Its been a difficult week for Arsene Wenger and all at the Emirates after their inspirational captain Cesc Fabregas finally made his move to Barcelona for a cut price £35m.
It had been rumoured that the Gunners were looking for a price in the region of £40m but with the Spaniard obviously signalling his intentions to leave for Barca and the Arsenal board wanting an ending to one of the longest protracted transfer saga’s in recent history, the deal is now done and dusted with Fabregas officially unveiled as a Barcelona player.
The Gunners and Wenger now enter a crucial period as tonight sees their Champions League campaign begin. A qualifier against Italian side Udinese could prove tricky encounter, and with the pressure starting to mount anything less than entry in the Champions League proper would be seen as a complete disaster to the club.
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The side certainly did not do any favours on the weekend as new signing Gervinho was given his marching orders for a slap on Joey Barton, and the arrival of Udinese could further dampen spirits at the Emirates.
Even though the Italian side themselves lost their star striker Alexis Sánchez to Barcelona in the summer for a deal worth around £23m, they still have plenty of firepower and much will depend on last season’s Serie A top goalscorer Antonio Di Natale, who bagged 28 goals. Kwadwo Asamoah in midfield is also a major threat and with Pablo Armero and Mauricio Isla making surging runs down the wings Udinese have plenty of pace going forward.
Coach Francesco Guidolin has developed a 3-4-1-2 counterattacking formation, which was deployed to great effect last season with the club the second top scorers in Serie A, and it is clear this is one side with the potential to be a thorn in Arsenal’s side.
Robin Van Persie is still struggling with injury, and with Samir Nasri ‘unavailable’ Arsene Wenger is short of a few options, with much of the responsibility resting on the shoulders of Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin.
Of course, history is on Arsenal’s side – the Gunners have never lost in their eight previous Champions League qualifiers so far, but the pressure has definitely been turned up a notch and with the rest of Europe watching, Arsene Wenger will be hoping for a quiet night and ultimately a convincing Arsenal win.