Arsene Wenger was scathing on Wednesday night in his assessment of Arsenal, admitting that his team had underperformed in every department of the game.
Defensive weaknesses were again exposed in a 1-0 defeat that has jeopardised Arsenal’s chances of winning a first trophy since 2005, but Wenger was insistent that the problems were collective.
With Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny currently his only fit senior centre-backs, he is now understood to be considering an offer for either West Ham’s Matthew Upson or Bolton Wanderers defender Gary Cahill.
“In every single department we were below our usual level,” said Wenger. “It would be unfair to put the blame only on the defenders. We had no spark. Ipswich looked sharper than us and we made a defensive mistake. We were not sharp, not creative. We had an off night. Every single pass was a problem from the start.
“We rely a lot on our sharp and crisp passing. I don’t want to get into any individual criticism because, as a team, we did not perform well.”
Asked specifically about Upson, Wenger said: “I do not want to speak about any particular name.”
Despite the defeat and an abject performance, Wenger remains confident that Arsenal will prevail in the second leg at the Emirates. “We got a good warning,” he said. “The good thing is that we can make amends, I still feel confident, of course.”
Ian McParland, Ipswich’s caretaker manager, will now follow Roy Keane in leaving the club but could reflect on a memorable final match. “They sweated blood,” he said. “It shows character to come back from the result against Chelsea. If they go to the Emirates and work hard they will be a tough prospect.
“We looked at them on the DVDs and we saw they hold a very high line. We wanted to hit diagonal balls in behind the full-backs.”
Damien Delaney, the Ipswich defender, doubted whether Keane would have watched last night’s match in television following his sacking last Thursday. He is adamant, though, that Ipswich can hold on to their lead at the Emirates by “parking the bus” in front of their goal.
“We wanted to make sure the second leg was a meaningful tie,” said Delaney. “It might have been a cricket score down there if we didn’t, but we’ve got something to hold on to now.
“They weren’t at their best, but in the tie, we have to be above our best and pray to God that they are somewhere below average. That’s what happened.
“We’ll go and park the bus in front of the goal at the Emirates, like Mourinho said. They’ll be bringing out all the big guns after not winning any trophies for so long but, when you’ve got something to hold on to, you can get another huge performance out of yourselves.”
Paul Jewell, the new Ipswich manager, will meet the players today, with Delaney expecting it be like the “first day at a new school”.
Caretaker runs gamut of emotions from A to B
- It was one of the shortest caretaker manager reigns in football and one of the most dramatic, and Ian McParland will not forget his time in charge at Portman Road in a hurry.
Handed control when Roy Keane was sacked last Saturday, McParland’s first task was to prepare his players for the FA Cup third-round tie with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge the following day. Ipswich were thumped 7-0.
“For half an hour, we were doing OK, we were in the game,” said a shell-shocked McParland afterwards. “I’ve never been beaten like that. It hurts my pride but I’ll bounce back. “
True to his word, Ipswich pulled off one of the shocks of the season against another London side last night, but the former Notts County boss will not be around for the return leg, having already accepted that new manager Paul Jewell would bring in his own backroom staff.