Udinese Challenge Makes It A Thrilling Fortnight

Newcastle (A) – Udinese (H) – Liverpool (H) – Udinese (A) – Manchester United (A)

Five games in 16 days, each with its unique degree of significance. I don’t like dramatizing the consequences of each match, especially at the start, but one gets the feeling, before the end of August Doodh ka doodh, paani ka paani ho jayega. I don’t know the perfect way of expressing that in English but – truth will out – seems succinctly appropriate in the context.

I believe starting at the venue of last season’s calamitous 4-4 draw can provide a strong impetus. The Barcodes have let two key players leave while others like Enrique and Barton don’t seem to be too happy.

After that Arsenal have the first leg of a tricky Champions League Qualifier. Udinese are an exciting team that are more than capable of springing a surprise. I would have been a lot more comfortable if it had been Twente, Zurich, or Odense but off late the Gunners seem to have developed a knack of drawing the strongest side in the draw.

This article provides some interesting details about the Italian side’s tactics and strengths. It will be interesting to see whether they still follow the 3-5-2 described in that piece or the transfers of key men like Sanchez, Inler, and Zapata forces their manager to modify his style. Assuming the guy is as good as he is rated; I won’t be surprised if he too tries to blend younger players into a system that he believes in. That should make for an exciting tactical contest.

These two games should provide a complete test for Arsenal. Udinese will be hard to break down, are dangerous on counter-attacks, have excellent free-kick takers, can cross and finish with accuracy, and will test the Gunners with balls over the top, especially second balls from set-pieces.

Di Natale will obviously be the biggest threat offensively. I have a feeling Vermaelen will struggle against his movement in and around the box. It will also be interesting to see how Koscielny deals with him.

I will try to cover this in more detail in the pre-match write-ups. For now you can enjoy these excellent, well-edited highlights from almost all their games last season on the club’s website.

Then there are games against Liverpool and United, teams that have been amongst the biggest spenders this summer. By popular logic, Arsenal should lose both games comfortably because the opponents have strengthened considerably whereas the Gunners have been indecisive and dormant in the transfer market. It might all change in the next couple of weeks but can any new arrival make a big difference in such a short period of time? I am going to watch these games to see whether Wenger and his players can get the better of popular opinion once again.

There are two home games after the visit to Newcastle and they should give us a fair indication of the vibes in the stadium. Will the Gunners have to perform this season despite the fans or will the fans finally make their presence felt on a consistently positive basis? Only time will tell, but I don’t have a good feeling about this.

Nevertheless, from a football point of view this fortnight should be a feast.

16 Responses to Udinese Challenge Makes It A Thrilling Fortnight

  1. MistaKen says:

    We are in this position because of the shocking displays against Newcastle, Spurs and the total surrender of the last few games of the season. Looking at the Emirates cup games, we don’t look any better.

    Oh well, I’ll still support the club

  2. stornoy says:

    People can say “the transfer season isn’t closed yet” Blah blah blah. I don’t care, if you go into a new season, a season BTW where we have the most demanding start in years, with this squad and no recruits, where we must gel from the very beginning. There is no excuses, it’s complete and utter incompetence.

  3. MistaKen says:

    Wish I knew why the Wenger thinks he can leave vital transfers this late. Totally baffles me. He cant really be mad can he?

  4. chengiskhan says:

    More on Udinese here in the link below. They are like the smaller-market version of Arsenal!

    http://swissramble.blogspot.com/2011/05/udinese-selling-their-way-to-top.html

  5. coob23 says:

    the thing is, if we had this fabregas deal sealed now, we could go out and buy mata, who is available at 26 million, which is what valencia have come out and said… although this isnt cheap, he’s a world class proven player which we need. also, test lille’s resistance (after selling the fat ponce for a large fee) and offer 20 mill for hazard and go up to 35, we do have that money. if only we had the deals for fab and nasri sorted early, we could be in a position to win the league without them… this has set us back and although i think we will finish 4th, we are quite a way off 1st atm… but like we all know, thick and thin motherfuckers… will always keep the faith…

  6. ok I get that man utd have strengthened significantly, but where do you get the idea that liverpool are stronger? it makes me laugh to hear people claiming liverpool are so much stronger because they spent a shit load of money. lets have a frank look at the liverpool recruits and compare themselves to our first eleven.

    does anyone who actually understands football actually believe that someone like wilshere or fabregas or even ramsery(playing with confidence he will no doubt have this season after recovering from injury) will be given a run for their money by players like connor henderson, or even charlie adams. now look charlie adams is good , but the best he could do in our midfield would be as a backup to someone like wilshere or fabregas( or even arshavin/nasri, if they played central ). As for henderson, lets not even go there.

