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Ipswich Town 1 Arsenal 0

League Cup semi finals have been a pleasingly regular occurrence over the last five years, but the anticipation was somewhat increased for this one with Arsenal red hot favourites to win the competition. However, our day was jinxed from the start. The coach behind us had a problem with its stair lift, so our driver heroically went to assist. His altruism delayed our departure by half an hour, leaving us to negotiate the East End of London and then the A12 at the height of rush hour. The upshot was, our coach did not park until 7.35pm, leaving us with a frantic scurry for the away turnstiles in the Cobbold Stand Upper Tier, edging our way through the cramped stairways just as the teams kicked off. This was my first visit to Portman Road (the last time we played there in December 2001, I was 17 and my cheque bounced, meaning the club wouldn`t send me my tickets!)

As I suspected, Arsene fielded a strong side, I think with the intention of trying to go as far as possible towards finishing the tie in one fell swoop. Certainly, the expectation around me was that we only had to turn up and Ipswich would roll over and have their bellies tickled. Once the realisation that Ipswich, shock! Horror! Had no intention of doing so, the atmosphere amongst the away support became nastier and more poisonous than I have ever seen it. (I saw two scuffles break out amongst our own fans, objects thrown at Ipswich stewards, I had to halt my half time urination to break up a punch up in the toilets and I ended up telling the guy in front of me to try and vary his vocabulary. Honestly, there is only so many times you can listen to the words f****g s**t without it irritating and exciting your nerves. I honestly do not exaggerate when I say those two words poured from his mouth around 2-300 times. His response to my suggestion that he at least try some other expletives was to say, "I`ll say whatever the **** I want!" This was a man in his forties, not an irate, hormonal teenage girl I am talking about). Seriously, what a bunch of spoiled children we have become as a fan base.

Anyhow, Arsenal were quick out of the traps, little did we know however, that the first five minutes were about as good as it got. Wilshere nicked the ball away from Healy in midfield, leaving Arsenal with a three on three situation. Bendtner bore down towards the edge of the area, but chose the wrong option and shifted the ball to his right, where Walcott was more closely marked than Fabregas to his left and the chance petered out. A great deal of ire was directed towards Bendtner last night, of the eleven on display, he was the last person with the exception of Szczesny I would have put blame on. I mean, how many times did we actually get the ball into the Ipswich area? Have you ever tried to go fishing without any bait? The perfect antidote to what I am talking about is that, whilst Bendtner got a barracking every time he came into vision, there was a point in the first half when Kieran Gibbs miscontrolled a simple pass and allowed it to drift out of play. The response? Stony silence. What was that old Dobie Gray song? I`m in with the in crowd.

Ipswich were showing an almighty effort and Arsenal were a long way from their stride. Fabregas teed up a shot for Denilson on the edge of the area which was blocked, and that was about as dangerous as Arsenal looked for the remainder of the half. With the objective of not conceding early achieved, the home side grew in confidence. Connor Wickham, playing in an unfamiliar left sided role, turned the ball wide to Tamas Priskin on the left flank, who darted inside Djourou and sent an arrowing shot just wide of Szczesny`s far post. Town threatened again when Carlos Edwards sent a deep cross to the back post, which O`Dea headed back to Gareth McAuley, but the Ipswich centre half could only head over. It hadn`t been the most inspiring of halves, but I remained confident that Ipswich`s physical level would drop if we kept passing the ball and an opening would present itself. As it turned out, it was Arsenal`s level that dropped in the second half whilst Ipswich did not give us an inch until the very last second. The away side briefly looked like breaking through early in the second half. Fabregas lofted a ball over the top of Jaime Peters to the onrushing Arshavin, but the ball just wouldn`t drop invitingly and he lashed his volley over. Arshavin is a player that looks very low on confidence right now; he needs a goal badly. There again, the booing when he was substituted won`t have helped his cause much.

