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Arsenal qualify for Champions League as Nasri takes parting shot

Arsenal will take part in the lucrative Champion’s League group stages after overcoming Serie A side Udinese in both legs of their qualifying play-off.

Aaron Ramsey and Giampiero Pinzi in action during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat of Udinese.
Aaron Ramsey and Giampiero Pinzi in action during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat of Udinese.
Image: Paolo Giovannini/AP/Press Association Images

AFTER ENDURING a turbulent start to the season defined by acrimonious transfers, high-profile criticism and disappointing results, Arsène Wenger finally had something to smile about last night, as he watched his Arsenal side book its place in the group stages of this year’s Champions League with a 2-1 victory over Italian side Udinese.

Though they carried a one-nil aggregate lead into the away leg of the tie, the North Londoners initially struggled to impose themselves on their Serie A opponents, eventually conceding in the 39th minute to a looping header from Antonio Di Natale. Finding himself in space on the edge of the six-yard box, the league’s top scorer for two seasons running made no mistake in guiding his effort into the top-right corner of the net, well beyond the reach of a stranded Wojciech Szczesny.

Spurred into action by the Di Natale’s equaliser, Arsenal succeeded in driving home a crucial away goal less than ten minutes after the break, as a impressive cut-back from new signing Gervinho found its way to the left foot of an onrushing Robin Van Persie a couple of yards from the Udinese goal.

The most significant moment of the night came moments later when Szczesny executed a superb diving save to deny Di Natale from the penalty spot.

The missed opportunity seemed to galvanise Arsenal and compromise the belief of their opponents, paving the way for the coup de grâ ce, which came just before the 70-minute mark, when Theo Walcott’s counter-attacking pace unlocked the Udinese defence and presented the 22-year-old with the opportunity for a stylish near-post finish.

While Arsenal were preparing to secure their place in European football’s top tier, Manchester City’s latest signing, Samir Nasri, was being unveiled at Eastlands stadium.

As reported by the Daily Mail’s John Edwards, the Frenchman didn’t hold back when it came to criticising his former club:

“Arsenal have good fans but they are not that passionate since they moved from Highbury to the Emirates.

“I remember when we lost 3-0 to City, the crowd was amazing, and that’s what I want. I’m here to play football and to enjoy it and to win titles… [Patrick] said City is the place to be because they are the club of the future and they want to win everything.”

Nasri is the fourth Arsenal squad member to defect to Manchester since the club’s takeover, underscoring the extent to which Arsène Wenger’s project has been destabilised by his club’s inability to match the wages offered by their newest Premier League rivals.

Read John Edwards’ article in today’s Daily Mail>

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