This was only at halftime. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
1 - 0 Tomas Priskin 78'
Arsenal will go into the second leg of their Carling Cup semi-final at a disadvantage, having lost the first leg 1-0 at Portman road today.
Arsène Wenger started with a front three of Andrei Arshavin, Nicklas Bendtner, and Theo Walcott, with Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere, and Denilson behind. The attack never really found space in the area to work with, though, the quality of passing consistently not good enough on the final ball. The few chances Arsenal did manage to create, getting in behind the Tractor Boys' defense, Marton Fulop was there to save the day.
The signs were there early on, although it is of course easy to interpret them as such after the fact. Two minutes into the action, Nicklas Bendtner was romping forwards with runners left (Fabregas) and right (Walcott). Had he heard Fabregas' desperate pleas on the left, the Spaniard completely unmarked, it could have been 1-0 to the Arsenal very early. As it was, Bendtner dallied, fed the ball to the (more) covered Walcott, and Theo's chance was low quality.
Priskin nearly opened the scoring after fifteen minutes, cutting inside and curling a shot just wide of Wojciech Szczesny's far post. Arsenal continued to try to find a breakthrough, but misplaced passes and lack of runs at crucial moments let them down. Free kicks both far and near met the wall.
Towards halftime, Tomas Priskin thought he had scored with an overhead kick, but was correctly ruled offside. A moment later, it was Conor Wickham flashing a shot just over the bar.
The second half started as the first had ended, Ipswich coming closest when Wickham tried to chip Szczesny from 50 yards after winning the ball away from Arsenal's defense. Wickham gave Emmanuel Eboue all kinds of problems (the Ivorian didn't look at his fastest today) as the half wore on. Johan Djourou nearly got caught napping, trying to get Szczesny to come collect while still ten yards from the area, Priskin almost taking advantage.
Wenger made substitutions after 67 minutes, Marouane Chamakh coming on for Bendtner and Alex Song on for Wilshere, but Arsenal couldn't brighten up their play. Cesc Fabregas had a cross bounce off his thigh and over the bar after Chamakh couldn't get his head to it, and then the strike came.
Priskin was released yet again over the top by a long ball, raced onto it, and held off Johan Djourou just long enough to slip the ball around Szczesny into the far corner. Portman Road went absolutely mental, and Wenger made his final move, bringing on Carlos Vela for Andrei Arshavin. Arsenal, now desperate, peppered the Ipswich goal, but they still looked vulnerable to the long ball, Carlos Edwards getting on the end of a kick from his goaltender (!!!!) with only Szczesny to beat. The Pole was up for it, though, saving for a corner, and then promptly laying in to his defenders with no-doubt-unrepeatable Polish stylings.
Arsenal poured on a stoppage time barrage, but it was not to be, Ipswich's XI standing tall. The last kick of the match was Szczesny, booting a kick straight out of play. It was a fitting end to one of Arsenal's worst displays of the season. Thankfully, there is a second leg and a chance at victory waiting at the Emirates, but much more work needs to be done to shore things up after today.
Addition by BeltransMole:
- Ted makes a good point above. Yes there were chances, but, only half-chances that look a lot better after the game than during it. Mainly because we created nothing, despite having 80% of possession (80! Barca-esque).
- I think it's becoming quite obvious that playing Arshavin and Bendtner together without either Nasri or Rosicky doesn't work. Arshavin and Bendtner are too forward-thinking; not that this is a bad thing, but they don't come back and play with Fabregas or Wilshere. Wilshere was quiet yesterday (he's probably tired; he's played a lot of games this year already, and is only 18), and Fabregas was missing someone to play incisive one-twos with.
- 2.5, 2.3, 1.7. No, that's not the defensive mess ups over the last 3 defeats, but goals per game scored when van Persie, Chamakh and Bendtner start up front respectively. Or, if you want the raw totals, over the last two years, 51 goals have been scored in van Persie's 22 starts as the number 9, 55 in 22 for Chamakh and 31 in 18 for Bendtner. I think this tells us a lot about the way these 3 strikers play; both van Persie and Chamakh are better at linking play with the midfield, and creating space for the two wingers to run into (If you want to replicate it on Football Manager, set Cesc to Advanced Playmaker, Attack, the two wingers as Inside Forwards, Attack, and the number 9 as a Deep-Lying Forward). Both Chamakh and Bendtner have had to play without Fabregas a lot, so their comparison is more interesting than comparing van Persie and Chamakh.
- This doesn't mean we can never play Bendtner; it just means that if we do play him, there has to be link up play with the midfield from someone, and Walcott and Arshavin aren't going to provide that.
- Eboue against Barcelona scares me. A lot.