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Arsenal 3 Ipswich Town 0 (3-1 agg)

The fifth time Arsenal have played a League Cup semi final in seven years and I don`t recall as much apprehension for any of them as I did for this one. Whether it`s our desperation for some silverware (if only to stop people reciting that damned sentence, you know the one I mean) or the evident "winnability" of the competition from the off I`m not sure. I suspect a bit of both. Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester City all went at the first hurdle; Manchester United followed for us in the Quarter Final. The Carling Cup has rather been winking at suggestively on the horizon since September. When we drew Ipswich for the semi final, with the second leg at home to boot, you felt that, to quote FDR, the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. I thought Ipswich were clearly going to put the majority of their eggs into the home basket and reasonably expected to take the tie to the Grove level or a goal to the good. But a rather horrible performance saw the tie delicately poised, with a one goal deficit to make up on home soil.

Prospective ticket details for the Final were printed in the match programme and we all had to fight the temptation to discuss how many of us will sit together and the sort of price ranges we are looking at. Happily, these discussions can now continue apace this morning. (Incidentally, I have seen some hand wringing elsewhere this morning about cup final ticket allocations. Astonishing really, leaving aside the fact that the club printed the Cup Final ticket policy in September 2006, it`s quite simple really. The more games you go to, the more chance you have of getting a ticket. Honestly, somebody please explain to me how it could be fairer than that?) As the teams flashed up on our screens in the Tavern, there seemed to be enthusiasm for the strong line up selected, but I confess to wondering aloud whether the manager had rotated the wrong part of the team. Nasri, Walcott and van Persie were the front three that presided over games against Chelsea, Birmingham, West Ham and Wigan- all of which saw us score three. On a night when you definitely need two goals, I thought it was a risk to select a front three so foreign. Ipswich promised to park the tractor and that`s exactly what they did. Arsenal for their part, found it hard to pierce the rigid back line and a lack of chemistry upfront, allied to Ipswich`s valiant defending appeared to be the twin causes.

The atmosphere in the ground had an air of zeal to it. As the players ran to the centre circle, Fabregas instantly motioned for the crowd to, as 80s dance combo M.A.R.S put it, "Pump Up the Volume." Though that volume was almost immediately muted to a terminal lull from kick off as Grant Leadbitter saw Szczesny off his line and attempted an audacious fifty yard lob with the first kick of the game which floated onto the roof of the net. Arsenal for their part could not summon the early goal we all craved; a game of patience would be required against Ipswich. We gave them something to hold onto in that first leg and they wouldn`t be giving it up without a fight. The Gunners nearly did break through after twenty minutes. Nicklas Bendtner stood up a right wing cross to the back post and Robin van Persie craned his neck to meet with a firm header that rebounded off the cross bar. I have lost count of the amount of times van Persie has hit the woodwork in the last three years, but I know prior to this game, opta report that he has hit the frame of the goal once for every 452 minutes played, far more than any other player since August 2007. If even half of those efforts had gone in, we`d be talking about an unimaginably bigger goal tally than he has already attained.

