Friday, 5 August 2011

Udinese? Who'da They Say?

Today Arsenal found out they will face Italian side Udinese over two legs in the Champions League play-off qualifier round. Like the Gunners, Udinese finished in 4th place last season but unlike Arsenal I have a strong feeling the fans of the Zebrette were not booing their players off the pitch at the end of last season for gaining said position in their league. Anyway I'm pretty pleased with this draw and the first leg is at home as well, so we'll need to make that count and get a good early lead against them at The Emirates on Tuesday August 16th. The return leg in Italy will be played a week later on Tuesday the 23rd, just before we travel to Old Trafford in the Premiership. Things could be worse, we avoided a tricky trip to Russia to play Rubin Kazan, whom Lyon have the pleasure of facing instead - lucky them.

However Udinese will be no pushovers and to make matters more difficult we'll be without Robin van Persie and Samir Nasir for the first leg, both players missing out due to suspension (Robin's ridiculous red card against Barca last season and Nasri for criticising the ref in that game). Still, I expect us to beat the Italian side and take our place in the proper Champions League group stages. It would be a disaster to miss out on European competition at it's highest level - if we are to remain a "big club" then the Champions League is where we must be.

So since my last post on here the Emirates Cup has been and gone, and with mixed emotions. I was at a christening this year and so couldn't attend any of the matches like I did last year but I was glad to see Henry back where he belongs and I was gutted he didn't get the chance to pull on the red and white for a bit. Football takes itself far too seriously sometimes, it was a meaningless pre-season friendly for God's sake. But the real story of the weekend was typically Arsenal; letting leads slip and hapless defending (with another healthy dose of home fans booing the squad - so sad, especially during pre-season). I've watched the games (thank you Arsenal Player) and I've seen those mistakes before - this team has not learnt it's lessons from last season, not at all. It still baffles me that Mr Wenger hasn't addressed the defensive issues yet. A £10 million bid for Phil Jagielka is disgraceful. To be fair I don't rank him being much more than that, not even close to £20 mil but somewhere around £14-15 mil would have been a good start. I understand there is still close to a month left to sign players but a new centre back should have been the first thing on the boss's shopping list this summer, so the new guy could find his feet in North London and gel with the rest of the squad. Now any new players will be forced to learn the ropes when the matches actually account and precious points are at stake. Oh well...

The new season is literally just around the corner now, away at Newcastle next weekend on Saturday the 13th at 5.30pm. However we have our final pre-season game against Benfica tomorrow before the Premier League kicks off, and the friendly is being shown live on Arsenal Player tomorrow evening at 7.45pm, so hopefully I can get home from work in time to watch it. Until then fellow Gooners...

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