A tenuous 1-0 lead is all Arsenal have going into the second leg of the UEFA Champions League playoff against Udinese on Tuesday. The Gunners are ahead thanks to a Theo Walcott strike in the fourth minute. However the rest of the game was dominated by the Italians as they pushed forward, controlling the pace, and generating the better scoring opportunities.
The North Londoners are also dealing with injuries that makes their lineup resemble a MASH unit more than a football side. Alex Song, Gervinho, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshire, and Abou Diaby are all suffering with various knocks and may not play. The Gunners fielded a depleted side on Saturday and it showed in a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.
The Gunners also no longer have creative midfielder Cesc Fabregas who joins Spanish giants Barcelona on a transfer. The status of Samir Nasri is uncertain as well as he was set to join Manchester City. However the deal is not completed as of yet so Nasri remains in North London.
With all this upheaval in Arsenal’s camp, it is up to manager Arsene Wenger to right the ship into smooth waters. Wenger is feeling the heat from Arsenal supporters for not winning any trophy since 2005. If the Gunners don’t qualify for the Group Stage of the Champions League it could spell the end of Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal.
Meanwhile Udinese could be considered unlucky by being down 1-0. While the Zebrette lacked the finishing strike, they played eye-catching, attacking football which is unheard of in Italian football. Star striker Antonio Di Natale will be looked upon to provide the killer instinct around the goal. With the match back in Udine, the Italian side could breakthrough with the much-needed finishing touch.
Prediction: With all the chaos and uncertainty surrounding Arsenal, plus with the match in Italy, I’m picking a coming out performance for Udinese. 2-0 for the Zebrette. 2-1 on aggregate. Arsenal will not go though.