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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Arsene Wenger's hidden gem

Arsenal
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Wenger won't blame defence

Arsene Wenger refused to blame his defence after the shock Carling Cup defeat at Ipswich - only the second time in 42 games he has lost to lower league opposition.

• Ipswich Town 1-0 Arsenal
• Carling Cup Gallery Photo Gallery

The Gunners needed a last-minute penalty to draw with Leeds United in the FA Cup on Saturday and again struggled against Championship opposition at Portman Road, with Tamas Priskin scoring the only goal of the game after 78 minutes.

Arsenal defended poorly and failed to test Ipswich goalkeeper Marton Fulop on a consistent basis. Wenger has been linked with a swoop for former Gunner Matthew Upson at West Ham but refused to comment on the move.

However, with a Champions League tie with Barcelona on the horizon and the Premier League run-in looming nearer, Wenger's back four looks dangerously light of cover.

He said: "Let's not think that we lost the game because we haven't bought a central defender. We lost the game because we didn't play as well as we can. We have only two central defenders and we are short but I do not want to speak about any particular name.

"Frankly I am just disappointed about our defeat tonight. It is early to talk about a player coming in. We have nine games in January and it happens sometimes that you don't always play well in every game.

"As a team we did not have the performance we wanted. We were below our usual level in every department and it would be unfair to put the blame in the defence. When you play in one half the long ball has 50 yards to be dangerous.''

Wenger named a full-strength side in a bid to build a first-leg lead and Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere dictated play in the early stages. But again a lack of cutting edge in the final third was evident as Town goalkeeper Marton Fulop did not have to make a serious save.

Wenger said: "We had a lot of the ball but didn't do enough with it. Ipswich defended with heart and hurt us on the counter attack, they showed that you can have 70% of the ball without coming out on top. You have to give Ipswich credit. They fought for this win.

"We rely a lot on our sharp and crisp passing and that was a problem tonight. We looked in control in the first half but looked much more vulnerable after the break. I put that down to fatigue. I believe we can turn it around but we had a warning tonight. We will have to produce a different performance at home.''

Ipswich caretaker manager Ian McParland had mixed emotions after signing off with a famous win. McParland was in charge until Paul Jewell officially starts work on Wednesday morning but is leaving the club as the former Wigan man brings in his own backroom staff.

McParland had just three days to recover after they were hammered 7-0 at Chelsea on Sunday and masterminded a performance of hunger and intense discipline.

He said: "They sweated blood. They were fantastic and it showed a lot of character to bounce back from Sunday's game. I knew that they were up for it. I said to them just stay in the game and keep it 0-0 as long as we could and we can always nick a goal.

"I'm leaving but I'll dust myself down and get on with it. I've been in football a long time, Paul Jewell is an honest lad, I've known him a long time and he will do well here now. I won't be going to the second leg. Hopefully I will have a job by then.''

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