Arsenal 2 Ipswich Town 0
I kept reminding myself after the game that I’d said from the outset that if
I could award most of the team 3, or preferably 4, out of 5 for effort this
afternoon, perhaps the result wouldn’t matter. Well, they tried. But in the
end, it did matter. At half time the consensus of opinion around us was that
“a draw was of no use to either side”. But it was. Chances are that
Sunderland will get three points from the remaining six. So we need eight.
And eight points is two draws and two wins. If we’d have got a draw, that’d
be one down, three to go. Now eight points means three wins. Out of three.
Hardly likely, is it?
And yet all it needed was this decent amount of application in the games
where it did matter – the ones against the bottom-half teams – and we’d have
been safe weeks ago. I wouldn’t say they went out and died for us this
afternoon, like we’d have hoped, but they did at least finally seem to want
it, and for the middle third of the game, actually looked like they believed
they could get it. But these aren’t the games where we should, or could,
pick up points really. No matter how hard we try, Arsenal are always going
to be a class above us, and they’ll just keep coming at us in different ways
until we finally make a mistake or a slice of luck presents itself. Just
like last year, it took three-quarters of the match for it to happen.
Another slightly curious formation – it looked like 4-2-4, with two wingers,
but they were pinned well back and it was 4-4-2 really. Three centre-halves
and a midfielder made up the back four, and Fab must have been *really*
dischuffed that Burley now obviously believes even Titus is a better full
back. With only wingers in front of them, Jamie and Titus wouldn’t have been
relishing the prospect of Arsenal using the wings a lot. Matt and Tommy
Miller were also given a big job in the centre of the park.
We had our chances (two or three going very close) but Arsenal had far more,
and we were comfortably beaten by a much better team. When the first seeds
of doubt that they’d score began to appear, they simply brought on a third
striker, got the two goals, and went back to 4-4-2 again. Easy.
At the end, Matt tried frantically to get his team-mates to come over and
join him in acknowledging the excellent Town support. Some of those who had
finished the obviously far more important task of ripping the shirts off the
Arsenal players actually trotted over a few steps and for a moment I thought
some of them might actually join him, but in the end, despite his pleading,
they just left him to it. That’s been the story of the last few weeks
really. If the people at the club who seem to care try hard enough to
persuade the rest of them to care as much, they’ll get a response, albeit a
muted one. But it won’t be enough.
(1-5 for effort, 1-5 for achievement)
MARSHALL 8 (4/4) had a terrific game – in control, and did everything which
could have been asked of him really. The first goal was a good – if slightly
fortunate – finish, and the second was the result of the defence nodding off
totally, which he couldn’t take the blame for.
BRAMBLE 6 (3/3) didn’t do badly for someone playing so out of position, but
he was always going to be stretched for speed. McGREAL 6 (3/3) was also
fairly solid, as was HREIDARSSON 5 (3/2), who just occasionally got pulled
out of position leaving Jamie with the unenviable choice of having to deal
with Parlour and (usually) Bergkamp at the same time. CLAPHAM 7 (4/3) was
the pick of the defenders (funny old world, isn’t it?) and indeed was one of
the players who looked like they were up for it the most.
FINIDI 5 (2/3) lumbered around like he’d rather be somewhere else as usual,
but burst into life on a couple of occasions, one of which was quite superb
of course, setting up the open goal for Reuser. Too little, too late. MILLER
7 (4/3) was eager and willing, and certainly played his part in not letting
us get over-run in the midfield, which had always seemed likely on paper.
Very encouraging. HOLLAND 7 (4/3) was inspirational throughout, and like
Miller, although there were few individual moments of brilliance, big
respect for the overall achievement. REUSER 6 (3/3) tried hard, and it
honestly looked like he wanted to play his part, but he can’t sustain it for
a whole game and should have gone off earlier. However, he had our best
chances, and even if he missed them, what is wrong with the guys in the
middle that the left-winger has to come in and do their job for them?
STEWART 3 (2/1) was bloody awful again. Almost every attack came unstuck
with him. He doesn’t seem to be able to do anything now except receive the
ball, turn backwards, and lay it off to someone in no better a position.
Time and time again, another player (usually Bent) would pass to him, move
to a position to receive it back, and find that Stewart had just turned
round to lay it off to someone 20 yards behind. Total number of efforts on
goal: zero. What is the point of this man? BENT 4 (2/2) was quite
ineffective too, and rarely worried the ancient Arsenal defence. Admittedly
his supply was hardly world-class, but it would have been nice to have seen
him running Adams or Keown just once.
Substitutes: PERALTA 6 (3/3) was a big improvement on Finidi, although (as
ever) ran into trouble too often. ARMSTRONG and AMBROSE (what, desperate?
Us?) got a pointless four minute run out when it was all over.
The SUPPORT was good, in fact, at times, great – and you could see the
players (well, Matt) appreciated it. Plenty of gallows humour (“We’ll never
play here again” and of course “Nationwide Tour”). The REF kept the lid on
things well when Adams et al started to get pushy, but seemed to have a
blind spot when it came to corners, awarding at least three totally
incorrectly. And heck, we all had a good day out. Brentford may not be the
same, but at least we might get a result there.