    Lets look at stewart downing, the ONLY thing in his game is decent crosses. he is not especially speedy and skillful. Theo, while not the best crosser, has pace and is a much better finisher than before. In my book gervinho is better than downing. So pray tell me why are liverpool stronger? liverpool spent a shitload of money but they focused on the wrong areas. Their central midfield positions already had players like raul meireles, lucas leiva and well Gerrard who needs no introduction to anyone who watches the EPL. they had a decent midfield, and they got another decent midfielder( Adams) an overrated english player(Henderson), and another overrated english player(Stewart Downing). how is this strengthening?

    • pranaam says:

      I think you mean Jordan Henderson…Conor is an Arsenal player. Also Liverpool spent shit loads of money on English players coz i think they were falling short in the home grown player criteria. And yes they don’t look very strong but they got downing probably because of carrol’s ability to head the ball..but yes I don’t think Adam or Henderson or even Downing can get into Arsenal’s team…

      • sorry man, don’t know why I made that mistake. I’m a fan of connor personally, loads of potential, and I was just so exasperated by the constant media hype that liverpool and spurs will/are strenghtening, whereas we are being left behind by them, it really makes me angry. liverpool have made probably the worst value for money purchases during this transfer window, and the truth is we are still better than them, even though we only bought gervinho and carl jenkinson.

  7. el bizarron says:

    I get being frustrated with Arsenal’s lack of transfer activity. But I don’t understand where the claims of incompetence come from. I believe most transfer negotiations are not made public (rightfully so) until completed. There can be a myriad of reasons for deals not going through, not just money. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Is all this based on news reports, because a quick review of all the Arsenal headlines lead me to believe that most of that stuff just simply can’t be true. Am I wrong or naive?

  8. JJ Pittman says:

    Last season’s equivalent fixtures saw Arsenal get 2 of 9 possible points in these EPL matches. If we win at St. James, we are already ahead of that and have exorcised main demon of last season. Cup qualifiers last season saw our second string severely hamstrung by Leeds, Ipswich and Even Leyton Orient. I would suggest we use Nasri and Fabregas only in the CL qualifiers and the best of the rest against Premiership opposition.
    Btw, Cesc is on a long term contract'; we don’t have to give him away. No non-Catalan understands the socio-culturo-political aspects of this better than I, but economics will prevail until Cesc enters his play-out year where Nasri is now.
    Udinese got CL playoff spot over both Roma teams, but they are weakened. They have heart and style and Serie A opens 2 weeks later. If we can’t beat them with our second team, we deserve to lose CL money.
    Get 3 points in Geordieland, use Cesc and Nasri only against Udinese and try to get at least one with committed players against Scouse and ManUre.
    Lose or draw against Geordies and full panic sets in!

  9. askdfjkas says:

    i dont think liverpool can beat us…they made some crappy signings…but i do however think that utd will beat us, if they can start the season with full force

  10. winner says:

    This is really tricky. The last time, if not the only time, I have had this feeling about Arsenal was the weekend Gallas was stripped of the captaincy and the team was enroute to to play Manchester City. We had a makeshift defence and no one was sure what kind of performance the young Hoyte and others around him would put. Well, that afternoon we were clobbered 3-0. The game after we just managed to win a champions League match 1-0, thanks to a very very late Bendtner goal.
    So what are the similarities?
    1. There were reports that all was not well in the Arsenal camp and it was difficult to discount these reports.
    2. The fans were jittery but hopeful fearing the worst but hoping for the best.
    3. Some top players were not available and we were in the process of rebuilding the midfield after the departures of Hleb and Flamini.
    4. The sum total of this is the the vibe, the psyche and the psychology around the team was not positive.

