Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughUdinese mirror the Arsenal situation - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Udinese mirror the Arsenal situation - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Udinese mirror the Arsenal situation

It was a tense and nervy affair in North London on Tuesday night, Arsenal just doing enough to ensure they will travel Udine next week with a lead in tow, a slender one at that, but as the bandwagon has been so quick to point out, a relieving reward for a disjointed performance so far away removed from the cavalier Arsenal that has become the domestic neutral’s best friend in recent years. Cesc Fabregas had joined Barcelona on the eve of this vital Champions League qualifier, Emmanuel Eboue departed for Galatasaray a few hours before it, while Samir Nasri was busy negotiating his own exit in the near future.  Banished to the stands as a result of a European ban, Arsene Wenger was symbol of the helpless onlooker with his team seemingly crumbling around him.

Unconvincing would not be far away from what any Arsenal fan would have expected here and gratefully for Wenger, it came wrapped with a one goal insurance policy to take to Italy tasked with holding onto it to avoid the catastrophic disaster of failing to negotiate qualification into Europe’s premier competition. Possibility of this occurrence is very much alive, Udinese showed enough to suggest the return in the Stadio Friuli will certainly not be easy for the Gunners, sandwiched between the hosting of Liverpool and a trip to Manchester United. The Italian outfit were increasingly comfortable in possession as the game progressed, and created more chances, having attempted 15 shots to Arsenal’s 11, most notably Pablo Armero’s one-on-one with Sczesney in the first-half.

From the Udinese display, it is possible that Wenger will take more than a goal lead to North-east Italy, but a hearty lesson from the opposition that is uncannily similar to his own side. Tarred in Italy of being devoid of ambition having been forced to see a number-heavy player departure and having to rely on players emerging from the youth set-up to replace them. The player exits have been big too, in losing Christian Zapata, Gokhan Inler and Alexis Sanchez, they have surrendered three of their most prized-assets, and in the case of Sanchez, relinquished arguably their most influential player to Barcelona at the conclusion of a long-running transfer saga. The similarities to Arsenal are explicit.

Quite how Fransico Guidolin has set about dealing with this summer exile will be of great interest to Wenger, who has been appealing for supporter calmness amidst the depletion of his own squad. In contrast to Arsenal however, Udinese have gone about addressing the need for replacements. Theirry Doubai has been captured from Young Boys of Berne to directly replace Gokhan Inler in central midfield, and versatile Brazilian defenders Neuton and Danilo come in from Gremio and Palmeiras to plug the gap left by Christian Zapata. The latter duo both played at the Emirates while Doubai did not, with a reversion from a 3-5-1-1 of last year to 4-1-4-1 leaving no space for an Inler type regista to link play with simple passing in the middle of the park. While Emmanuel Agyemang was tasked with the deep midfield job on Tuesday, he did it quite badly and often left his position unattended.

Not only have replacements been signed, they have bolstered options in defence with the signing of French Youngster Abdoul Sissoko, younger brother of former Liverpool midfielder Momo and have also done what Arsene Wenger has so far found incapable of doing, sign a goalkeeper in Serbian Zeljko Brkic to provide competition for the normally reliable Samir Handanovic. Brazilian Paulo Barretto has also joined from Bari as the inheritor to the void left by Alexis Sanchez. Amongst the comings and goings, they have managed to hold onto centre forward Antonio Di Natale despite his remarkable scoring record of becoming top scorer in the past two seasons of Serie A and breaking numerous goal-scoring records. The 33 year old striker has notched 112 goals in 228 games in a seven year spell at the club and despite the various interest in him, has continued to rebuff various approaches from elsewhere and was willing to extend his contract to a further year not long after committing to a five-year one back in 2007.

What Wenger would give for such loyalty at his own club, where his players have a tendency to turn their heads at the earliest point of interest citing reasons of lack of silverware and an absence of ambition. Udinese’s own trophy drought stretches five years longer than Arsenal’s, back until 2000 as they triumphed in the Intertoto Cup, but they have formulated a squad good enough to compete in Europe over the following ten years, a project that has reached the caveat of the possible beating of Arsenal in the Champions League. Guidolin oversaw their return to Champions League after a six year sabbatical from the competition and they have gone about their business quietly with an economical business model of discovering the South American talent of Sanchez and AS Roma midfielder David Pizarro and selling them on for substantial fees. A total of £79 million profit has been amassed in the last three years.

Yet they are here, they have overcome the constant re-building of teams and annual upheaval of their squad to be on the verge of qualifying for the biggest competition in European football, and fittingly, it is a side who share the same business philosophy as them who are primed for elimination. They may be an easy target for the critics accusing them of displaying a dearth of aspiration when they sell the likes of Sanchez; it is easy to lose sight of the fact they are still a small provincial team who need to a maintain a degree of balance, but they have progressed nonetheless, to the point where they now stand toe to toe with Arsenal, a side who have gone in the opposite direction following the same process. Regardless of the result on Tuesday, maybe Arsene Wenger can learn from how to go forwards despite having his hands tied.

Adam Gray @MonkeyLunch21

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