In retrospect, Chelsea did a great disservice to Arsenal this weekend. Because if there is anyone in the league that can get away without doing the hard work, it is the North London side.
The Gunners probably felt that they just had to show up and Ipswich would cave in just as they did against Chelsea. But they had a shock waiting for them. With Paul Jewell looking on in the stands, Ian McParland managing his last match fashioned a victory that will be savoured for years to come. It must have felt like deja vu for Jewell who managed the Wigan side that beat Arsenal in 2006 in their semi-final encounter.
Tamas Priskin finished off magnificently after racing past Johan Djourou to send Portman Road into delirious celebration. Priskin for his part came close on two other occasions but lacked the nerve. This time he kept his cool to angle the ball past Wojiech Szczesny. The goal came unsurprisingly after another defensive breakdown.
This is the second Championship team to lay the lumber on the Gunners in a matter of days which begets the question: Would the Gunners be in the relegation zone if they were in the Championship?
Full marks to the Tractor Boys rebounding from their humiliating loss. They played with a plan that was very English. Long balls to the heart of the vulnerable Arsenal defense and then let the speed of Priskin and 17 year old Connor Wickham do the damage. They were aided and abetted by the utter incompetence of Djourou, Koscielny, and Eboue, who were outmatched aerially and on the ground.
On attack, the Gunners were equally listless. Lots of mindless and ineffective passing which did not work. One just wishes that they would have a go once in a while at goal to break up the monotony. But except for Nasri, the current lot will never be mistaken for sharpshooters.
Andrey Arshavin continues his downward spiral – tentative on the ball and detached off it. Wenger’s most expensive signing was barely in the game as he’s been for months now. Nicklas Bendtner talks a good game but was familiarly inept when it came to deliver on those words. Still he’s a legend in his own mind.
Fabregas was very ordinary. Very ordinary. He also missed a golden chance to score minutes before Priskin’s winner but instead of shooting or heading the ball, he lamely stuck his thigh out to Kieran Gibbs’s beautifully directed cross and the ball went out of play.
Ipswich could have added a few more goals. Szczesny suspiciously handled the ball inches out of the box which the officiating crew failed to spot. And then Carlos Edwards came very close in the dying minutes.
What really should be disturbing is the lack of scoring for the third game in a row. This being Arsenal one can expect defensive errors to gift goals but they’ve overcome this handicap by outscoring the opposition. Now they can’t even get a goal while the same old shoot yourself in the foot mentality continues. Wenger was uncharacteristically blunt:
“We had a lot of the ball but didn’t make a lot of it,” Wenger said. “Ipswich defended with heart and commitment, and we made a defensive mistake. They showed you can have 70 per cent of the ball and lose games. They defended well. We were not sharp, not creative. We had an off night. Every single pass was a problem from the start.”
Infuriatingly too, Arsenal comes to each match with such wildly varying degrees of intensity they make bipolar disorder seem tame in comparison. Now, that they know the Tractor Boys are no pushovers that should make for a much better return performance at the Emirates. That is the CW. But this is Arsenal!