You’d have to admit it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t tremendously entertaining, it wasn’t easy viewing at times but in the end it was three points and that’s exactly what we were looking for.
The squad was down to its bare bones, Senderos and Flamini playing through injuries while the bench consisted of Fabianski, Bendtner and three full backs, one of whom (Kerrea Gilbert) hasn’t been in a first team squad since February 2006. Still, we started very brightly and kept possession well, eventually winning a corner. Eduardo’s inswinger was met by Philippe Senderos who thudded a header past a static Brad Friedel. 1-0 Arsenal and you hoped that the early goal would spark a couple more but it wasn’t to be. Flamini had one good chance which drew a save from the keeper and another which he booted over the bar.
We were definitely off the boil, passes were going astray and the game itself was lethargic. Neither side seemed to play with any kind of pace or conviction and little by little Blackburn came back into it without being particularly threatening. One half chance fell to McCarthy and his crap header was nearly met by Santa Cruz but that was about it.
The second half was dull as well. Previous meetings with Blackburn have been spiky but there was little niggle this time. It would be easy to suggest that the lack of Robbie Savage is entirely to blame so that’s what I’ll do. Without the afghan hound looking cunt Blackburn weren’t nearly as scummy as they have been in the past. At 1-0 you’re always worried although the nearest they got to a goal was a Bentley free kick which was going wide anyway. It had been billed as the match when Bentley showed Arsene Wenger why he was wrong to let him go. Wenger’s decision looks sound to me.
We had some chances in the second half though. Hleb smacked a rocket against the post and had a left foot drive well saved. Cesc had two, one wide, one over the bar, Friedel saved twice from Adebayor but eventually the big man got his goal. Hleb controlled a pass in the box, cut inside and played it to Adebayor who cut inside himself and drilled it past Friedel to make it 2-0 in injury time. He hadn’t had his best game by a long shot but to still grab a goal when not at the top of his game is good stuff. That’s 12 goals in 9 games for him now and that’s just awesome form.
Afterwards Arsene delcared himself happy and while he wasn’t getting carried away he knows this is a great opportunity for us. He said:
It was a very good weekend for us because after the results of yesterday we were a bit under pressure to take advantage of the situation. We did it. There is still a long way to go. We still have twelve games, we are in a good position, we believe we can do it but we are not a fool as well. We know it’s far from being over and we will have to fight until the last minute of the championship, certainly.
In our minds we believe we can do it and we want to grab this chance.
You know, I hadn’t really thought about there only being 12 games to go. It doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? But a lot can happen in 3 games let alone 12 so there’s a lot of football still to be played. All the same, it’s a very nice position to be in and when you consider we’ve got players to come back from international duty and injuries which will bolster the squad then hopefully we’ll have the energy and freshness to keep us going till the end of the season.
I thought some of the lads looked a little jaded and off their game. Gilberto really does look like half the player he was and I’d have had Bendtner on for Eduardo at some point in the second half but you can’t argue with the results, can you?
Check out this stat, provided by a French pal:
On Feb 10 2004, Arsenal won 2-0 at home (v So’ton), TH14 scored his 19th of the season in the League; on the 11th, United lost at home (3-2 to Boro), and Arsenal went 5 points clear.
On Feb 11 2008, Arsenal won 2-0 at home, Adebayor scored his 19th of the season in the League, the day after United had lost at home, and Arsenal went 5 points clear.
The next league game is Birmingham City away, and we’ll be wanting to put right the two points dropped at home just a few weeks ago. In the meantime though are a couple of very tasty fixtures. First up United in the FA Cup on Saturday followed by AC Milan on Wednesday in the first leg of the Champions League. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of team the boss picks for United with Wednesday in mind. He may not have too many options, in fairness, but hopefully there’ll be a couple back by then.
Anyway, that’s all to come and we can deal with that as the week progresses. Now though, we should just be happy to sit 5 clear at the top. There’s a nice view from up here.