Arsene needs RVP to prove he's the MVP
Udinese v Arsenal : Wednesday 24th August | Live on ITV 1
The Emirates exodus continued on Tuesday as Samir Nasri flew to Manchester to undergo a medical at Manchester City after the two clubs agreed a fee, reported to be £25 million, for the 24 year old. The French international's exit follows the departure of club captain Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and the sale of left-back Gael Clichy to City also. The fans in north London are restless, and the prospect of a season without Champions League is simply not worth contemplating for the Gunners faithful.
But that is exactly what could happen come 21:30 on Wednesday evening.
Arsenal could only manage a narrow 1-0 (Correct Score, Arsenal 1-0 - 17/2) victory in the first-leg of Champions League qualifier against Udinese last week and after taking a while to settle into the game and conceding a quick fire Theo Walcott goal, it was the Italians who impressed and at times dominated their English opposition.
Antonio Di Natale, in particular, was a constant source of worry for the Arsenal backline and after Laurent Koscielny's injury against Liverpool on Saturday, further changes could be needed. Di Natale will surely have his sights firmly set on firing his Udinese team through to the group stages of Europe's premier club competition, the Italian star has led the Serie A goal scoring charts for the last two seasons with 57 goals in total and rattled the Emirates crossbar in the first leg with a thumping free kick. The price on the Naples born forward breaking the deadlock is 9/2 and can be backed at 6/5 to score at anytime.
Arsenal's last remaining world class player and their newly appointed captain will need to lead by example in Italy if safe progression is to be ensured. Step forward Robin van Persie.The Dutch striker must feel somewhat bemused at the way the club has sold the crown jewels of the team while he is left to carry the team, starting here. He missed the first leg, suspended after THAT infamous sending off at the Nou Camp in Arsenal's quarter-final defeat to Barcelona in March, and will be fired up to hit the back of the net after drawing blanks in the Gunners first two Premier League matches. Van Persie heads the betting for the visitors first scorer market 11/2 while the Ivory Coast's Gervinho is 7/1 and Theo Walcott can be backed at 8/1 to notch first, just as he did in the first-leg.
Speaking of Theo, the former Southampton winger is the subject of our William Hill Match Winner offer. If you feel that Walcott can repeat the feat of scoring in the first ten minutes then you will find enhanced odds of 33/1 waiting for you. The north eastern Italian squad's only line-up question is at left back and how to handle Walcott. Maurizio Domizzi was out and Brazilian defender Neuton struggled to contain the lightning quick England star in the opening leg, so Francesco Guidolin could use veteran Giovanni Pasquale.
With Serie A not due to start until this weekend, Udinese are completely focused on qualifying for the group stage for just the second time. Their home record at the Stadio Friuli is excellent, losing only four times there all last season and are unbeaten in their last five matches there (Double Chance, Udinese or draw - 7/20). Arsenal meanwhile, are two matches into their Premier League campaign and haven't registered a goal as of yet, never mind a win. The performance in the 2-0 loss to Liverpool on Saturday was toothless, with the midfield devoid of any creativity or invention, so with Nasri now out of the picture, it looks like being a tough old night.
In my opinion, Arsenal will need to score if they are to progress. With the exception of Thomas Vermaelen , the Gunners' defence looked extremely fragile against Liverpool and I doubt they'll be able to keep a clean sheet in Italy. Both teams to score at 7/10 is a bet I fancy but the odds are a bit skinny so I'd plump for over 2.5 goals at 19/20. For a more speculative punt, maybe try Udinese -1 goal at 10/3.