Fabregas switched a carbon copy ball over the top of Peters once more for Arshavin moments later, with the ball running lower and slower. But the linesman put up a very incorrect offside flag. (I was absolutely perpendicular to Arshavin as he started his run in perfect eye line with the official). But once again, Arsenal`s level dropped, which in turn gave Ipswich the confidence to increase their already commendable effort. Arsenal never really looked like carving their well organised opponents open. Fabregas and Bendtner played a neat one two on the edge of the area, which created space for Fabregas to test Fulop, but he over elaborated and tried to play Wilshere in when the pass was never on and Ipswich cleared the danger. As the Gunners pushed on, Ipswich started to threaten with the long ball. A punt from Peters was horribly miscontrolled by Eboue- who rather kept up with his desperately poor season- Priskin seized on the loose ball and made a beeline for goal, but Djourou was across to spare Eboue`s blushes. Ipswich hit upon an unsurprising tactic that often works against our defence which has a proclivity towards playing a very high line and tried it again with some success a few minutes later when Peters` hooked clearance sailed over Koscielny`s head with Priskin bearing down on goal. But the ball just would not drop for him and Djourou was across to smuggle the ball over his own bar.

The Gunners were really struggling to impress themselves on the game, such was the poor quality of their passing, allied with Ipswich`s ravenous pressing, Kieran Gibbs did manage to cut in from the left and deliver a right foot shot just wide of Fulop`s post. Arsene sent on Chamakh ("I think he`s a youngster coming up through the ranks isn`t he?" said the man behind me, entirely seriously) and Song (or "who`s number 17? Eastmond isn`t it?" said the same gentleman. Again, seriously). Bendtner was jeered off, which is rather unfortunate, he was no worse than the golden children such as Wilshere, Walcott and Gibbs. People`s problem with Bendtner stems from their very British distaste for anyone with self confidence. We rather like to see anyone who dares have the aspiration to elevate themselves above the humdrum of our existences fail spectacularly and publicly. Very sad psychological flaw in the British psyche that prevents many from achieving their own potential. Rather ironically, Arsenal produced and spurned their best chance in possibly their most fallow period of the game. Alex Song (or "that African blond haired ****" according to the gentleman in front of me, presumably taking up my invitation to extend his vocabulary) turned the ball wide to Gibbs and his cross just evaded Chamakh and fell unsuspectingly to Cesc, who was caught unawares and allowed the ball to bounce off his thigh and over the bar from close range.

The cost of the miss became apparent within seconds. This time it was Colin Healy that punted a long ball forward, Koscielny and Djourou were caught underneath it and yet again, Eboue and Gibbs provided no cover. This allowed Priskin to steal in ahead of the hesitant centre halves and prod the ball past Szczesny. The manager used the telling phrase afterwards, "If you`re not going to win the game, make sure you don`t lose it." This was very much a repeat of the Braga defeat where better communication on the pitch would have seen somebody take hold of the team and tell them they need to keep it tight. It wasn`t our night and was never going to be, so keep the full backs disciplined and let`s take the draw. Instead, we were guilty of over committing again and allowing another simple long ball to undo us. Arsenal showed some urgency for an equaliser and Fabregas brought a good save out of Fulop, before then splitting the defence with a slide rule pass which saw Walcott race in behind Peters, but Fulop was out smartly to block. Ipswich might have extended their lead in farcical circumstances when a simple kick out of the hands from Fulop saw Gibbs stay stationary inside Ipswich half and he looked on with disinterest as Carlos Edwards was left a clear run on goal, his effort blocked by Szczesny. In the end it wasn`t the result or the performance we wanted, but we have every chance of turning it round. Ipswich did not give us an inch for the whole 90 minutes and we didn`t have the guile to find ourselves an inch. The second leg is now effectively a one off tie that we have to win.LD.

53.SZCZESNY, 27.EBOUE, 20.DJOUROU, 6.KOSCIELNY, 28.GIBBS, 15.DENILSON, 19.WILSHERE (17.Song `67), 4.FABREGAS©, 14.WALCOTT, 23.ARSHAVIN (11.Vela `79), 52.BENDTNER (29.Chamakh `67). Unused: 16.Ramsey, 40.Eastmond, 48.Miquel, 49.Shea.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday January 13 2011

