Archive for August 16th, 2011

Udinese Preview: One of the biggest games of Wenger’s career

583 comments August 16th, 2011

You may feel there’s a little hyperbole involved in today’s headline. I don’t.

This is a huge game, in a huge week, in a huge month for Arsene. With Cesc Fabregas’ transfer to Barcelona now finalised (you can read details of his press conference, including praise for Arsene, Jack and Ramsey here), fans will be looking for some hope to cling to. A resounding victory against Udinese would provide just that.

It would also, of course, help us towards Champions League Qualification. Should we fail to progress, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cesc money used to compensate for the financial losses incurred by not eating at Europe’s top table. If we do qualify, not only will we have money to spend, but we’ll also have the tour of Champions League football to offer potential acquisitions.

It won’t, however, be easy. Udinese finished fourth in Serie A last year. Like us, they have lost their best player to Barcelona (Alexis Sanchez), but they still have some great players, such as Antonio Di Natale, who has finished as the division’s top goalscorer for two seasons running.

Arsenal, meanwhile, go in to the game with a weakened team. Already shorn of Cesc, we lose both Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie to suspension. Tomas Rosicky also faces a fitness test, meaning their could be a huge creative burden on the trio of Arshavin, Walcott and Gervinho. Hopefully they have enough in them to carry it. There are some suggestions that Nicklas Bendtner could be included – if he is, I can only assume that’s because he is moving to a club where a Champions League cup-tie would have no cost.

Whether Nasri would’ve played tonight anyway is in some doubt. Yesterday, via twitter, he launched a stinging attack in the fans who sang abusive chants at him against Newcastle. It feels very much like a parting shot thrown as he heads out the door – if and when Nasri goes, he won’t receive anything like the fond farewell afforded to Cesc.

Nasri did join in Arsenal training yesterday, as showed us on this free video, which also revealed the startling and disturbing news that Alex Song insists on training naked from the waist down:

Each to their own, I suppose.

Perhaps it was some kind of protest against his charge from the FA. Arsenal have also decided to appeal Gervinho’s red card, which strikes me as unwise. Unfairly provoked though he was, he did commit a red card offence. Hopefully his appeal won’t see his ban extended on grounds of frivolity.

Song’s partner in silliness, Emmanuel Eboue, is about to leave the club after Galatasaray confirmed they were in talks with the player. A source close to the deal gave me an amusing footnote to this one: Eboue landed in Turkey last night, expecting to be met by the Galatasaray chief exec. Meanwhile, the CEO is landing in London, expecting to meet Eboue there. Only Eboue’s exit could occur in such comical fashion.

Arsene Wenger will not be allowed to take his place on the bench tonight due to a one-match touchline ban. Hopefully those who join him in the stands remember that the players out there in and red and White all take pride in playing for Arsenal. They want to be here, and they need your support. This is a huge test.

Come On You Gunners.

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