Tonight’s big cup game is vital to Wenger and Arsenal
ITmay be a big game for Ipswich Town at the Emirates tonight, but it’s also crucial for Premier League Arsenal.
Dig down under the surface and all the talk about Town’s rugby playing tactics and the Gunners having emphatically won their three matches since losing 1-0 in the first leg and what emerges is a dire need for Arsene Wenger and his men to grasp their hands around a trophy.
The Carling Cup no doubt features fourth in Arsenal’s list of priorities, but its silverware and badly needed after five barren years.
On their day Wenger’s side can match the Barcelona’s of this world let alone a team in 19th position in the Championship.
But they ended second best in the semi-final first leg at Portman Road and the manager knows there is work to be done before Wembley suits can be ordered.
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The Frenchman is up there among the best managers that the game has seen. After Sir Alex Ferguson there is no one to compare with him in English football.
He has groomed and developed a host of world class players and although his current crop is not the most talented he has had under his control it is a rapidly emerging one and a squad capable of giving illustrious Manchester United a run for their money for the Premier League title.
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A decade ago Liverpool had just gone six years without a trophy. They lost 2-1 to a Crystal Palace side who, like Ipswich were playing in the second tier of English football, but the Reds overturned the deficit to win 5-0 at Anfield, en route to winning three trophies that season
Arsenal will see this as an example for them to follow being still in line to win four trophies this campaign.
Gunners’ fans are likely to be right behind their team tonight as Carling Cup games attract more vocal devotees than the regular clientele with the dearest seat costing just �20.
Ipswich will have a magnificent 9,000 fans cheering them on, but few of Paul Jewell’s side will have run out in front of 60,000 people before.
Wenger has confirmed he will make changes with so many fixtures during a busy January. He believes that rotation should not be a worry as he has fantastic players available to bring in.
“We will rotate for the Ipswich game,” said Wenger. “We have no choice.
“We play nine games in January, it’s the most we have ever played.
“When you look at the fixtures we had in December it means we need to rotate from game to game.
“But we have fantastic players on the bench and it is very important because we cannot always play with the same starting XI.
“Robin van Persie is back in form. He was already fit and sharp last week and overall we had a good team performance on Saturday so he could finish a hat-trick.
“Of course it is important to have Robin at this level but we have plenty of offensive players.
“First of all let’s hope we can keep him fit until the end of the season. It is down to us to use him in the right proportion of the games we play.”
Arsenal have never lost a League Cup game at the Emirates, but they will know that with away goals counting double after 120 minutes it will add to their anxiety that they can ‘win’ tonight and still go out.