This week is a peculiar one for us Arsenal fans.
It’s not often we play two games in a row that do not include Premier or Champions League action. It’s even less often that we play two games in a row against lower-league opposition. But with Saturday’s 1-1 FA Cup draw with Leeds to be followed by the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final against Ipswich on Wednesday that’s exactly what we’ve got.
It would be an understatement to say that people were angry with the performance and result against Leeds — “Get rid of Bendtner!”, “Get rid of Denilson!” and “Get rid of Arshavin! were particularly prominent sentiments — but I feel a lot of the criticism has been over the top. It seems the contrasting combination of being a little bit lucky to stay in the tie via Cesc’s last-minute penalty and being a bit unlucky not to have put the tie to bed earlier exacerbated the reaction from the support.
The funny thing is that, despite opinions to the contrary and the media using the result as a way of bigging up plucky Leeds, we didn’t play too badly. We were naive at times, for sure, but a much-rotated side created plenty of chances and if it wasn’t for some erratic finishing we would have won the game. What’s more, aside from Denilson’s rash tackle, we were fairly secure at the back with Johan Djourou again superb.
The result means a replay at Elland Road on the 19th and I think playing further away from home — away from a crowd of supporters who believe groaning every time a pass is misplaced or berating a 22-year-old striker who is dealing with the unique challenges that raising a first child brings for missing a fairly difficult late chance — will suit us. Regardless of the result it’s going to be a great night and for a supporter more football is always more fun.
As for Ipswich, once again I’m happy that we’re playing the first leg away from home. The feeling I get is that with Chelsea giving the Tractor Boys a 7-0 belting on the weekend, anything too far away from that from our boys would be perceived as a bad result.
It will be interesting to see the team that Arsene Wenger puts out on Wednesday. An extremely positive result in this game could allow for some serious rotation in the second leg, so the temptation has to be there to go all-out and play as strong a side as possible. As always, we’ll have to wait and see what the main man has in store.
A growing cause for concern is the state of affairs regarding our central defensive unit. Reports are that Sebastien Squillaci is struggling with a potentially serious hamstring problem and with Thomas Vermaelen a virtual permacrock it leaves us with just Laurent Koscielny and the knee-troubled, if epic, Johan Djourou.
Fortunately Wenger seems aware of the seriousness of the problem: he’s admitted that an emergency signing is a necessity if Squillaci’s hamstring problems prove severe.
But who’s it going to be? Per Mertesacker? Gary Cahill? Sol Campbell?!?
I’ll leave you to ponder.
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