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Saturday 18 August 2018

Wenger warns stars not to underestimate Ipswich challenge

Arsene Wenger has warned Arsenal not to leave themselves open to any "bad surprises" by dismissing the challenge of Championship strugglers Ipswich at the Emirates Stadium tonight.

The Gunners trail 1-0 from the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final in Suffolk a fortnight ago, but are expected to easily overturn that deficit to stay on course for what would be a first trophy in six seasons.

Arsenal were also less than impressive the last time lower-league opposition came to north London, when they needed a last-minute penalty from captain Cesc Fabregas to salvage a 1-1 draw against Leeds.

However, Wenger's men did subsequently produce a slick performance to go on and win the replay 3-1, which they followed up with a 3-0 rout of Premier League strugglers Wigan.

Ipswich, now under the guidance of Paul Jewell, may be setting themselves out to park their tractors in front of goal tonight, but Wenger fully expects his own men to deliver.

"They will aim to protect their advantage and try to get us on the break with a direct game, as they tried in the first match," he said.

"If you look at my record I think I have been consistent in my career against teams of lower divisions because I respect them and I know that they can raise their level and raise their game.



Surprises

"If you are not prepared you have bad surprises.

"Where we are stronger is defensively as a team, but of course hopefully we can open them up."

The Arsenal manager continued: "To go to the final we need to produce a very good game and that is what I am focused on.

"We want to win everything and at the moment on Tuesday is the Carling Cup, so we go for the Carling Cup; Sunday is the FA Cup so we go for the FA Cup.

"At the end of the season we will see whether we have won trophies, but at the moment I think the most important is to live the moment for us and not to be looking forward too much."

Wenger will again rotate his starting XI, but accepted Arsenal were well below par in the first leg when Ipswich, who had just been thumped 7-0 at Chelsea in the FA Cup after they sacked manager Roy Keane, produced a battling display.

"On the night we were not playing our fluent passing and were not sharp or quick enough," he said.

"We expect them to play the same way again, but of course we want to be much sharper."



Starlet

Arsenal are expected to complete a £10million deal for Southampton starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 17, this week, but Wenger maintains there is no movement on the search for central defensive cover.

However, he insisted there had been no approach for Tottenham's Jonathan Woodgate.

"That was not on our mind at all, completely out of the blue," Wenger said.

"I like Woodgate as a player, but we are not after him."

Wenger feels the imminent return of Sebastien Squillaci, who has been out since picking up a hamstring problem against Leeds, makes the defensive situation "much easier".

The Gunners boss added: "We are nowhere near (signing a central defender).

"At the moment I am not too confident."

3Arsenal v Ipswich, BBC2, KO 7.45

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