Where to begin?
Yesterday started well. I heard West Ham were 2-0 up and it all looked as if it could be a fine day from an Arsenal point of view. Taking a taxi back to the hotel after the 5s and we heard United’s c0meback. Then our game became even more important and even more crucial. We could keep pace with United or we could let our chance at the league title slip and I think that’s what happened yesterday.
Blackburn had a game plan which was 1 – to waste as much time as possible, 2 – get as many men behind the ball as possible, 3 – to hoof it into the Arsenal area as much as possible. They did the latter rarely but successfully managed the first two, rendering us pretty much toothless.
Paul Robinson has conceded more goals against Arsenal than any other keeper in history and the pudding loving twat was barely troubled. It was familiar from Arsenal, lots of possession but little or no threat. The first half was tame, the only chance I can remember is a Theo shot which went fairly well wide.
In the second, when it became obvious we needed to change things the manager’s substitutions were odd. I thought Arshavin had a decent first half but struggled at the beginning of the second. Yes, we needed to bring Cesc on but why not leave Arshavin and take off Alex Song who was clearly having problems? He picked up a knock and was limping around the place. It wasn’t even as if he was that vital yesterday. Blackburn barely threatened, when they did it was because Almunia’s chocolate wrists tried to gift them, and we could have kept the Russian on.
I know he’s frustrating but as he showed at West Brom a couple of weeks ago he is one of the only players in the squad capable of making something from nothing. I think the manager got that one wrong. Song hobbled his way through the rest of the game, sitting on half way a lot, and as we pressed for the goal we needed we lacked another attacking presence.
Chamakh came on for Theo and Bendtner for Nasri once Blackburn had gone down to 10 men. The former did absolutely nothing of note, the latter, the best header of the ball at the club, was stuck out on the right hand side to put crosses in for the other two. He did have one header himself, which went over, and created a great chance for van Persie late on, but I really struggle to understand why we don’t play to our strengths.
If we have a striker like Bendtner who poses a real aerial threat, why don’t we put him up front? Why not let van Persie go out right where his quality in terms of delivery could be used to better effect? We played close to 20 minutes against 10 men and never once looked like scoring. We could be out there now and we still wouldn’t do it.
If you want to talk about Phil Dowd indulging their time wasting, by all means go ahead, but it’s a side issue. The main problem is ourselves. We now find ourselves 7 points behind United with a game in hand. And for me it’s probably too far now. The points we’ve dropped in recent weeks have been extremely damaging. Newcastle, Sunderland, West Brom and now Blackburn. That’s 8 points. You don’t need me to spell it out.
Overall it was a flat performance with a lack of energy level, a lack of sharpness. It was quite a big concern to see what we have seen today.
Very few players looked to have the resources to put the pace up in the game. Part of it is down to the fact that Blackburn defended well but I don’t put the majority of reasons down to that. I feel it is more down to our poor offensive performance today.
I wouldn’t argue with that but it raises real questions. Why we were so flat in a game which was important? Why was there such a lack of urgency? Why are we so one-paced at the moment? And you have to ask if the team are playing for the manager. You can’t watch that game, watch the lack of urgency in the last 20, and think that everything’s ok.
It was interesting on the walk back to the pub to listen to the amount of people who think the manager’s time is up. I spoke to people afterwards who had to deal with Arsenal fans fighting each other in their section. Physically scrapping over what they’d seen on the pitch. If that doesn’t tell you something’s badly wrong then I don’t know what would.
Those who look on the bright side will say we’re second in the league. And that’s absolutely right. That doesn’t alter the fact there’s a strange undercurrent, the stadium was an odd place yesterday, and the result extremely damaging to our title chances. We knew that if pretty football didn’t work we’d have to scrap a win yesterday but that fight seemed to be lacking. After the Interlull we hoped we’d see a team that, at the very least, would really battle for the title, but if yesterday is anything to go by then you can’t help but be very worried indeed.
More thoughts when I’m not quite as delicate. We’ve got all week to discuss this. Hurrah!
On another note, however, yesterday’s Arseblog 5s showed that being an Arsenal fan is more than just about the team. A collection of truly fantastic people met, played football, drank beer, watched the Arsenal, had a moan, had food, drank more beer and had a great day out.
The Green team made it three in a row – and I suspect had we not been so crampy and old we might have given Blackburn a game too – but it was a beautiful thing. Whatever our gripes with the team we should never lose sight of the fact that it’s Arsenal Football Club that links so many of us.
Thank you to everyone for their contribution, whether as player, organiser, official or supporter and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Now, I have to drag my extremely *boilked* carcass for breakfast and then to the airport for the return journey.