Time: 1:46PM

Your Comments

If this was a repeat of Braga it shows that we have learnt precisely nothing from that game.
Wyn Mills
Valid point.
Little Dutch
Very disappointing performance from us. The performance against West Ham this weekend will probably tell us if the dip in our form is a new trend or an aberration. We have no choice now but to get our full strength first team squad including Nasri to play the return leg against Ipswich at home.
I don't think Bendnter was the worst culprit, but if you (apparently) big yourself up publicly, you're tying a noose round your neck if you don't deliver. The problem we seem to have is that whenever we put a good string of results together, our confidence falls into complacency. Cesc had a great chance inside the penalty area, goal in front of him, to just shoot at goal, but inexplicably elects to pass wide. You can forgive Cesc coz his decision-making is practically faultless, but it seems endemic in the team. Rosicky is also guilty of the one pass too many syndrome. The only small defense I'd make is that you can't always slip into groove when you chop and change the team so much (which I understand we need to do). We only seem to turn it on when we feel we have to against the bigger opposition. I mean, we're even inconsistent during games, let alone between them. The time where we had put in a completely focused effort against Chelsea, we got our award. Even against City the focus, attutude and concentration were there.
Different forward line in both Chelsea and City games though. It's a tad unfair to criticise individual forwards because its really about the way they read each others play and their movement that allows midfield to do its work. Its their ability to play collectively rather than individual ability that's letting us down. It just hasn't been there at all in the 2 cup games, other than late when we were chasing the game and the line up had changed.
I think the one reason we couldn't get balls in to Bendtner in the box is because he was never in it. Biggest player on the team and never in there for headers and poaching.
Faithful, ain't you, LD; thanks for the committment. Credit to Ipswich for sheer relentless harrying and pressing. They absolutely gave us no space to do our thing. The return leg will have to be with a near-full squad because Jewel will come with the jinx factor and who's to know how we will fare against that side, should they adopt the bus parking and long balls over the top tactic?
I'm of the opinion that Jack Wilshere (just like Chamakh) seems to be completely out of form due to (mental?) fatigue. It is clear that he can run but he seems out of focus. Apart from Djourou and Szczesny, the rest of the team looked completely out of sorts and special mention must go to Eboue and Gibbs for their ridiculously bad performance. Denilson and Arshavin were not far behind.
Bendtner did try but his movement didn't seem to pull the Ipswich defenders out of their positions. With our passing not being coherent, Bendtner also seemed to come in very deep to receive the ball. RvP can with his movement potentially force their defenders into positional mistakes and I hope he plays in the return leg.
Spot on about the English lads, LD. But it's not just our fans, Sky Sports praised Wilshere every time he tried an inventive pass that didn't come off, saying he was unlucky, but Arshavin doing the same thing would be criticised. Not that I'm defending the Russian of course, who was woeful once again. But of course there have been others as stated: the fullbacks in particular were wretched, Denilson was ***** and, although Cesc tried to make things happen, he didn't make a real impact. Bendtner deserves some criticism but as you say, making him take all the flak is ridiculous. I thought Koscielny was decent as well as Szczesny and Djourou but unfortuantely that's it.
Exactly Vin, results like Chelsea should be an invitation to kick on, not to rest on your laurels and think "well, we beat them so these guys will be easy"
It is more complicated than just learning from our mistakes. We play a certain way where we never go for a draw and always try to win no matter where we are and who we play. With that said I don't think this will be a warning to the team as AW said. We had our warning a few days ago when we nearly lost at home to Leeds.
I'm not that impressed with Cesc's comments about Ipswich playing rugby. This is another 'get out of jail' excuse. Ipswich have no option but to play to their strengths and that's exactly what they did. Credit to them. The fact that we couldn't find a way through their defence and left ourselves exposed at he back is not their fault, its ours. Some of our players just need to wise up about taking chances and putting in an honest day's work.
Wyn Mills
We need to lose with grace. What Cesc says has come out wrong. I can understand fans having a pop and throwing around the sour grapes. They feel powerless. However our captain should be communicating a different message.
Wyn Mills
Wyn - I think Cesc was referring to the general long ball tactics he encounters in the UK and likening them to rugby, not just specifically moaning about Ipswich's tactics.
Rocky, I completely agree with you about Bendtner not getting into the box. He doesn't frighten defences.
Wyn Mills
"I don't know if it is long ball or it is a rugby kick but it worked for them," I don't know what that is supposed to be if not a criticism of Ipswich's playing style. It makes Fab sound naive and slightly disrespectful in my opinion. Its something he obviously feels compelled to speak out about, whether to the press or opposition managers as he comes off the field. Whether he agrees with the style of play or not as long as its breaking no rules he and his team just have to find a system to combat it. As I said, Ipswich played to their strengths. We can't expect teams to play the way we want them to.
