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Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011

Arsenal begins new era


London — Arsenal began life without Cesc Fabregas with a 1-0 win over Udinese on Tuesday, although a lively performance from the visitors ensured the Champions League playoff remains in the balance heading into the second leg.

Theo Walcott scored just four minutes into the first leg to raise spirits among demoralized Arsenal fans following Fabregas' departure, but the injury-hit Gunners could not build on their early advantage.

Only Wojciech Szczesny's saves ensured Arsenal goes to Italy next week with its slender advantage intact as it looks to play in the lucrative Champions League for the 14th consecutive season and guarantee at least $30 million from UEFA.

"We tended to drop off a bit and there were gaps appearing but we dug in and gave absolutely everything tonight," Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey said. "We believe we're capable of going over there to win. The most important thing is a clean sheet. Our defense was solid."

Ramsey is one of the players expected to fill the boots left by Fabregas' drawn-out move back to boyhood club Barcelona on Monday.

"It's time to move on — he was a great player for the club but now he's gone," Ramsey said. "We just have to concentrate on what we've got here. We believe the squad we've got is very talented."

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