Arsenal patiently toiled but to little avail in the first half, even if the game was the one way traffic we had all expected. A Fabregas tumble in the penalty area under minimal contact was the only incident to get hearts racing. Ipswich rarely threatened, save for a Leadbitter free kick, which saw Szczesny caught in no man`s land, but Norris headed over. Szczesny collided with Sagna, causing the in form right back to leave the field with concussion. Eboue took his place and basically spent the game needlessly trying to beat Ipswich players in his own third of the pitch. Often without success. Fulop did fumble a Fabregas free kick, causing a minor ruction in the area, but Bendtner found his shot blocked by a throng of Ipswich bodies. The home side did eke out a clear cut opportunity on 33 minutes; the imperious Wilshere clipped a gorgeous pass into the path of Fabregas, who had run beyond Ipswich`s defence. The Spaniard chest trapped the ball but then conspired to fire the ball well wide of the post with his left foot. I must confess I began to get very edgy come half time; I felt Arsenal had rather rotated the team and approached the game in an arse about face fashion, gambling on the last 20 minutes as opposed to the first 20. Fortunately, the team did not manifest any of my apprehension and stayed patient. On 62 minutes, Bendtner had crept into a chasm of space on the left and Wilshere found him with a glorious clipped pass. Bendtner chested the ball down on the corner of the area, flicked the ball past Carlos Edwards before curling an accomplished finish into the bottom corner. Bendtner was probably the best player in our front three last night and it`s a shame that every piece of deft control he performed was met with stony silence from the crowd, where others draw applause. It`s an incredible situation we find now where our own fans so shamelessly will their own players to fail. Eboue is still feted as an ironic cult hero despite putting in performances far, far worse than anything he was ever roundly booed for. But an evening, indeed a season, of trying to beat players in his own penalty area and looking like an arse is all o.k. because he throws his shirt into the crowd at the final whistle. Honestly, Arsenal fans, you are a really f****g strange lot. I just don`t get you sometimes.

From there, the crowd relaxed too and it wasn`t long before Arsenal took the lead in the tie for the first time. Arshavin closed down McAuley next to the corner flag and earned a corner. The law of averages dictated that, after a flurry of awful, awful corners, we would have to get one right. And so we did when Arshavin swung his corner into the area and Laurent Koscielny beat Fulop to the ball to emphatically head home his first Arsenal goal. Djourou`s defensive performances have correctly drawn many plaudits of late, but I think Koscielny has been just as impressive in the last two months to very little acclaim. You just get the impression some players must have the wrong look or something, because they never seem to make their way into supporters hearts. From there, you figured Ipswich really didn`t have the gumption to amount an assault on our goal. Eboue did try to give them a helping hand, again ignoring a simple pass out of defence in an attempt to beat Connor Wickham. He was dispossessed, which allowed Jason Scotland to bear down on goal, but the angle was against him and Szczesny was equal to the low shot.

There was still some tension knowing a set piece could easily see Ipswich back into the driving seat, so the relief was palpable when Denilson broke up an Ipswich attack, allowing Fabregas to gallop free on the counter attack. He played the ball into Arshavin, who patiently drew his defender, before slotting a pass into the path of Fabregas, who had marauded beyond Norris, to take a touch before slotting the ball between Fulop`s legs. The game petered out in a satisfying conclusion (save for an idiotic pitch invader who, hopefully, got a good kicking from the stewards once he was dragged off and arrested); with Fabregas leading his troops on a mini lap of honour at the final whistle. Ipswich gave us a really difficult tie over both legs and deserve credit for that. Even after the second leg, I did not expect to still be pensive 150 minutes into the tie. But the team got their reward for their patience and now we have a very real chance of winning this tournament. Similar patience and nerves of steel will be required at Wembley. I don`t often link into other Arsenal blogger`s posts and perhaps I should more often, but I think I will leave the summary to GilbertoSilver at Gunnerblog, whose post puts it very nicely indeed.LD.

53.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA (27.Eboue `18), 20.DJOUROU, 6.KOSCIELNY, 22.CLICHY, 15.DENILSON, 19.WILSHERE, 4.FABREGAS©, 52.BENDTNER, 23.ARSHAVIN (14.Walcott `84), 10.v.PERSIE (8.Nasri `84). Unused: 17.Song, 28.Gibbs, 29.Chamakh, 55.Shea.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday January 26 2011

