Having lost their captain Cesc Fabregas, who stood for everything good about the club, Arsenal will attempt to bounce back and secure a place in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League as they take on Udinese in the first of a two-legged encounter at the Emirates.
Arsenal will need to get over Fabregas and focus their attention back on the field as quickly as possible. They come to the game on the back of a lackluster performance at Newcastle, which ended 0-0. The Gunners seemed to be distracted, unfit and lacked their usual precision-passing. A red card to Gervinho on his debut didn't help matters, although the player can argue that Joey Barton simulated. He has the chance to reply on the field and he is expected to start on one wing whiile inter-changing with Theo Walcott on the other.
Wenger will be desperate to qualify, especially as a place in the Champions League group stage is worth a reported £30 million. However, Udinese is a tough cookie. They capped an impressive season last year, finishing fourth in the Italian Serie A. They are expected to pose a stern challenge to Arsenal, although they did lose a number of key players over the summer.Alexis Sanchez secured a high-profile move to Barcelona, playmaker Gokhan Inler went to Napoli and Villarreal captured centre-back Cristian Zapata.
It is a big night for Wenger and his team and the match will be a trustworthy gauge of the character of the side.
Arsene Wenger chose Robin Van Persie as his new skipper, but he will not be available for the game due to suspension. Thomas Vermaelen, the vice-captain, will lead the side instead. Samir Nasri, who is set to follow Fabregas out of Arsenal, is set to be omitted from the squad, and even if he isn't, he carries a suspension from the Barcelona game last season giving Wenger problems in the midfield. With Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey will be Wenger's creative force in midfield.
Udinese manager Francesco Guidolin will set his team out in the usual manner - Antonio di Natale upfront, with a backline of three central defenders.
Arsenal have only lost one of their last 38 home European games, the one loss coming against Manchester United.
Both sides are considerably weaker than before, but this match will be a test of Arsenal's mental strength, which has proven brittle on previous occasions. However, they have a formidable home record in Europe, and Udinese will find it difficult at a charged up Emirates, and they'll be happy if they can manage an away goal. However, Arsenal should win comfortably.
Arsenal 2-0 Udinese