Arsenal Get Black-Eye At Ewood Park
Blackburn Rovers 2 – 1 Arsenal
0 – 1 van Persie (13)
1 – 1 Dunn (44)
2 – 1 Samba (68)
A seasonof rich promise is becoming mired in acrimony as the team crumpled to defeat under robust Blackburn pressure in the second half. With a ninth defeat being suffered, third place is still not assured although a draw in the midweek clash between Manchester City and Tottenham will confirm that aim. The danger is that the improvements seen this season are being diminished and lost in the rancour over recent performances.
The match started brightly enough for another reshuffled starting line-up, the curse of injuries striking once more. Absences should not be used as an excuse but to be unable to field ten first choice players will reduce the effectiveness of any side. Squad players should be able to replace those ahead of them in the pecking order but to have them in the side en masse is essentially playing the Reserves in a first team competition. The Carling Cup gives an indicator of the eventual outcome of such ventures.
A bright spot was Robin van Persie’s goal, reminiscent of the George Graham era and begging the question as to why Bacary Sagna does get into those positions more often, such was the accuracy of his flick on. An unmarked van Persie applied the finishing touch and the sun shone all to briefly.
Alex Song’s withdrawal left Wenger with a quandry and to some extent it was a surprise that he opted to leave Eastmond out of the starting line-up although explainable by a desire to protect him from the physical nature of the Rovers game plan. Even so, the triumverate of Eboué, Diaby and Nasri were coping and imposed themselves on the hosts.
Before five minutes had passed, Walcott was released on the right and the question marks over Carlos Vela in the Premier League were raised again as he put his shot wide of the post, albeit under some pressure. At the other end, Pedersen gave Fabianski a confidence-booster into his midrift.
van Persie’s goal emphasised the control Arsenal had over the match, making light of their injured colleagues. With Blackburn looking more and more listless, the physical nature of Allardyce’s approach over the year surfaced, stifling Arsenal, reducing them to less opportunities to increase their lead. Perhaps the only real chance was van Persie’s free kick, blocked byRobinson and cleared by Salgado.
As the interval loomed, Blackburn pressed, Pedersen brought a save from Fabiański and then they equalised from the corner. There were a multitude of sins unpunished. Fabiański was blocked by a herd of players, some of whom had no intention of getting the ball. To carry out this policy in any other area of the pitch would result in a free kick but English referees are so inured to such activity that they are oblivious to foul play. Little wonder English teams struggle in European competition with these tactics regularly employed by the less technically-gifted.
The one sin which was punished was slack-jawed defending. Despite the impediments of Fabiański, there were enough defenders to clear the ball as it trawled across the six yard area, before being finished by the unmarked Dunn at the far post. Arsène observed that the number of goals conceded this season is a barrier to winning the title. If he is honest, he would probably reduce that tally if avoidable goals conceded were significantly lessened in total.
Parity at the interval gave Blackburn belief and they appeared reinvigorated after the break but almost immediately fell behind as Salgado nudged the ball past his own post. Fabiański once more denied Pedersen with a good save and produced an even better one from Hoilett, the young forward should have scored but the Pole arced and turned the ball wide. In moments like that, you understand why Wenger has not lost all faith in the goalkeeper. van Persie turned and shot sharply past the post.
The first of the denied penalty claims came as the Dutchman was pulled to the ground by Salgado; such incidents go unpunished in the area but we all know that anywhere else on the pitch and a free kick would have been awarded. It is this aspect of officiating that drives supporters to despair; if it is a foul, it is a foul irrespective of the particular part of the pitch in which it takes place. Pedersen later claimed a penalty and whilst the dive was nowhere near as bad as that witnessed at The Emirates, to slip and claim foul play was equally appalling.
The winner came from a setpiece, unsurprisingly. Fabiański was baulked once more, subtler than the first incident but nonetheless fouled and the ball broke to Samba to head home. Arshavin arrived into the action and duly shot at Robinson when a better finish might have been expected. Problematically for Wenger, Arsenal had an awful lot of possession whilst trying to retrieve the situation but failed to create clear openings to provide the solution; the knack of late equalisers has temporarily deserted them.
Fabiański is being held as a scapegoat for the goals, harshly to some extent as goalkeepers do have some right to expect protection. Had he been involved in a shoving match as ‘imposing himself on the area‘ implies, he would have been punished such was the paucity of the refereeing. That does not mean I think he is ready to take over as Number One next season; I do not but the potential is there.
The question of attitude is altogether different. There was a drive that was missing yesterday from the performance. It is understandable in the absence of Fàbregas but there are others such as Nasri whose performance dropped away, lacking the thrust as Rovers shackled him physically in midfield. This is an area where improvement is needed, the danger is that we see a team dropping into the same trap as when Henry was in the side.
Over reliance on one individual can stifle or inhibit the team when that player is in the side; when they are missing there is an element of ‘little boy lost‘ about players who should step up to the plate. Infuriatingly, this has manifested itself as the title challenge has faded, erasing the memory in some of earlier performances in the same situation.
Looking back, it seems consistency is the key thing missing, as well as injured players. We should not lost sight of the impact of the latter; the players should not lose sight of the impact of the former.
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Posted on May 4, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers, Football, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 211 Comments.