What Did She Wear?…

 Cesc Fabregas reacts after tucking away Arsenal's third

It was a performance that was worthy of the ultimate prize, in that it was more satisfactory than satisfying. Yet on a night where Ipswich were always going to come and park the proverbial tractor infront of their goal, Arsenal held their nerve and eventually marched on towards the plush pastures of Wembley with a flurry of second-half goals.

After years of mocking Spurs’ emphasis on “The Mickey Mouse Cup”, it has now become the perceived antidote to a quintet of trophyless campaigns. Nevertheless, the overall insignificance of a trophy that has had more sponsors than Lewis Hamilton is not lost on the fans. It’s place on the priority list is still rock bottom, yet the longterm effects it may have for a team yet to experience a trophy may be priceless. As Arsene wisely pointed out,”It is more difficult to get in the top four in the Premier League than to win the Carling Cup but I get much the same question in every press conference that we say ‘OK, we try to win everything we can’. Surrendering to media and fan pressure is not something Mr. Wenger will want to make a habit of, yet undoubtedly he has placed further emphasis on this trophy than in previous years. Again this was demonstrated with the line-up, as Arsene selected 8 of the players conceived to be his strongest team, whilst handing Cesc only his second Carling Cup start since he was a teen, the other coming at Portman Road.

And how it paid off. Yet again, Cesc excelled, not only in his creativity and range of passing, but in the much needed drive we have become accustomed to receiving from our captain. Tenacity is not often a word linked with Arsenal, though last night Cesc personified a collective hunger to remove that suffocating monkey from our backs. Not only was he constantly harrying opponents, but his desire to attack with such a forceful tempo allowed Ipswich no time to come up for air. Although little was created in the first half other than a Van Persie header that cannoned off the crossbar, it was a half in which Arsenal were forced to patiently erode the brick-wall solidity of Ipswich’s defense.

It has become almost common place in recent years for Arsenal to create, and often miss, a plethora of first half chances. Yet Ipswich’s sturdiness prevented any such barrage, and at half-time an uneasiness was starting to creep into the fans, despite the constant expectation that a goal would come. After the game Jack admitted the players were also nervous until that had happened, and this could be sensed throughout, especially from the usual suspects, Denilson in particular. Well i say suspects, but in fact Eboue, on for the injured Sagna, and Nicklas Bendtner, deserve credit for their performances. Aside from momentarily getting the wrong side of his marker just after coming on for the concussed Bacary Sagna, Eboue didn’t put a foot wrong all night. Similarly, Nicklas Bendtner made up for a lack of pace with some clever movement, whilst also providing Van Persie with the chance of the half via a clever chip.

Indeed it was Bendtner who broke the deadlock half an hour from the end. Jack Wilshere, adding a candidate to the list of pass of the season alongside Charlie Adam and Adel Taarabt, represented a midfield player far beyond his years in providing the goal. Spraying the ball 40 yards to the left wing, it honed in impeccably onto the right boot of Bendtner, yet the rest was all Dane. Controlling the ball in an instant, Bendtner cut inside the defender with an audacious maneuver, before bending the ball inside the far post. It was a brilliant goal, and was greeted more with gasps than cheers from the home fans. With the backline breached at last, the sense that the tie was effectively won with that goal was almost palpable. It became more so within minutes, as Koscielny headed in an Arshavin corner after Fulop wrongly left his goaline. Celebrating with a gesture one can only presume was a reference to Andy Gray’s midriff, the frenchman ran over to meet Andrei. This assist was the first of his two on the night, and the 13th of his 14 for the season, not bad eh? I may be becoming somewhat of a staunch supporter of the little man but for me, 2 assists, coupled with an ostensibly tireless workrate showed that Arshavin is getting back to somewhere near his best, an outcome which may prove key to our trophy hunt. Whilst an extra layer of timber can’t help, he did look like he was going to faint when trudging off in place of Samir Nasri eight minutes from time, a testament to his night’s work. Far from spotless, but better from the Russian.

Though prior to being replaced, his and Arsenal’s triumph culminated in a dynamic breakaway goal. After releasing Arshavin down the left, Cesc still found the energy in his seemingly bottomless tank to charge past Andrei on the overlap. The return pass was superbly weighted, and only forced Cesc to touch the ball once before slotting it through the keepers legs. His celebration showed a mixture of passion, pain and relief etched upon the maturing visage of our leader. Being one of three players to have won a trophy in the red and white, Cesc knows what it feels like, and is displaying he has the unstoppable hunger for more. Gathering the players together in the centre circle for a quasi-triumphant wave to all four corners of the ground had the feeling of something greater than a League Cup Final. Ultimately, this is what he has in mind, with victory in late February perhaps providing a catalyst for greater achievements. That’s the plan, anyway.

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