Arsenal 1 Udinese 0

Champions League qualifier first leg

Theo Walcott’s fourth minute opener was enough to give Arsenal the win over Udinese in their Champions League qualifier first leg at the Emirates. Walcott pounced after some good work from Marouane Chamakh who fed Aaron Ramsey on the right. Well advanced in the area, Walcott pointed to where he wanted delivery of the cross. Ramsey obliged and the Arsenal 14 stroked the ball past Samir Handanovic. The game however was unlike most you will see at the Emirates, with the Serie A outfit willing to fight fire with fire.

Good measure

Antonio Di Natale has been the leading scorer in the Italian top flight for the past two season, and his free-kick eight minutes after the Gunners’ opener had the beating of Wojciech Szczesny, but clipped the bar. It was Walcott who had conceded that free-kick after a poor tackle from behind on Neuton, and just for good measure, referee Kevin Blom also showed Neuton a yellow card for gesticulating that the Arsenal striker should receive a card.

Menace

For all their attacking menace however, the Gunners could not convert any further chances. Robin van Persie was serving a one match ban, as was Samir Nasri, and Arsene Wenger would ideally like both in the starting line up for the return leg at the Stadio Fruili next Wednesday, for which Jack Wilshere should have overcome his ankle injury. Gervinho looks a fine buy and his menace from the flanks will be a miss after Arsenal learned that their Ivory Coast striker’s red card at Newcastle stands. He now missed games against Liverpool, Manchester United and Swansea, but will be available for the Gunners’ return Italian job.

On Song

The muscular menace of Pablo Armero will be a problem in Italy, as it was here. With 26 minutes on the clock, the Udinese midfielder hared through a non-existent Arsenal midfield and defence and only a fine save from Szczesny and the defensive tracking of Alex Song prevented the visitors from levelling. Still they came and after a neat move on the right, Di Natale saw his shot scrape the outside of the post.

Injury woes

There was further concern for Wenger who looked from up in the directors as he too was serving a one match ban. Kieran Gibbs was replaced by Johan Djourou, the Swiss defender’s tackle preventing Di Natale a great chance to level, but the Arsenal defender was injured in the process. Both Gibbs and Djourou suffered hamstring injuries and look doubtful for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off at the Emirates against Liverpool. Szczesny further denied Di Natale from another free-kick as the Gunners clung to a clean sheet.

Contenders

The Emirates crowd were firmly behind the post Cesc Fabregas Arsenal who showed that they have resilience and spirit in abundance. A few key signings that this side still needs could yet confound the doom merchants circling the Emirates and it is Wenger who knows that he must buy at a minimum another defender and midfielder, if he is to send out his side as genuine contenders in all competitions, or except that this will be another season of coming so close.