Simply Not Good Enough As Arsenal Drift In Title Race
Arsenal 0 – 0 Blackburn Rovers
Arsenal ripped the destiny of the Premier League title from their own hands and passed it to Manchester United. Arsenal might win the remaining games of the season but it would not be enough. Results elsewhere will now decide the title.
The consolation in that is the inconsistency of the season so far means that all hope is not gone. There are other straws to clutch at but this one will do for now.
Defeat at Wembley has been held as a breaking point, in terms of injury and mental state. It is not hard to see why, it is not hard to disbelieve either. For whatever reason, the squad has been unable to bounce back immediately – or even reasonably immediately – from that defeat.
Problematically, it was a collectively poor performance. Arsenal at their best are electric, quick passing and movement creating space. Yesterday was entirely the opposite, lethargy suspending the vitality needed. Blackburn deserve credit for defending diligently, working hard to keep Arsenal at bay. They restricted the number of chances but without wishing to denigrate their effort, Arsenal made it relatively easy for them. Relative compared to other matches, that is.
The manager was at a loss post-match to explain the paucity of his charges work yesterday afternoon. It appears that there is a problem which never used to exist. Since opening The Emirates, a regular feature of opponents play has been to create banks of four and five, forcing Arsenal to play in front and around them. It is tiring work to carry out that level of work, Arsenal capitalising on the ensuing tiredness. At the moment, the benefits are not able to reaped.
Even with an opposition reduced to ten men for the final quarter of an hour, the incisiveness that we would normally expect, refused to surface, preferring to remain hidden in the shadows.
Early indications were that Manchester United’s win was inspiring a home victory. Song and Walcott went close whilst Blackburn tried some Keystone Cops defending to aid Arsenal in their pursuit of three points.
Since The Hawthorns, Manuel Almunia has been the brunt of criticism. He did not help himself yesterday spilling a shot around the post, or failing to meet Robinson’s punt upfield. Fortunately neither effort found the Arsenal net.
All this before the halfway mark, the first half sinking into mediocrity. Sagna briefly came to life, his follow-up to Nasri’s shot clearing the crossbar. It was a flicker, the Arsenal pilot light not entirely extinguished.
The second half was by no means an improvement. Wilshere dithered and was denied, Koscielny heading straight at Robinson from the resultant corner. Cesc entered the fray and was off the pace. Arsène spoke afterwards and suggested his captain was concerned about his injury recurring. Why play him if he is not ready mentally?
The match was heading inoffensively to its goalless conclusion when N’zonzi lunged at Koscielny. It was an exceptionally poor challenge, not just in timing but also necessity; there was none. No imminent goal threat was emerging, the Blackburn player failing to recognise Arsenal’s attacking weakness in the preceding 75 minutes.
Salgado cleared off the line close to the final whistle but van Persie, Chamakh and Bendtner all failed to breach the visitors defence before the final whistle.
Yesterday was deeply disappointing but has not handed United the title. Until it becomes a physical impossibility for the title to be won, hope is not gone. It merely hides behind the cloud of despair engulfing the club.