Saturday, 15 January 2011

Ipswich away: the less said the better really

Ipswich 1 Arsenal 0

Seeing as I don't call things right very often, allow me a moment of self-congratulation: when the teams were announced before the match, I asked why Djourou, Arshavin and Fabregas (among others) were being asked to play in a match of this calibre, and that younger players would probably be more (and I hate this particular cliché) 'up for it'. I think I was right.

Who, in that Carling Cup side had anything in particular to prove? Those who has been struggling for form recently, weren't suddenly going to grow in confidence by beating a team who had lost 7-0 at the weekend, and I'd question how much people like Cesc really wanted to be there.

I felt Cesc and Eboué were particularly poor but it was an all-round poor team performance. I was also surprised Cesc complained about Ipswich's long-ball tactics, because the TV I watch the game on made it look like the pitch at Portman Road was very poor. If so, this would explain why our passing was so dreadful - but it would also beg the question as to why we didn't play it in the air like the opposition.

Out of those who had any involvement in the match, it was really only Szczesny, Djourou and Koscielny who came away with any credit. But this match was beneath Fabregas and Arshavin. Play them if you need them in the second leg, but not in the first. Walcott's running in a straight line was always going to be hard on a boggy pitch, and Wilshere and Denilson were just generally poor. Bendtner seemed a little isolated, and it's a little unfair to criticise him when the service was so poor - he's clearly out of form but his team-mates didn't help him. I also think the media crowing towards Bendtner is thoroughly disingenuous - he has spoken before about how he's had patches of poor form, he just thinks he could be a top, top player. Good luck to him.

Eboué's poor performance was more worrying - admittedly Arsenal were playing too high a defensive line, but I'm unconvinced he retains any defensive talent, and he's going to have to play against Barca. If Djourou, Koscielny and Vermaelen are all fit for the Barca game, I'd rather see one of them play right-back than our cult hero.

But the bigger issue with the Ipswich game, is why exactly did Wenger select that team. I fully expect them to turn it around in the second leg, but the team which plays at home will probably once again be full of top players.

So many of our first-team squad had their first break in the Carling Cup - including Fabregas and Djourou - and it seems a little odd that we're not giving that chance to our young players.

Craig Eastmond was Man of the Match last season against Liverpool in the Carling Cup but he wasn't picked; JET is now 20 but he can't get a game. Ignasi Miguel and Tom Cruise - to name but two - aren't really getting a chance. If we don't give our young players a chance in the Carling Cup, it makes it even harder for them to come through.

The bottom line is it was a poor performance - collectively as well as individually. We conceded to a long ball but it would have been a different story if Cesc hadn't kneed one over from a few yards out just before the goal.

Ipswich will come to The Grove to park the bus, but if we can't beat them then heaven help us for the rest of the season.

It's time to move on though - heaping opprobrium on the team won't help them play better, so we need to get behind them. The truth is that we've already lost 8 games this season and this team ships goals - expecting them to be wonderful just isn't realistic.

I still think they can win trophies, but getting on their backs won't help them - so lets give them our full support, starting this afternoon at Upton Park (if Twitter rocks your boat, I'll be tweeting about the match at @arsereview.

Finally, I'm fully aware that posts have been a little sparse of late - rest assured that it will be getting back to normal now, I've just been particularly busy.

Keep the faith.

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