Written by Big Raddy
Can you feel the tension? Are you moist with excitement? Breathlessly fearful of the possibility of defeat? Come on …. it is Semi-Final day.
These days do not come along as often as they used to – I recall getting Wembley fatigue followed by even worse Cardiff fatigue, but now a Semi-Final is an unusual event. Am I excited? …… mildly. Yes, I want us to win tonight, and yes, I want us to silence the bleating from the media and glory-hunters, but if we do lift this trophy we will hear a chorus of “it is only the Carling/League/Milk Cup”, and if I am honest, if Sp*rs won it, I would say the same.
But a trophy is a trophy and apart from the Emirates Cup we have been through a few lean years. So let’s start the ball rolling with a rousing victory this evening.
We couldn’t have wished for better opponents; a team lying 19th in the Championship, rudderless, having just removed the odious Roy Keane and leaking goals a plenty, Ipswich could be forgiven for concentrating upon league survival and letting this game go. But roared on by a full house of frozen East Anglian’s they will be trying to impress their new manager and give themselves a chance at the Grove.
One Ipswich player I am really looking forward to seeing is Connor Wickham, a young man who has been attracting Premiership attention. I watched him playing for England youth alongside Benik Afobe and he looks a fine player. Huge for his age (or any age!), skillful, pacy and good in the air, Wickham could well be the first choice England striker of the future. Right now though, he is more Bendtner than Eto’o.
It is a puzzle who will start tonight. Squillaci is out meaning a JD and Koscielny centreback pairing. Let us hope nothing happens to either of them! With hindsight it would have been wise to curtail Kyle Bartley’s loan spell at Sheffield; having watched him at the weekend, he appears to have all the attributes necessary for an Arsenal CB; big, strong, comfortable on the ball and what is more, a natural leader. Bartley would certainly have played tonight.
Who would have imagined at the start of the season that we would miss Wilshere in midfield? Yet his absence was felt against Leeds and young Jack has quickly established himself as an integral cog in our team, he is a shoe-in for Young Player of the Year. I hope he starts as our attacking MF tonight allowing him to show his natural offensive flair.
Bench: Fabianski Cesc Miquel Bendtner Ramsey Clichy Walcott
I don’t know how many of you have been to Ipswich, but the ground is a classic, cosy English League stadium, a fine atmosphere will be generated, not least by the travelling Gooners who have been exceptional this season.
I expect us to make it difficult and leave with a one goal victory, setting up a 4 goal hammering for Paul Jewell’s men at the Grove