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Relief for Wenger after Italian escape
by Paul Kennedy, August 24th, 2011 8:55PM

TAGS:  arsenal, england, uefa champions league


[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Once known as the "Invincibles," Arsenal's Gunners were about to become the "Invisibles," but they escaped an early exit from the UEFA Champions League when they rallied for two goals and beat Italy's Udinese, 2-1, on the road to advance to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League group for the 14th season in a row.

After the Gunners opened the 2011-12 EPL season with a draw at home and loss on the road and sold stars Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, the pressure mounted on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

The turning point in Wednesday's game came in the 59th minute with the score tied 1-1 when Wojciech Szczesny saved Antonio Di Natale's penalty kick. Ten minutes later, Theo Walcott put the series away with a goal to make it 2-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.

“There was only one team on the pitch in the second half,” said Wenger. “Szczesny’s save was the turning point at 1-1. It kept us qualified and you could see that mentally it had an impact on their belief and they were not the same team after they missed the penalty. When we finish the game with all our players, we win games.”

Wenger feels the win will lift the pressure on his players.

"There has been a little bit of pressure for Arsenal to play in the Champions League," he added, "and with the players that have left, the pressure would have increased if we had lost. There's a strong attitude and spirit inside the team."

He said Arsenal remained strong despite the criticism.

"We live in a society where everyone has an opinion on everything," he said. "I'm like someone who flies a plane for 30 years and I have to accept someone can come into the cockpit and fly it better than I do. But that's our job and we have to accept it. I would like to say that the club is in, overall, a very strong position because for 14 years on trot we play in the Champions League, we have a new stadium, a fantastic training ground, a very strong financial situation and a very strong team. Sometimes you have to take a distance from the catastrophes people have predicted."

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