Arsenal go through to lift the gloom

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Manager Arsene Wenger was a relieved man after his Arsenal side secured a place in the Champions League group stage for the 14th successive season.

The Gunners endured a nervy time en route to a 3-1 aggregate win over Udinese, with Antonio Di Natale cancelling out their first-half lead before Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott secured a 2-1 win which ensured their side’s passage. Keeper Wojciech Szczesny also saved Di Natale’s penalty, in between the two Arsenal goals, after Thomas Vermaelen was harshly penalised for handball.

Wenger said: “There is relief of course, we don’t want to go out - and pride as well, because we had our backs to the wall and responded very well in the second half. There was only one team in the second half - Wojciech saved the penalty, which was very generous, but we played a great game tonight.

“It showed that under pressure this team can respond with football, remain calm and composed and try to play like we can. We had a great belief in the way we want to play.

“There are many questions around our club, if we had gone out tonight it would have been much worse. It was important not financially, like many people have said, but more for the fact we want to play at the top level.”

Speculation has surrounded Arsenal’s ability and intent to compete in the transfer market ahead of next Wednesday’s deadline, but Wenger said: “We work very hard, I have said that many times, but we have many players out as well so I think we can be very positive as well.

“There may be signings but I cannot give you any names tonight. I cannot lie and say we sign somebody tomorrow.”

Charlie Adam believes Liverpool’s new-look midfield is beginning to gel after a strong side overcame Exeter 3-1 at St James Park in the Carling Cup second round. Luis Suarez got the first goal and then set up Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll for the others before Daniel Nardiello grabbed a late penalty for the hosts. Liverpool’s line-up suggested Kenny Dalglish is taking the competition seriously, but it also served as another chance for his new signings to get experience together.

“I think you’ve seen with the players out there that we’ve come here to do a job and we’ve done that,” the summer signing from Blackpool said. “It’s going to be a difficult game coming down here but we’ve shown the right respect to Exeter, a good side, but done the job and that’s the important thing for us.

“We’ve got good players who can play with each other. That’s two wins on the bounce now and we’ll look for another on Saturday.”