Ipswich preview + Arsene muddies the centre-half waters

Good morning and we’ll start with tonight’s Carling Cup game.

The manager was asked yesterday if there were going to be changes made from the team which struggled to beat Leeds on Saturday. His response was to tell the bloke from Arsenal.com to come along to the game and he’d see for himself. Not giving much away there then. He did say that he would continue to rotate from game to game so I suspect there might well be a few faces brought back into the team.

I suppose he’s torn between ensuring people are properly rested for Saturday’s league game against West Ham and ensuring we get a result tonight. Not winning wouldn’t be the end of the world, what with the second leg at our place, but it wouldn’t do much for our confidence if can’t get a result against a manager-less team who themselves can’t be in tip-top shape after an FA Cup thrashing by Chelsea.

There’s some suggestion Aaron Ramsey might start tonight and with the centre-half shortage (more on that later) we’ll see the return of Laurent Koscielny while Song could well move back from midfield to give Djourou a rest. Robin van Persie and Jack Wilshere are also thought to be in the plans for tonight and I suppose that’s a consequence of some of the performances on Saturday. Had we taken our chances and beaten Leeds then he might well have been more inclined to keep faith with that team. I think the changes are down to needing to win this as opposed to resting and rotating players. Let’s face it – some of the team that faced Leeds haven’t played much this season so fatigue is hardly an issue.

If I had to guess I’d say: Wojscez©® – Eboue – Song – Koscielny – Gibbs – Wilshere – Ramsey – Rosicky – Arshavin – van Persie – Bendtner

There’ll be plenty on the bench as well should we need it. Ipswich might well be struggling at this moment in time but experience has taught us that no opponent should be underestimated, especially in cup football. They were hammered at the weekend by Chelsea and while it won’t have done them any good they’ll certainly be determined to make sure that doesn’t happen again tonight. I don’t know a great deal about how the play, to be honest. I watched them against Nottingham Forest the other week, primarily to watch Aaron Ramsey, and they looked decent enough but lacking in the final third.

That said our ability to make teams look better than they are up front shouldn’t be underestimated. All the same, if this Arsenal side clicks tonight then this is a game they should win. And without trying to be too cocky then it would be ideal to put this tie to bed tonight. We have a glut of games coming up over the next few weeks and it would be nice to go into the second leg with the pressure off. We are the Arsenal though and if there’s a difficult way of doing it I’m sure we’ll find it!

Arsene has spoken of the need for a trophy, saying:

What is in the players’ brain is a desire to win and once you’re in the Carling Cup semi-final, you don’t want to go out. I see it as a possibility of a trophy and that’s how we will approach the semi-final.

And he’s also reminded his team they can’t go into the game thinking about the lower league status of the opposition. With just ourselves, Ipswich, West Ham and Birmingham left in the competition it would be a huge disappointment not to go all the way in this one. Whatever you might say about the importance of the Carling Cup it’s still silverware and that’s something that’s been lacking for too long. I know I’ve said this before plenty of times but it could very well act as a stepping-stone and instill the belief in these players that they can win something. And a Wembley final is a Wembley final, a trophy is a trophy and while it’s the lowliest of the four competitions we’re competing for we cannot afford to do anything but take it as seriously as possible.

Kick off tonight is 7.45 – you can join me for live blogging from a bit earlier than that. Check back later for a post with more details and info on that.

Now, the centre-half thing. In the little video clip released yesterday Arsene spoke about Thomas Vermaelen’s setback and it seems the Belgian is off to see specialists to try and find a cure for his achilles. How long he’s out is anybody’s guess. Sebastian Squillaci’s hamstring will keep him out a minimum of two weeks, maximum three, so we are a bit short. We’re definitely looking for a centre-half but in typical Arsene style he also went on to say:

If the opportunity turns up we will fetch it but, if not, I believe we can cope. We always have people in mind and we check them out. We look everywhere. We have solutions internally with Ignasi Miquel, with Alex Song who can play centre back and with Squillaci, who should come back very quickly. If we find somebody at the right level we will do it, if not we will continue like this.

Personally, I think we need a centre-half. I accept the fact it might well be more difficult to find the player you want in January than in the summer but the internal solutions just don’t add up. Alex Song is really our only defensive midfielder and as I said yesterday he’s too important for us in that area to move back to centre-half for any period of time. Ignasi Miquel is very promising but has never played a professional game for us. When we’re heading into the business end of the season, hopefully challenging for the league, I don’t think we can expect a young guy like him to come in and do the job to the level expected.

It’s unfair on him, because he’s not ready yet for football at this level. So, with my thinking hat on I’m interpreting those comments as Arsene trying to play down our need so if and when we go for somebody we’re not like a crack-head desperate for a fix and the dealer, knowing how much we want it, pushing the price up. However, with my knowing Arsene hat on it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he’s quite serious and sees this as a genuine solution.

I know we need a centre-half, you know we need a centre-half, Arsene knows we need a centre-half, but does that mean Arsene is going to buy a centre-half? I’m hopeful that we will but if somebody asked me to put more than a tenner on it I’d have to think long and hard. I hope he does, and I hope he finds a player who adds something to the defence instead of being a stopgap until the end of the season, but this is Arsene we’re talking about here. On the plus side he did rule out a move for Sol Campbell which is very much a good thing. He had his Indian summer last season and is now very much in the winter of his career. Anyway, we’ll see how this pans out, I sense much disturbance in the internets. This could get messy.

Tomas Rosicky says he studied all kinds of medical books to help him with his injuries. Can someone please give him a Roy of the Rovers annual so he can remember how to score a goal? He’s on a crazy run without scoring for a player in his position. It’d be nice to see him get a few between now and the end of the season. Maybe Thierry can give him a few tips. Arsene confirmed he’s here for fitness and conditioning, not for coaching, but there are surely one or two things he could impart on a couple of the players before he heads back to MLS.

Finally, have a look at the Goonerholic today for an inimitable trip down memory lane and why he wants to beat Ipswich so badly. I won’t link to it in case it banjaxes his dodgy hosting but you know where to find him (there’s a link on the right hand side if you don’t).

Right, that’s that for now. More later on of course. Until then.

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