There is a feeling amongst many Arsenal fans and some pundits that the next five days could well decide Arsenal’s season and some are even suggesting that they could decide the future of Arsene Wenger. The five days in question contain the key Champions League qualifier second-leg against Udinese, which is currently poised at 1-0 to Arsenal, then on Sunday the Gunners visit Old Trafford to take on the champions, Manchester United.
Many fear the worst, a loss in Italy which would consign Arsenal to UEFA’s second tier of continental competition, the Europa League, and then a defeat at Old Trafford which would leave Wenger’s side with just one point after the first three games of the season.
Should Arsenal fail to overcome Udinese then the absence of Champions League football from the Emirates would truly be a disaster, not just in terms of finances but for the ability to attract top name players. Many of these may already be questioning what direction the team are going in and should the lure of Champions League football disappear then there is a good chance they will too. Financially the Gunners can probably afford a season out of the Champions League, after the sales of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, but would this then mean that the board allow less of this money to be spent on players in order to cover the prize money shortfall
Then of course there is the match with Manchester United. Should Arsenal lose this then even the most optimistic of fans could start to doubt Wenger and his players. To have lost to two of your title rivals in the space of a week – after the slip against Liverpool – will certainly hit the players’ confidence even further and mean that there will already be a significant gap in points between Arsenal and their rivals.
One thing that does not seem to be being spoken about quite so much is the possibility of Arsenal coming through this week with two wins. Granted, on current form it may be unlikely, but football will never stop surprising us. Perhaps this is the week for Arsenal to do just that.
Arsenal go into their midweek match with a slender advantage and with a defence that has looked reasonably solid so far this season. If Thomas Vermaelen can replicate his performance against Liverpool then there is every chance the Italians will not be able to find a way through. Robin van Persie will be back after serving his ban and Arsene Wenger will be in the dugout after UEFA delayed his additional two game ban until after the second-leg.
Meanwhile, Manchester United looked impressive against Tottenham Hotspur but they are still a team in transition, bringing in a younger breed of players, and as so often with inexperience – as Arsenal well know – there is always a chance of an off day, or Arsenal could simply outplay their hosts. With the first leg of this crucial week coming on Wednesday, the Gunners’ future will be closer to resolution very soon.