Time: 10:28AM

Your Comments

Nice to see Kiplings IF invoked again. Did the idea come from my earlier article on Denilson's comments perhaps? In fact it has been used a few times in football once memorably by an English teacher who managed non-league Sutton United prior to them knocking Coventry out of the FAC best part of a couple of decades back. There's no doubt that team selection, in terms of composition of players rather than quality, made the tie harder than it might have been but fielding RvP and Cesc was just enough in the end. Great goal from Bendtner to set the win up and important contributions from much criticised Denilson and Arshavin to seal it.
Amos.
Arshavin now has 14 assists this season, more than any other player in our team.
iceman10
Wasn't it Koscielny's 2nd for us? I'm sure i remember seeing him score one v early in the season?
Chipo
Yep, just checked, Bolton at home in September :)
Chipo
Denilson gets lot of hate among gooners. Thought he was pretty good last night.
jaelle
Just wanted to pick up on what you said about those going to the most games being rewarded with tickets. That isn't the case! I have missed 5 games since the start of the 2008/9 season (Kiev, Fenerbache and Man City away in 2008, Hull home last season and Liverpool away this season) but because I am silver and travel club I most likely won't be able to get a through the club.
tcs11
I think Arshavin was doing well up to november time but people were getting on his back for perceived laziness & not wanting to be there even though his stats showed how big a contribution he was making. Now he is going through a bad spell/low confidence people are making out he has been **** all along.
paul_ownz
Priorities are (1) Current members of the Away Scheme (Away Season Ticket Subscription) (2) Platinum and Gold members who have attended 3 and above away fixtures over the last two consecutive seasons from 13th August 2008 - 20th January 2011. Season ticket holders get priority as they are the ones who lay out a lump sum every year, just how it is.
iceman10
Does anyone else get really nervous when Eboue gets the ball inside our own area and especially when around our box!
Dberg
tcs if you go to all the games anyway then why not just join the away scheme?
Chipo
Chipo - I was on the away scheme but gave it up this season as I had a job offer from abroad and didn't know how much I would be around. However I have stayed in the country and continued to go to the games. I'm sure there are other people in the same position as myself. I think the away credits should come into it somewhere. On top of that there will be a lot of season ticket holders who will have skipped the Carling Cup fixtures and those who never travel away who will receive the tickets.
tcs11
There's the rub, there's no waiting list for the away scheme, the encouragement is there to join. Particualrly since the club printed their policy four and a half years ago. There is a small pocket of people who are in your position, but think about it administratively from the club's point of view, there really isn't another way they can do it short of getting everyone to audition for a ticket x factor style.
Little Dutch
In general STHs have to cough up the money without being certain that the club will be challenging for trophies or struggling to avoid relegation. There might be greater expectation of the former as an Arsenal supporter but that expectation comes at a price. What is frustrating though is that the biggest group attending probably won't be either sets of supporters but footballs panjandrams, the great and good and their families and friends.
Amos.
That's definitely a tune I can groove to, that both sets of supporters get 1/3 of the stadium a piece is despicable. The touting business (one of the most deplorable businesses out there) goes into overdrive as "football's family" tend to punt their tickets onto desperate patrons for the price of a human kidney. 40,000 each, surely 10,000 is enough for the hangers on and their limo drivers?
Little Dutch
And I sand corrected on Koscielny, he did score against Bolton. I'm slipping!
Little Dutch
A lot of people (myself included) have a number of reasons why they can't travel to many away games (job/angry girlfriend being the 2 big ones). But I haven't missed a home game all season, including all the Carling Cup ones. Wouldn't be happy if silver members got in front of me, no matter how many away games they went to.
Chipo
And my away record is so terrible i don't think i should go anymore. Last 4: Ipswich lost 1-0, Man U lost 1-0, Wigan drew, Barca lost 4-1. If anything Arsenal should be encouraging me to stay away!
Chipo
i kind of think you answered your own question there LD regarding the crowds apathy toward Bendtner, it was apparant from the selection that it was far from our strongest frontline and everyone knew it, noone seemed to want to find Andrey in the first half who was often left in acres with cesc only finding him once or twice in 45, and Bendtner though marginally more effective only found real joy once switching flanks or moving in centrally. It was a huge risk to start with that front 3 and a bigger risk to leave it until well into the second half (and admittedly our goals!) before changing, considering one fluke moment from Ipswich would've brought the decision ringing round Wengers' ears til the seasons' end. For sure we may've still been looking to break Ipswich down even with Samir & Theo but there could've been no blame attached anywhere but the players had we failed to break Ipswich down. Still the gamble worked, we're through and it's all pointless speculative 'what ifs?' now.
nikolaijns
Lol Chipo - They should be giving me free tickets to home games. I haven't seen them lose at all in about the last 30 home games I've been to. League Cup semi final against Boro was the last and only time I've ever seen us lose at home. I have however banned myself from going to the Reebok ever again. We've lost everytime I've been there.

