14 January ~ They say success breeds a winning mentality, so maybe it's Arsenal's lack of success in the last five years that has caused their captain Cesc Fabregas to humiliate himself and his club by accusing Ipswich of playing “rugby” in Tuesday's Carling Cup semi-final. Ipswich were without a manager, languishing near the relegation zone in the Championship and had just been thrashed 7-0 by Chelsea. Did Fabregas genuinely expect them to suddenly have a change of heart and play free-flowing, attacking football?
Fabregas's bitter comments, inflammatory as they may be, as surely part of a deeper problem at Arsenal – the fact that their defence dislikes defending, or that their midfield is made up of five-foot-somethings. The Gunners don't seem to have the same ruthlessness in victory as, say, Manchester United do at the moment. They are very keen to blame someone or something (the Portman Road pitch in this case) for their failings, which breeds a lack of ambition among the players.
Can you imagine Ryan Giggs complaining that a lower-league team played long balls in a cup tie? No, because United have the professionalism to dig in and battle those kind of teams, as well as the ability to outplay other teams. Arsenal, frankly, can either beat a team with thrilling football or not beat them at all. And what is worse is that they seem to think every other team should try to play their brand of football rather than making them flinch with set-pieces and long throw-ins.
Arsène Wenger could go some way to solving this by breaking his stubbornness and signing a couple of players in the Tony Adams mould. Until he does that, it's difficult to see Arsenal winning a major trophy, especially if they don't like playing teams less gifted than themselves on pitches that are less manicured than the one at the Emirates.
There's certainly no “rugby” played in La Liga. In Spain, nobody tackles too aggressively and therefore the teams with the most skilful players are sure to win. At least Fabregas can guarantee himself a trophy with Barcelona next season when he is finally rid of the competitive world of English football. James Dielhenn