Wyn Mills
Cesc should really keep schtum, Ipswich played within the rules and beat us, end of. Correct it on the pitch, not in the papers. I can only hope that was Cesc's way of issuing a rallying call. Bendtner was in the area for pretty much the whole first half and got one cross. He had to come out in the second half just to get the ball.
Little Dutch
A few of my Arsenal friends are being incredibly overconfident and believe you will smash them at home. Personally i think they're naive, especially considering your current home record. What do you guys think?
Most would have been incredibly confident before this game too. The win at their place does give them something to hang onto. If we don't score early it could get pretty edgy. The forward line we put out will tell you if we're treating the game seriously or not.
We really donít need anyone to knock our club we seem to be able to do that without any help. A couple of days ago everyone was saying what a wonderful manager we had and it was about time others acknowledge the fact. Now itís all about how our manager is either not up to the task or some idiots want us to get rid of him. Over the past couple of season this player or that player is useless get rid of him; to quote a few names, R.V.P, Song, Theo. Now I would suggest it would be daft if we had followed those directions as wanted by some fans. My only criticism is why we change the whole team almost to rotate the team. I've said it before and will say it again why change a winning team. Yes I agree some players do need a rest but the odd player not the whole bloody team. We used to have a team of fringe players who played every cup games and the main team the E.P.L. But team selection seems to rotate the whole team, be it E.P.L or Cup games. I am at a loss as to why. As for comments about those reporting on games highlighting English players give me a break. Are you telling me the same does not occur overseas about players in their country? Itís England where they are playing; any Richard Cranium would understand why they are highlighting their own players. When they report on Everton or West Ham in Australia they highlight the Australian players. C.D.F. fellers
While Gibbs wasn't great yesterday, his overlapping caused some of our more threatening moments. I'm at a loss to why Eboue doesn't do this, however. Back in the day he was one of the world's best attacking full-backs, and his crossing provided us with a lot of goals - he's considerably better at it than Sagna. Considering Eboue showed yesterday that his defence hasn't improved at all, he should at least justify his place by attacking a bit more.
Yes Ipswich well played!!
sounds like your fans are a bunch of rabble judging by the article above thats what you get with johhny come latelys.
sounds like tottenham fans are obsessed with everything Arsenal, whats new?
There will be plently of JCL's down in Stratford once you move U kok so its something you need to embrace.
Cesc was only referring to their long balls, saying it was similar to a rugby kick. The coach himself said in the post match interview that their plan was to sit back and hit balls over the top because he could see we were playing a high line. Cesc didn't say they didn't play football and he also credited them for their performance. The media have just spun the story like they usually do. Sometimes people just read "Fabregas claims Ipswich played Rugby" and jump to conclusions.
The comments weren't as sensationalist as made out, it's true, but if you look at what he's said it's clear there's some bitterness there and that he meant to belittle their tactics. See the phrase, "refusing to play football."
Little Dutch
A poor performance overall. In the earlier game, I criticised Rosicky for not providing the creative spark, and it was missing in this game from Cesc and the mid field. Denilson was average, but he needs a few games under his belt to get to his solid best. Ipswich fully deserved the win. It would be really disappointing if we didnt go all the way in the Carling Cup. If we cant do it here against (relatively) weaker opposition, what hope does the team have in the Premiership and CL?
Arshavin is a fat lazy ****. No way that russia pigmy will ever play himself into form with his attitude! Why doesn't the gaffer just omit him off the team sheet?
e dubbz
I dunno, probably because he tends to score lots and make lots of goals? The guy's off form and low on confidence, happens to every footballer, he'll get it back soon enough. Players of his quality always do. Should Arshavin or Bendtner score on Saturday, I hope a good portion of Arsenal fans sit the ***** down and shut the ***** up and don't have the gall to celebrate the goal.
Little Dutch
Worth pointing out that it's 68 years ago today that Arsenal- in the middle of winning 3 straight league titles- were beaten at home 2-0 by Third Division Walsall in the F.A. Cup 4th Round. I'll try and do an article on it tonight provided I can still see straight and have the dexterity to type once I get home (not a guarantee by any means).
Little Dutch
Ah, three straight league titles. Wonder what that would feel like! One of my ways of arguing with my Liverpool and Man Utd supporting friends about not winning the European Cup is that when Arsenal had domestic domination, there was no European Cup. If there was, we would have won at least 2!
