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Udinese Preview: We’re looking short already 16 August, 2011

Posted by lasagnechef in Arsenal News.

Tonight is the inconvenient yet incredibly important Champions League qualifier. We haven’t had any problems with this fixture in recent years racking up aggregate scores of 5 or 6 goals but if we did ever come unstuck it would be a disaster to go out at this stage. In a period where we need to be attracting some big talent to the club, if the lure of Champions League football is not there we will struggle to make any strong additions.

Udinese could prove to be one of our tougher qualifiers, they’re a decent side finishing 4th in Italy last year and they have Di Natale who was top scorer in Serie A last season. We will still go into this match as favorites but Udinese will be no walkover.

We could talk about their strengths and weaknesses but I’m a little bit worried about the state of our own side. We’re missing a fair number of vital names and I’m just got my fingers crossed that we can cope without them.

Obviously, we’re without Fabregas (I must make note of not saying this again), van Persie and Nasri are suspended, Wilshere and Diaby are injured and Rosicky will face a late fitness test. To add to that Wenger also has a touch-line ban meaning he will undoubtedly move from the bench to two rows behind with the fans in Block 1. It’s still an inconvenience though, it means he can’t stand there arms folded glaring when we’re not doing well.

Those handful of players missing illustrate just how thin this squad is. Without Robin we’ve got Chamakh, Gervinho or even Bendtner who need to perform through the middle. Chamakh hasn’t really impressed that often since his run of form around this time last year, Gervinho obviously has just joined and we can’t rely on him yet and Bendtner has had one foot out the door all summer.

Also with Wilshere, Nasri, Diaby and potentially Rosicky out it means the midfield will have to be three of Song, Ramsey, Frimpong and Lansbury. We really need reinforcements in this area. Hopefully Wenger will be working on bringing in a midfield replacement in the next two weeks because that is a very light looking midfield indeed.

What worries me more though is come the weekend you can add Song and Gervinho to that list of absentees, as they’re both banned from the incidents at St. James’ Park. Wenger says a lot of crap but when he says things like ‘this squad is massive’ it infuriates me. Hopefully it’s just part of the spew he dishes out to the press because we have far from a ‘massive’ squad. Hopefully we can get through these next few games with what we have while we look to bring more men in.

All this goes without saying that Wilshere could be ‘Vermaelened’. Every limb in my body is crossed that this is not the case.

So with that, here’s how I think we will line up tonight:

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen (c) – Gibbs
Song – Lansbury
Walcott – Gervinho – Arshavin

With that team we could have Song playing his normal defensive midfield role, Lansbury providing the bridge between defending and attack and Ramsey playing that ‘Cesc role’ (another term that needs to be eradicated) that he did rather well in against Man United last season. Up front a lot of people are predicting Chamakh at centre forward but I think it might be Gervinho. The way Wenger has been talking him up suggests he rates him a lot and with his three match domestic ban coming up he might as well play him now and not worry about having resting him.

I’ve gone for Vermaelen as captain and I hope that is the case for the coming season. I’m fairly confident that van Persie will be handed the armband but I’d like to see Belgian take the position. We’ve been missing a captain with his attitude for a long time and I’d hope that his presence in that position could inspire the team in games which we start to lack focus and commitment. As I said I still think it’ll be Robin but I’d like to see Wenger surprise a few people and pick Thomas.

Edit: Robin van Persie named new Arsenal captain. No surprises there then, Wenger says Vermaelen will work with hi as his vice and I guess everyone can be leaders on the pitch they don’t need to wear the armband. Good luck to Robin, he is a proper Gooner after all.

As worried as I am about our squad, I think we should be good enough to get a result tonight – especially at home. A goal, or two or even three would be great but we need to make sure we don’t concede. That defence did well against Newcastle at the weekend so I trust them to give another solid display tonight. I haven’t mentioned the defence in this post because we have no injuries to the first choice pick but if you think about it there’s no one behind them really. Wenger really needs to get spending, and quick. So many departments need addressing it’s rather worrying. However as he would say, the time now is to focus on the upcoming game and not potential ins and outs.

I’m looking forward to my first competitive game back at the Emirates tonight. There were some bad memories there last season but hopefully I’ve left those behind with my old seat and a change of scenery might bring around a change of fortune. I’m in Block 6 nowadays and I’m looking forward to a bit of sing-song later on, but wherever you’re sat whether it be around the stadium, at the pub or at home get behind the boys because this game is hugely important.

Thanks for reading. Come on Arsenal!


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