A few quick thoughts before the big Arsenal/Udinese Champions League qualifier this afternoon:
- I’m really curious to see who Arsene Wenger sends out as his starting XI for this match. I don’t expect wholesale changes, but I’d be extremely surprised if the line-up was essentially the same as it was against Newcastle. I hope to see a glimpse of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I’d also like to see Tomas Rosicky be an influential figure in an Arsenal match for once. I understand the man has been snakebitten with injuries, bad luck and the misfortune of having to compete with Nasri, Fabregas, Arshavin, Wilshere et.al, but if ever there were a crucial time for him to have an impact–it would without question be today.
- I finally watched the Newcastle match last night and I don’t think Arsenal looked as bad and/or lost as people on Twitter and elsewhere were insinuating. Sure, form, tactics, lineups and everything else got overshadowed by the long-awaited denouement of the seemingly interminable saga Fabregas saga and the silliness that erupted between Joey Barton and Gervinho. I do place a lot of blame on the official for not taking firm control of that match in the second half when it was obvious to everyone around the world that it was about go off at any moment It seemed as if Andrei Arshavin looked more motivated and inspired than he did at the beginning of last season and a strong August from him could prove to be pivotal for the Gunners as they try to ride out the roiling transfer window storms into September without losing too much ground. I liked what I saw from Gervinho on and around the ball, but it looks like his other antics will cost him a few matches, which will disrupt his ability to build chemistry etc.
- I can only just say that I’m glad the Fabregas saga is finally over. I think he’s an incredible player and he’s carried himself with class throughout this whole unfortunate mess. As a Gunners fan, I’ll miss him and I’ve loved watching him develop into a special players these past few years. I was actually moved by his respect for and tribute to Arsene Wenger, of whom he said the following: “I’ll never have enough words to thank him for all he’s done for me,” he said. “I’ll never forget him…”If today I am here with you then it’s greatly due to him. I can’t express my admiration for him strongly enough. I owe it to him that I am here.”
- As tired as I am of this story, it was heartening to see the genuine emotional bond shared between Fabregas and Wenger. I also admire how much Cesc praised Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, essentially anointing them leaders in the wake of his departure, which leads me to Samir Nasri…
- Cesc Fabregas wanting to return to play with his close friends and international teammates in his hometown Barcelona side that is in the midst of a special championship clogged run that may never be equaled is one thing; Samir Nasri greedily sulking his way out the door to Manchester is another. I thought Nasri quit on Arsenal towards the end of last season and while Fabregas is leaving to assume his position in something special and unique, Nasri seems to be motivated purely by money (especially as Fabregas is actually getting paid less to join Barca). Why wouldn’t Nasri relish and want to seize the opportunity to fully emerge from Fabregas’s shadow and become the dominant creative force on a club that contends on all fronts every year? Disappointing…
- Arsene Wenger has come perilously close to resembling a suave King Lear the past few weeks.
- Read an excellent piece by Adam Digby on the similarities between Udinese and Arsenal. I loved watching Udinese last year, but I had no idea Francesco Guidolin respected and consciously sought to emulate the “Arsenal model.” I also find it interesting that Wenger and Guidolin both managed Monaco at one point in their careers. Great stuff!
- Read another excellent piece this morning by Michael Cox that examines the Arsenal/Udinese match-up from a tactical standpoint.
- Finally, a mind-blowing, must-read Goal.com editorial that suggests the arrival of Fabregas in Barcelona may be the catalyst for the next great evolution in football tactics!
I expect Arsenal to come out swinging and really inflict some damage to Udinese in their home stadium, but I do expect these matches to be exciting and close.