Arsenal in crisis mode for 2nd leg vs. Udinese

Arsenal is in crisis mode as it visits Udinese for the second

leg of a Champions League playoff on Wednesday, hoping last week’s

1-0 win can help keep alive its streak of 13 consecutive

group-stage appearances in the top European competition.

The Gunners have managed only one point from two English Premier

League matches – including its first home loss to Liverpool in 11

years – and have lost two key players in the transfer market.

With former captain Cesc Fabregas already having gone back to

Barcelona, Arsenal announced Tuesday it had reached a deal to send

Samir Nasri to Manchester City, meaning the France midfielder won’t

be with the squad in Italy.

Manager Arsene Wenger was given a two-match touchline ban on

Monday for breaching the terms of a previous suspension during the

first leg against Udinese, but UEFA froze the ban Tuesday, saying

it will hear Arsenal’s appeal ”in due time.”

Wenger accepts the multiple challenges.

”I believe that is part of my job. I am not at all destabilized

by that,” he said, before addressing a possible negative impact

from Nasri’s departure. ”There is always a concern but not an

excuse. You are always concerned about the consequences it can have

on the team.

”It can also have a positive consequence,” Wenger added. ”If

you are strong mentally you can increase the solidarity knowing we

need to fight more. That is what ideally we want from strong

mentally players.”

Meanwhile, with Serie A not due to start until this weekend,

Udinese is completely focused on qualifying for the group stage for

just the second time.

”Arsenal is an unforgiving squad, so the match must be

approached calmly, without nervousness, and without thinking about

how we need two goals to reach the group phase – otherwise we’ll

risk falling into a puddle,” said Udinese coach Francesco


Last week, England forward Theo Walcott scored the only goal of

an open and entertaining first leg after four minutes in north

London. However, Udinese created several chances, including a free

kick from captain Antonio Di Natale that banged off the


”We only suffered in the first 10 minutes when we didn’t play

like we know how to, then you saw the real Udinese,” said Di

Natale, who led Serie A in scoring the past two seasons with a

total of 57 goals.

With Antonio Floro Flores and Paulo Barreto still unavailable,

Udinese’s only reserve forward remains German Denis – who will

transfer to Atalanta after the match.

The northeastern Italian squad’s only lineup question is at left

back. Maurizio Domizzi was out and Brazilian defender Neuton

struggled to contain Walcott in the opening leg, so Guidolin could

use veteran Giovanni Pasquale.

Arsenal’s new captain, Robin van Persie, returns from

suspension, and Alex Song and Gervinho – who served league

suspensions in the loss to Liverpool – are also back.

Wenger had been banned for the first leg for comments made about

the referee following last season’s Champions League elimination by

Barcelona. However, he was seen passing on instructions to the

bench through coach Boro Primorac, who sat alongside the manager in

the stands.

UEFA ruled that was a breach of its rules, and banned Wenger

from both the second leg against Udinese and his next European

fixture. Arsenal was also fined ?10,000 ($14,400) for ”improper

conduct by its officials.”

”I don’t know why I have been banned for the first time and

naively I still don’t know why I should be banned for the second

time,” Wenger said.