Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Arsenal's Carling Cup Semi Final First Leg Against Ipswich Previewed.

Arsenal make the trip to Ipswich tonight for the first leg of their Carling Cup semi final. It's a game that they are favourites to win, and a trophy that they are favourites to win too. With tonight's opponents sitting perilously close to the relegation zone of the Championship, and fresh from a 7-0 drubbing by Chelsea in the FA Cup Arsenal have to be careful that they don't take the game too lightly.

There's a syndrome in football called "new manager syndrome", and sometimes it makes teams up their game when they are playing for the first time under a new manager. Ipswich sacked Roy Keane last week and installed Paul Jewell as their new manager only a couple of days ago, and Arsenal need to be wary of how their players might possibly react to that appointment. The last time Arsenal played a Paul Jewell side in a Carling Cup semi final they were beaten on the away goal rule by Wigan in 2006. In my book that means that we owe Jewell a semi final defeat, and of course Ipswich still have to be repaid for beating Arsenal in the 1978 FA Cup final.

I still have bad memories about that 1978 final, and how Ipswich outplayed an Arsenal team who simply didn't turn up on the day. That sounds a little bit like the current Arsenal team, as they have failed to turn up on quite a few occasions in recent seasons. In most of those games they have hopefully "learned a lesson", and it's coming to the stage of the season where those lessons need to be put into practice.

With the pursuit of the Premier League title still the most important item on the Arsenal agenda I expect tonight's team to be far from full strength. I do hope that the boss decides to put a few of his more consistent performers out tonight though, as he needs a few players with the ability to drive the team forward. I would imagine that there won't be too many changes from Saturday's team that drew 1-1 at home to Leeds in the FA Cup, but if it was up to me I would add Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere to the starting 11.

The defense is bound to be more or less the same, with the exception of Laurent Koscielny coming in for the injured Sebastien Squillaci. That would mean that Johan Djourou would have to play his fourth game in 12 days, and quite how that will affect his continued recovery from the year that he missed through injury is anybody's guess. I hope that he comes through in one piece, and the boss signs another centre back as soon as possible to take some of the pressure off him. There are other possibilities of course with the boss saying that Alex Song can be deployed in that role as well as Ignasi Miquel. I'm not too fond of Song as a centre back, and Miquel has never played for the Arsenal first team. Arsenal cannot pin their hopes on those two players to play as centre backs for the next few weeks if there are any more injuries, or if Djourou needs to be rested.

I wasn't too impressed with Song's contribution against Leeds on Saturday, and I think that he might well sit this one out. That would leave a midfield trio of Denilson, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere, although I would prefer to see Nasri play instead of Rosicky. That means that the defensive duties will be shared between Denilson and Wilshere, and Nasri will hopefully take up the creative role if he is chosen. If those three are chosen I am confident that they would have too much for the Ipswich midfield, and they should drive Arsenal forward to a first leg victory that will make the second leg a lot easier.There is ofcourse the possibility of Aaron Ramsey playing from the start, but I think a late role as a substitute would be more suitable for him, as he looks to make his way gradually back into first team action.

It's hard to see the boss making any changes in the front three, despite the fact that none of them played particularly well on Saturday. I would like to see Theo Walcott in from the start, but I think that Nicklas Bendtner will again be asked to play in an unfamiliar wide role that hevis just not suited to. There is of course a possibility that Carlos Vela will play from the start, but I doubt it very much. Despite the fact that the boss has said Andrey Arshavin is going through a bit of a rough patch with his form I still expect him to start, and if his attitude is right he can cause Ipswich all sorts of problems. Another player whose form is poor is Marouane Chamakh, and I hope he can turn things around tonight too.

There's a few players in that starting line up that owe the traveling Arsenal fans a performance worthy of their magnificent support, and I hope that they can give them just that against a team that has to be hurting after Sunday's humiliation. If Arsenal can put enough of their best players in the team to make the others perform well I am sure that they will have too much for Ipswich, and I predict a 3-1 win for them. It would be great to see Arshavin, Bendtner or Chamakh back on the scoresheet, and there are sure to get plenty of chances. If they can take a few of those chances it might just be what they need to get things going for them again, and help Arsenal in their pursuit of four trophies this season.

At this stage in the season it would seem that the Carling Cup is the easiest route to silverware for Arsenal, as their opponents in a possible final would be either West Ham or Birmingham. As long as Ipswich are dispatched there is nothing much to fear from either of those teams in a Wembley final at the end of February in my opinion. It may only be the Carling Cup, but it's better than no trophy at all, and it may give the players that breakthrough trophy that leads to the refilling of the trophy cabinet.

That's it for today.

Here's a look at what Bendtner can do when he puts his mind to it.

See You Tomorrow.


  1. Interesting that you see the boss playing a (mostly) first team. He could, but I'd rather he gave the second team more playing time. This is an eminently winnable tie, so let the 2nd team play, and if they screw up, put the firsts out when we play them at home.

    Excellent blog today btw. :-)

  2. Thanks for the compliment. I don't see a mostly first team but there is no choice in some positions due to injury and I would like to see 2 or 3 first team players in the 6 offensive roles. It's more of a mix really which I think would benefit the team.