Positive team selection. Aggressive, hungry performance. Big result.
When I saw RvP in the starting line-up I knew Arsenal are going for it no holds barred. Arsene only made 3 changes to the side that dismantled Wigan a few days earlier. The two wide attacking players Nasri and Walcott were rested. In came Arshavin and Bendtner. In the midfield Song got a well deserved breather.
Within the opening minutes it was clear that Arsenal were fired up and had genuine desire. The tempo of the game was really high as the Gunners were desperate for the first goal.
Van Persie got a clear shot in the 5th minute after a wonderful cross by Sagna but couldn’t keep his swivel strike on target with his weaker foot.
A few minutes later Fabregas was brought down in the penalty area but the ref waved play on. This was the classic example of ‘Rugby’ that Cesc had mentioned. How anyone can push a guy running at that speed without getting penalised is beyond me. From what I’ve seen, it happens only in England and particularly in the Cup games where the ref gives plenty of sympathetic decisions for the smaller sides.
That was not the only example either. RvP was grabbed when he was running into the box and many Arsenal players were pushed and kicked with the opponent making no attempt to play the ball. But the important point was that Arsenal knew the rules for such games are different and no player showed any kind of frustration against such tactics. They just put their head down and got on with the game.
In the 13th minute there was a scare for Arsenal. A free-kick was launched into the Arsenal box. Szczesny came but got nowhere near the ball. The Keeper ended up colliding with Sagna. Both got head injuries and the Frenchman had to be substituted. Luckily for Arsenal the header from McAuley looped over the bar.
Arsenal created a number of chances in the first half, most notable were RvP hitting the bar and Cesc shooting wide, but Ipswich survived. The visitors were working hard in defence and deserve credit for their endeavour and organization. I also got a feeling that the urgency shown by the Gunners, normally a big positive, was actually reducing the impact of their attacking play.
It seemed to me that everyone wanted to attack and that reduced the composure one might have expected. Often the final ball was played hastily or without having enough players in the box. This approach worked in the visitors’ favour as they were able to mop up at the back with relative ease.
The Tractor Boys offered no threat in attack despite their forward showing Olympic level grappling skills. Their only hope was on the set-pieces but Szczesny didn’t have to make any spectacular saves.
The second half was no different and we saw the same patterns repeating till the hour mark.
It all changed when Wilshere played a delightful ball over the top to find the run of Bendtner on the left. The Dane controlled it well and was able to charge into the box before changing direction with a deft touch and finishing with a wonderful curler. Yes, that’s exactly what I was talking about in the preview.
I was impressed by the fact that Bendnter took responsibility and delivered even when he had Cesc and RvP in good positions in the box. A pass would have been the easier option but his goal was infinitely more decisive.
Arsenal got the second within a couple of minutes. It came from a corner that came from Arshavin putting the defender under pressure. The Russian delivered a good ball and Koscielny scored at the near post. I honestly can’t remember the last time Arsenal scored such a simple goal from a corner. Squillaci against Partizan comes to mind after some thought. Any others?
The wind was knocked out of Ipswich sails. The visitors tried to attack but had no real quality. Even the fact that Arsenal moved into neutral gear didn’t help the Tractor Boys.
The third came from quick counter. Denilson made a trademark interception and played it to Fabregas in one motion. Arshavin made a good run and played a neat one-two with El Capitan who finished it through Fulop’s legs.
As expected this game was all about the first goal. It should have come earlier from a penalty but I don’t mind. It was great to see every player showing real desire and fight.
27th Feb is the date you might want to mark in your calendars.
Szczesny: Probably the only spectator who didn’t have to pay for his ticket. Made one judgment error and we have to hope the damage to Sagna is not serious.
Sagna: One delightful cross in his cameo.
Eboue: Made me nervous on a couple of occasions but did his job well enough.
Djourou: Dominated his area except one occasion when he let his man get past him wide on the right. Overall a strong display with good positioning, distribution, and composure.
Koscielny: Another solid game from the Frenchman. Good to see his name on the score sheet. Unlucky to get a card when the ref allowed so many fouls go unpunished.
Clichy: Another good game. Lacked a bit of support on the left but the opponents just didn’t have enough to get past him.
The back five were untroubled from open play but Arsene has to make the team stronger on set-pieces.
Denilson: Kept it simple. Made some crucial interceptions and tackles. Passing should have been better.
Cesc: Was involved with almost everything going forward. Made some excellent runs and played some good passes. Could have done better with his finishing but I’m not complaining.
Wilshere: Excellent game from the youngster. Probably his best in an Arsenal shirt so far. Rode the physical challenges, ran well with the ball, picked up a big assist. His final ball could have been better in the first half but it will come with experience.
The midfield completely dominated the game once again. The only complaint can be that they tried too hard to create chances!
Bendtner: Worked really hard all over the pitch. Scored an excellent goal. Great cross for RvP. The Dane is regaining his form with each game.
RvP: Made some excellent runs, always looked a threat in and around the box, unlucky not to score but continued his love affair with the wood work.
Arshavin: Put in genuine effort. Picked up two assists. Back on the right track now, just needs to keep going.
Subs: Didn’t have much to do.
Before I end I wish to comment on two incidents during the game.
It was shocking to see the Ref blow his whistle when Arsenal were 3 v 2 just outside the Ipswich box. The Gunners got lucky with a deflection of the official but that does not give him the right to stop the play. It was another example of the sympathetic decisions that I was talking about. If this had happened at the other end would Mike Halsey have blown his whistle?
There was an intruder on the pitch with just a few minutes left. I hope it was not an Arsenal fan as that could be the dumbest thing to do for a Gooner. Players who have given so much in the game can lose concentration after such incidents and that’s the last thing we want. Hopefully, the guy won’t be let off easily.