: Sczcesny was commanding, Vermaelen committed, and Tomas Rosicky put in a brilliant second-half shift as a ball-winning midfielder.

Congratulations to this group of players for triumphing in the face of adversity.  With their backs to the wall, a mishmash team pulled the manager out of an ominous hole.  I hope he’s wise enough to know they won’t be able to do so every week – either domestically or in Europe, where we find ourselves in a challenging group with Marseille, Olympiakos, and Dortmund.  These are good, committed players.  But to flourish, they need reinforcements.  With Champions League football in the bag, we should have both the means and the might to lure them.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.


  1. Savage   •  

    I think we underestimated Gervinho’s pivotal role in a title-winning team last season. It may be “just” the French league, but it’s produced players like Essien, Drogba, Pires, Benzema.

    The key to our title charge this season will be signing a creative midfielder that can read the runs of our cheetahs. Maybe that’s Jack, but two of them can’t be a bad thing!

  2. caveat emptor   •  

    “That should have been that, but Arsenal being Arsenal, we almost found a way to throw it away. A very debatable penalty was awarded for a supposed handball by Thomas Vermaelen…”

    Seems unfair and inconsistent to blame Arsenal, especially when you agree it was a phantom penalty. Are you sure you are not succumbing to stereotypes?

  3. ne   •  

    anyone notice, the front 3 keep on exchanging position???..Gervinho is quite fast in moving position, follow by RVP second and slow exchange for theo (maybe becoz he just started). I hope these continue, it can gave both 3 of them the opportunity to play in the middle once a while and giving new treat to the opposition defend with different player coming in a different way. I hope these continue even with the subs are in, we have been static there before and doing so easy for opponent to read our movement, base on the player particular treat. By exchanging position it give the player an idea on which player will attack that side base on the defender at present, either by pace, skill direct run or goalpost behind with pace and skill.
    I like the idea with playing both song and frimpong together, but position must be sort out on whose gonna defend on whose going further upfront a bit. I take frimpong to do that job or jack. But for jack it would waste his creative talent, frimpong have the pace and stamina to track down and move forward.

  4. chris   •  

    Sorry, but I thought Sagna was all at sea for most of the first half.

    • santori   •  

      I agree.

      Whilst many may conveniently castigate Djourou for not marking Di Natale better for the Udinese goal, one has to remember that Agan (not through lack of effort) was extremely uncomfortable all match and that the penetration for Udinese was from that flank. Sagna was consistently skinned leaving us exposed on that flank.

      This begs the question (particularly with this weekend coming up) whether it may be better to play the natural LB in Traore or Sagna.

      That Wenger opted for the latter may suggest either that Traore is not 100% or that he still finds him cuplpable.

      Therefore do we not need another LB?

  5. Andy   •  

    I agree with ‘NE’ on the front three thing. Everyone that screams Theo to go central gets this in a more intelligent way when he runs through the centre whilst exchanging positions with RVP. We also get his pace out wide, so all he needs is a better final ball then he will be priceless! :D

    • santori   •  

      THis has always been the case with Arsharvin and Nasri.

      Albeit Arsharvin normally goes into the middle where as Nasri could switch wide left and RVP drift out right.

      It works well if we get it right but if we don’t, it leads to confusion.

      More interesting was the way the mids made runs out wide to afford space for our wingers to penetrate down the middle.

  6. @sunnyroy2   •  

    Staggering, how a single win (or loss) can change the mindset us fans, couldn’t move on here last week for all the Wenger haters. All gone a bit quite now, hopefully they’ll have no need to return after Sunday. You’re spot on though when you say we still need reinforcements. A defender is the main problem, if vermaelen get injured blah blah blah. I actually think the rest of the team look quite good. Gervinho, for all the lack of end product is on (I don’t have the stats in font of me) 3 assists already. Perhaps we just need a different approach rather than players.

    • santori   •  

      No. We need players. Even Wenger says so.

      1) A striker.
      2) a CM
      3) A CBack.

      Bear in mind ACN. I can’t see how we will only get one more midfielder if Wenger is planning to cover the African boys in DM.

      I would think we need 2 in midfield since we are short of a good creative player too.

      One solution would be to go for Montolivo at Fiorentina. He can play both positions plus he is wantaway with a year left on contract (and the club want to sell him anywhere but seriaA)…price fully negotiable.