As for the game, watching on TV last night Cesc clearly said to the Ipswich defender "I lost my balance" and neither did he appeal for a penalty, so I wouldn't be quick to chastise him.
Rocky7
There were good reasons why no one seemed to want to find Andrey in the first hour or so. He should still get a start in the weekends cup game. As long as he can get by the more rest Nasri can get the better. We'll need Nasri, RvP, Cesc and Theo as sharp as they can be for the Everton game. The others will have to find a way of playing together against Huddersfield. No matter how slight the 'foul' Cesc exaggerated the contact that was made with him in order to try to win a penalty.
Amos.
Really don't rate Arshavin at all, do you Amos? 2 Assists last night, and please don't relate them to Peter Crouch or Drogba's knock downs. He's still got a lot to give this season.
shewore
Er thought the main jist of not comparing stats as an even playing ground would be a direct nod towards them not telling the whole story.
shewore
Arshavins a good player but we have better. Still a useful player to have in the squad. Interesting to note that all of a sudden stats do tell the whole story for you though :)
Amos.
In spite of Referee Halsey’s attempt to even things up by playing as Ipswich’s twelfth man and the Tractor Boys’ time-wasting, we managed a good solid win in the end. What Halsey was thinking awarding a drop-ball after getting in the way and presenting Fabregas with the ball I really don’t know because it has nothing to do with the rule book. It could only have been a sense of philanthropy towards the underdogs. Let’s hope we get the same sort of refereeing when we play the Catalans next month. I admit I was wanting Bendtner and Arshavin off but they proved me wrong. Great goal from NB52 and terrific layoff by Arshavin to Cesc.
Sir Henry
It never crossed my mind to compare Arshavins corner with one of Crouchs or Drogbas knockdowns :)
Amos.
'Honestly, Arsenal fans, you are really a ****ing strange lot' ... Classic LD line!
shady gunna
Gareth bale has 7 goals & 1 Assist in 23 Prem appearances, Arhavin has 4 goals & 9 assists in 22 Prem appearances. One is being called a pile of garbage, the other is the best premiership player ever ever ever..... Thats stats for you
paul_ownz
Paul - If Spurs strike force wasn't such a massive pile of babba, Bale would probably have about 30 assists ... lol
Rocky7
I felt the same way before the game, LD, a nervousness abt the potential result and the first half did nothing to improve that. It was a good effort in the end, and I'm most pleased with the clean sheet. The defence is looking solid for now.
prits
Your having a laugh. Name me a better strike force than Pav, Crouchy, Defoe & Keano. They have 6 league goals in 52 games.
paul_ownz
In all honestly i didnt expect there stats to be that bad. Crouch 1 in 23, Keane & Defoe none in 6 & 7. Haha
paul_ownz
Jesus, it really is Bale and VDV keeping them a float isn't it. And with Bale out injured their going to be struggling. And to think Vital Spurs penned an article the other day saying "Can we still win the title?" LOL
Rocky7
So it's the Bham THUGS that we face at Wembley
jaelle
Shame about that I wanted the Hammers, think the match would have been a greater spectacle if it was Arsenal v West Ham
Dberg
In fairness, if you look at Bale's chances created stat, he would have way more assists with a vaguely competent forward line. AA still has a lot to give this season, if experience tells us anything it's that Novemebr-January is the time to lose form if you hit form again in February. If you're still providing goals in a spell of bad form all the better.
Little Dutch
I've been to all the home games in the carling cup this season...2 :). Re: Bendtner, its strange what a tipsy turvy time he's had at Arsenal. He went from being the player who everyone said should be on the bench NOT Vela (early on in his career), to star striker who was scoring many important goals for us last season. He's gone down poorly with the fans again. This season you couldn't go to a home game with Bendtner playing without hearing "Bendtner IS SH£T" at least once. Fabregas was magnificent as ever but I'd give Motm to Bendtner for his performance. He looked like a man out to prove a point. There was a stark contrast between him and Nasri towards the end of the match. Nasri was looking pristine, jogging back to do his defensive duties even though a heavy breathing, sweat-drenched big dane was their before him to help his 'exhausted' team mate out.