    It seems to me that we find ourselves in an almost similar situation. The uncertainty over the futures of Cesc and Nasri, and the absence of van Persie, Nasri and Wenger and possibly Cesc for the first leg against Udinese seem to be generating some negative vibes around the club.
    Gervhino has been the only good news about Arsenal since the February 28 debacle against Birmingham city besides the victory against Man United, which was made hollow by the circumstances. That makes it only one thing to cheer about in 5 months. That is not good enough because sport is about enjoyment and not constant anxiety and disappointment.
    What is worse is that after 5 months of disappointments, a portion of the fans are at the verge of turning against the team and the manager. This lack of confidence in the team is obviously filtering through to the players.
    What Arsenal needs now is not just the right players but also the right psychology and vibe around the team. There should be unity in the all whole Arsenal family from the boardroom to the dressing room and then to the terraces. And time is not on Wenger’s side. Compromises may be needed. Adamantly refusing to break some self imposed ethos in transfer market may not achieve this unity.
    To rescue that season we had to buy Arshavin although he was not eligible to play in the Champions League, and was not coming cheap.
    Something needs to be done and done quickly….not just to add quality to the side but to also win back the confidence and hope which are necessary to generate a new kind of talk and vibe around the club. For months now it has been all about negativity, disappointment and doubt.
    Some players have lost the self confidence, and this was apparent in the Emirates Cup. Many fans have lost the faith, and I have lost count of how many times the team has been booed at the Emirates in the last five months. It is easy to condemn these fans but the fact is that they are true fans like you and me, perhaps we just have different temperaments. They feel the pain of losing as I do, and they long for victory as we all do and they are genuinely frustrated by the performances and also the results.
    The performances and results since the Birmingham game have brought about the current climate surrounding the club. For this, the players and managers should shoulder more responsibility than the board and the fans.
    I would like to urge everyone to close ranks and pull together. This calls for the manager and the team to seriously consider some genuine concerns being expressed by the fans and the media. It also calls for the fans and the board to show faith in the team and exercise some patience and restrain. We all want the best for the club. Let us all help to create it and make it happen

  11. critic says:

    arsenal fans getting behind the team…yeah we all can dream.

    They fuking want arsenal to become chelsea in red and white. Fcuking morons.

  12. Kushagra India says:

    “I am going to watch these games to see whether Wenger and his players can get the better of popular opinion once again.”

    hahaha popular opinion was/is that we wont win anything ………..and which you will retort by posting look at spuds and city and the money they spent clubs are perennial losers …….biggest club in the biggest city in the world …..such is our ambition…….looking at our defense and our manager’s ever increasing blind spots fans have every right to boo them

  13. Oh Well, it has to come to an end one day!! says:

    After watching all the pre-season games closely and witnessing defeat against Benfica last night, I think Arsenal fan should be ready to accept what is threatening to happen for a number of years now.

    Fabregas is determined to move this year. Wenger has accepted that as well. In any case, he wont be playing most of August due to lack of pre-season action.

    If by any miracle, he and Nasri stay, I doubt we will see any incoming players, least not of the quality required to push this team further. If they stay, next year they will be joined on the exit door by van Persie, Arshavin and possibly Walcott. Now don’t take me wrong, I am not worried about the names of players leaving, it is death of the philosphy which is concerning. Wenger wanted to develop group of young players together so that they feel a bond for eachother, want to play for each other and win together. These young players are leaving one by one every year and want to spend their best years at other teams. They must have seen something from inside to be willing to walk away from the club.

    Despite my frustration with the manager and teams problems regarding defence (finally acknowledged and highlighted by Desi in the previous article), it is clear that he has to sell to buy new ones, more so this year than the pervious ones. Gazidas said earlier this summer that there will be few players leaving this year however, despite trying Eboue, Almunia and Bentender have no takers. Similarly Denilson and Vela have offers only to go as loaness. We are still stuck with permanently injured Diaby and useless Rosicky in the middle of the park and Squalacci in defence. This is more or less a full team just sitting on huge salaries contributing next to nothing to the club. You can say that it credit to the manager for achieving what he has achieved despite this deadwood, however looking at the other side, it’s the manager who has been unable to either improve them or get rid of them, so he must take the blame as well.

    Now last thing is that if defensive and midfield organizationd does not improve (on the evidence of pre season and last night’s match) it is clear it has not despite zonal marking etc (Benitez tried in his last season) we are going to witness a sad end to a glorious period at Arsenal. it will be compounded by the fact that there is no money available for Wenger or any new person coming in to spend 100-200 million pounds to re build this team.

    It is impossible to blame one person for that and I will resist the temptation to do so, nevertheless, I am sad and disappointed to be witness the demise

  14. Ataturk Hamza says:

    The mood as we start a new season is pretty bleak and not only on this website. Some of us have been saying this for some time now. Wenger’s project has failed. He has taken us for a shocking ride. You cannot edict rules that only apply to yourself and pretend that you will be able to compete with those who play by other rules. A bunch of young boys, however talented, do not make a winning team when you have to face the likes of Man U, Chelsea or Man City.

    Desi himself kept chiding those of us on this website who kept pointing to this fact last season. The truth is that Arsene Wenger has reached the end of his creative period. He has become the biggest obstacle to the renewal of Arsenal. If, God forbids, he does not strengthen the team before the end of the transfer period and we start seeing the same weaknesses as last year, more and more will bay for his head and they will be right.

    The other truth is that we are gearing towards the worse season we have witnessed over the last 15 or so years. We will be knocked out of the Cl by Udinese.

    My prediction is that Wenger won’t see the end of the season.

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