  7. Get Wenger Out   •  

    I still hate Wenger. Whats the point of posting. Its groundhog day every day at Arsenal. Comical Arsene is still talking shit and still looking like a twat. Its the calm before the storm. This team and more importantly this manager is nowhere good enough

    • santori   •  

      But good enough for CL footy with an understrangth squad apparently.:D

    • santori   •  

      But apparently, good enough to play CL footy with an understrength squad.:D

      • JMIM   •  

        Lol yeah we just managed to win the Champions League Group Stage Qualification Trophy we should have sewn up last season! Plus we’ve sold Cesc and Nasri so we’ve also got the Financial Prudence Trophy! And the Self-Sustainable Model Trophy! Arsene Knows!!

  8. Wanadoo   •  

    Just watching the Super cup….

    I just don’t get it…

    Why did Cesc leave to play with Iniesta, Xavi & Messi when he could be playing with Song, Bendtner & Rosicky….


  9. gWar   •  

    just get behind the team…

  10. Goodbye, Wegs Wegregas!   •  

    I believe Arsenal will get better from now on. We have secured Champions League football, and our players have new-found confidence of getting a win.

    Do we need to buy new players?

    We’re still in 4 major tournaments, when everyone was predicting doom and gloom. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wenger decided to see what these kids can do. After the tumultuous few months since the League Cup Final, maybe it’s time to start trusting the kids instead of old hands.

  11. Wanadoo   •  

    What’s really amazing sunroy – is how we manage to beat Udinese and AKB’s are acting like we beat Barca. Don’t worry in a few weeks time – we won’t see you or the other AKB’s around – cos you’ll be too embarrassed after watching this toss.

    • santori   •  

      No, I think most here know we’ve beaten a good Udinese side, not Barca.

      OTOH what’s the point whinging when the team put up good effort. Afterall, we’ve had difficulty beating Birmingham recently. Surely this is a step in the right direction?:)

  12. Goodbye, Wegs Wegregas!   •  

    And I concur with GS. We need to show the world we have pride in the Arsenal and the Arsene Way.

    £6m for Cahill?

    ARSENE KNOWS!!!!!!

    • santori   •  

      Considering Albiol is going for 8m and Alex is at 7.5m, sounds a bout right.:)

  13. Makanaky   •  

    Oh Dear.

    AKB’s Mouthing off in September.

    One fortunate win against Udinese

    Udinese hit the bar, had a penalty saved and still scored.


    These fucktards always miss the key point:


    A flash in the pan away victory, with more misery against inferior opposition awaits Arsenal fans with a team that is not equipped to win.

    Car crash season continues at OT on Sunday.

    Make sure you tune in, no excuses will be tolerated.

    • santori   •  

      But that’s more or less a write off anyway. Anything we can get from OT in current circumstance is a bonus. And I think we may be able to get something if we set up right.

      Walcott………Rosicky (AA)………….Ryo

      * I like the idea of AA just behind RVP because he is a good distributor…but I am just not sure with his workrate (which is all important against United)

      ** Might be interesting to start Miyaichi to add work rate out left ahead of Traore (which I prefer as the natural LB, Sagna was exposed too often against Udinese)

      *** Koscielny should screen in front of the CBacks and also close to Traore.

      Stay compact, hit them hard on the break with speed.

      • santori   •  

        Besides, where’s your fight man?:D

  14. Davey B   •  

    Wenger should sign Di Natale. Forget wasting good money on a young signing striker who’s gonna take time to develop, and is gonna to take a sizable chunk from your transfer kitty.

    Di Natale could be Arsenal’s Javier Hernandez.

    • Goodbye, Wegs Wegregas!   •  

      Di Natale is cup-tied, non? I seem to remember that he played in a Champions League qualification tie.

  15. Mark   •  

    Arsenal for the TITLE! Worst scenario TOP-TWO!

    With all our new signings, we re sorted in the midfield and the defense! And after we signed our new striker, we dont need to worry now if Persie gets injured! ARSENE WENGER IS A GOD! ANYONE WHO DOUBTS OR QUESTIONS HIM SHOULD BE SHOT COZ ARSENE CAN NEVERRR BE WRONG!!!!

  16. Mark   •  

    After BEATING the ALL-MIGHTY UDINESE we ve proven all those people questioning the strength of our squad and arsene WRONG! Winning this one match against them shows the WHOLE world that we have the strongest team in the world and we dont need to add any players! Afterall the league is only abt one game! SCREW U WENGER HATERS, which obviously means arsenal haters (since they re the same thing rite? )

    ARSENE KNOWS!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. indian gunner   •  

    i think we have a very limited choice of players avaliable two of those are mertasacker and montilivio those shouldnt be expensive and are decent quality too. i dont think wenger can work with an established big player/ big money signing.

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