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It is a daunting task to go into a game that you must win, having just lost your best player, your captain and best goalscorer suspended, your rising star midfielder injured, and 50,000 fans waiting for you to cock it up. It is not wrong to say that Arsenal went into their first champions league game with a more than a little trepidation.
Add to that list of adversity, 2 injuries during the game forcing you to field players who haven’t kicked a ball in the premier league far less a £25m champions league qualifying game. Then it’s reasonable to be content with 1-0 victory under those circumstances.
The opening goal came within the first 5 minutes, the sigh of relief in the stadium was noticeable. It also meant that a team notorious for letting leads slip would have 84 minutes to hold on to or improve on that slender margin. The question on fans minds was simple, would the defence hold out?
As it turned out that much maligned defence was, as at St. James’ Park, the best part of the team. Koscielny showed that he is massively underrated, Vermaelen was barking orders as befits the captain, Sagna was quietly efficient and Szczęsny commanding in his box. Jenkinson, who was clearly nervous, came through unscathed.
As positive as the defence was, the same could not be said for other areas of the pitch where the problems are stark. Although the defence bears the brunt of blame for our ails, it has always been the midfield who puts them under undue pressure and last night was no different.
Song, Ramsey and, Rosickỳ did not work as well as the could. Failure to keep possession meant Udinese could start there attacks halfway up the pitch. Passes were constantly miss-placed, first touches were nearly always heavy, movement was sluggish. Even when the midfield gained a semblance of control, that killer pass proved to be elusive.
It says something about our lack of control in the middle that the introduction of Frimpong brought with it some relief. Two fouls in the space of a few seconds was ominous, but once settle the youngster made us look much improved. We can be sure that far from another centre back, a midfield maestro is Arsenal’s most immediate requirement.
Upfront was a mixed bag Walcott the outstanding attacker, and were it not for an outstanding save from Handanovič he would have had a brace and we would be going to Italy with a 2 goal lead. Gervinho did everything but was time and again let down by his last action, whilst the less said about Chamackh the better. Although in defence of the Moroccan it was an improved performance, let’s leave it there.
No Arsenal fan can pretend that they are not happy with the result, given the team we had out there few would have been brave to bet on a win for The Arsenal. Injuries are already a huge problem only 2 games into the season. We can only hope that the medical staff can get key members of the squad fit in time for the return leg.
Barring medical wizardry, a foray into the transfer market is imperative and that must happen sooner rather than later.