LD, fascinating comparisons between Chapman's side with today's Arsenal. Interesting though that straight after that defeat to Walsall Chapman was so angry he sold 2 players. That's how ruthless he was as a manager. He was also a proponent of more quicker counter-attacking football than the slow possession based game we seem to be obsessed with today. One of his famous sayings was ""the most opportune time for scoring is immediately after repelling an attack, because opponents are then strung out in the wrong half of the field."
Wyn Mills
Something I think the Invincibles took great advantage of.
Wyn Mills
I think that's one great skill this team have lost that we used to have. Opposition corners used to just as likely break to the other end and score as concede. I reflected on this on Weds when I saw Walcott come back to defend a corner and I thought, "why?" He's not gonna win any headers and if we get the ball clear, we could use his pace. We used to bring everyone back for corners because Henry, Pires, Ljungberg had the pace to burst forwards. DB10 would sit on the edge of the box because that's where any clearance would go and he had the ability to find the pass. Surely now it would be worth having Cesc on the edge of the area, instead of the goal line and leave Walcott up.
Little Dutch
I don't know what it is with this team but they seem to put in one performance and then slip back into complacency. Denilson came on Vs Everton and looked really good, he gave us a spark and we went on to win the game. Since then he hasn't looked like he belongs at this club. Eboue (in my opinion) put in a lot of hard work to win back the fans but now seem like he couldn't give a **** and strolls around like he' s messi. Against Leeds there was a example when Walcott and Cesc chased down the ball and pressured the defender into a mistake, the ball broker to Eboue who then strolled up to it without an ounce of urgency for the potential break and was caught from behind by the winger who he had 10 yards on. Sums him up at the moment and it's not just them, most of the team seem to do this. Just when we get to the point where they are back in the good graces they **** it up again. I do not profess to be a good enough football mind to know how we should tackle this problem, that's what we have faith in Arsene for but it just frustrates the hell out of you watching them. That's the one word that sums up this team, frustrating. The previous team were called invincible!!!
I agree with you. Too often we have no-one who is composed on the edge of our own box to deal with clearances, which in turn induces further panic in defence. Cesc is the obvious person to do this with his vision and range of passing. Walcott, Nasri and Arshavin all have the pace ( while not blessed with great height) and need space to work their magic. We could learn a thing or two from Chapman's strategy of drawing out opposition players (encouraging them to attack) by dropping our creative midfield players back a touch at times, rather than banging our heads repeatedly on a brick wall. There's that other Chapman saying: "Sometimes you can attack to much" or something like that.
Wyn Mills
Great to see TH training with the team and looking so happy. Do you think anyone would notice if we sent him out with Bendtner's shirt on and a blond wig?
Wyn Mills
Wyn Mills
Must be worth a go. With a snood on, gloves, his socks pulled up to his thighs as of old, and a blond wig, who would know?
Wyn Mills
I am confident that we will concede against Ipswich in the return leg which means that we will need three to go through. Pessimistic, yes but I felt that we would struggle at Portman Road as well because the squad has a certain predictability about it. In the 40 years Iíve been supporting Arsenal, this has probably been the most frustrating five year period in terms of the squad potential and the trophy success weíve had. The consistency has been great but even this is below the true ability of the squad. There is so much waiting to come out but the heads arenít right. Arsene knows it; Fab knows it and his comments betray his frustration.
Sir Henry
There are a few parallels to be had with Chapmansí style of play and Wengerís including the swift counter attack (demonstrated more with the likes of Bergkamp, Pires and Henry than today) and a wide ranging scouting network. But Chapman liked a strong defence as well which Wenger hasnít really got at the moment. The tactic of allowing the opposition to come onto us doesnít seem to be employed by Wenger either so I wonder whether he might consider it. Donít forget that Chapmanís tactics worked pretty well for Huddersfield too.
Sir Henry
I also miss those days of the swift counter-attack. I wonder, though, whether our slower game has something to do with the size of the Ashburton pitch compared to Highbury. At Highbury, the pitch was one of the smallest and it took next to no time to be at the opposition's final third. At Asbhurton, I seem to recall Wenger saying about having to modify our game. That's something we don't always realise - as well as exchanging points in return for blooding youngsters, I reckon we would have gained more points over the last few seasons had we still been at Highbury and not having to re-adjust to a new home. By
Sir H, I will think that we need to sort out the defensive solidity before adopting the tactics of "allowing the opposition to come at us". You know how the heart flutters when we are on the defensive these days; using it as a ploy will be akin to inviting trouble. But, I do miss the days when we were feared for our swift counter attacking play as with our no-nonsense defending style.
We most certainly would've been more succesful over the last 5 years had we tayed at Highbury, vin. In my opinion anyway. Not sure about the pitch thing though, think the wider, expansive pitch suits counter attacking football just as much, if not more, than a smaller one.

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