gronedrone
I would have to give Motm to Wilshere. The way he ran the game was almost as good as Spurs away in the 3rd round.
gunnerkid107
I agree, Wilshere was MOTM for me last night. His pass for Cesc's missed shot was pure class, and his energy in midfield was top-notch as well. Regarding Arshavin, despite his poor form recently, it's still worth giving him playing time, because if he can play himself back into form, he is a key weapon for us.
krismon1
The chant, "you havent won ***** all" is just gonna be replaced by "its just a mickey mouse cup" as said by arseblogger. The only way to shut their trap is haul up other cup as well.
MrE._Man
its easy to slate players who go thru rough patches of form. remember when nasri was struggling for form when he returned after his leg break early last season. yet now his name is being sung the most. gooners need to keep this in mind when we discuss bendtner and especially arshavin. wenger didnt get these players in based on their form, but by the class they displayed at some point. i can imagine AA scoring a vital goal or two against one of our immediate title rivals or even that crappy team in spain, what'sit called? barca sumthin or rather??
supersof
Can anyone please tell me what the cost is for Red Membership?
Dberg
On thing I've noticed about Arshavin is that he never hides and will continue trying. I don't believe that he's not trying, he's just going through one of those phases where it's not coming off for him. The other thing that's crossed my mind though is that he seems to have lost that burst/pace over the first few yards. Is that because he looks slightly overweight (just a guess from afar) or is that because of age. Wenger of course will look at these things closely and I wouldn't be surprised if we cash in on him in the Summer before it's too late.
Gooner_Vin
Arshavin has admitted quite openly that he isn't the best trainer and AW did publicly question whether he could handle a whole season in the top flight before we signed him. A trough is inevitably followed by a peak, I think AA will hit form as we go into the business end of the season and come up with some crucial goals.
Little Dutch
I think Arshavin has only completed a full game 4 times this season. His stamina has been a question mark and he may have come into this league a little late to adjust his level to the work demands to be a real success here. But he clearly has quality and has always been a luxury player. We can use him in that vein for a while longer I'm sure.
Amos.
...and 3 of those 4 games were right at the start of the season after a summers rest :) ! He has played completed one full game since the end of September.....though he has got past the 80th minute on 6 occassions!
Amos.
Was that the game he went to the sideline everytime the Subs board came up?
paul_ownz
I think it was Leeds at home Paul.
iceman10
Arshavin is a player who himself knows when he is playing well and when he is playing poorly. I think he will come out of this slump and play a vital role towards the run in
Eboue=GOD
If he can't play the whole 90 minutes then its ok with me. The Arshavin we signed couldn't last 90 minutes regularly. I am not fussed about him not completing 90 minutes. Its in his performances that there has been a drop. He needs to find back the form he had when he came to The Grove. We need to see the Arshavin who scored 4 at Anfield. And I do have every hope that he will get back to his best and deliver.
Eboue=GOD
Micky Mouse Cup anyway, eh boys
nicktheyido
'tis but unlike some we've had other things to celebrate in the last 20 years too.
Amos.
Stepping stone for Arsenal is the peak of what your muggy little club can achieve. Off to Stratford with you or anywhere but Tottenham as Levy would say.
Iceman10
I wonder if we win we'll make a DVD? Be touch & go i suspect.
shewore
The thing about Arshavin is - he's honest. An extract from an interview on his site - 'It wasn’t a supermatch for me. But I’m satisfied with the result'. I'm confident that its only a matter of time before he find his form.
prits
 

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