Arsenal 0 – 0 Blackburn Rovers
A subdued performance combined with Rovers stubborn defence means that another date has to be found for the Home Premiership match against Manchester City, the replay for this cup tie taking precedence in ten days time. It is the first time that an English team has kept Arsenal at bay in The Emirates and it was hardly surprising since the match lacked the verve and pace that one normally expects from the home team. The performance was not bad; I think it is just that the expectation level is so high now because we know what the team are capable of. And to think fifteen years ago, we would have been enthusing about the movement and passing instead of what was then a continual stream of discontent about a team that had as much movement as a forest full of Canadian Redwoods on a bright summer’s day.
Arsene agreed, commenting, that
“We lacked spark and were a little bit flat…the problem is finding a solution when teams defend deeply and we couldn’t find that today“
However, it would not be unfair to say that despite the absence of that spark, the team created three clear chances to win and were denied a stonewall penalty – Paul Jewell take note; a heavyweight boxer of a centre forward going down from the slightest of touches is not stonewall. A right back taking the legs of a forward is. So clear a penalty that even Friedel is quoted in this morning’s press as admitting that fact.
The line-up was not much different than expected, Flamini ,who I thought still had a niggle, was in the centre with Cesc and they had little trouble controlling their opposite numbers. It was however, the sheer volume of Blackburn defenders who made it difficult for the Arsenal forward line of Aliadiere and Henry to breach. There is so little to write of in terms of chances which is why there has been some over-the-top negative reaction, claims of the worst performance in years are so ludicrous as to be unbelievable . Have people really forgotten the abject displays at Bolton, Sheffield, Fulham, West Ham or even Valentines Day 2006?
Henry skied a volley in the first half that went higher and wider than Gilberto’s penalty in midweek; Walcott hit one of the supports at the back of the net but it was not until we were in the last ten minutes that Friedel had to do anything more than catch crosses. Rosicky in a replica of the move that brought a goal against Wigan, forced a good save from the Blackburn ‘keeper. Minutes later, a double save from Henry and Hoyte esured a replay would be necessary. Almunia was equally quiet; it was not until the 70th minute that he was forced to make a save, Derbyshire’s speculative volley requiring help over the bar.
The lack of action is summed up by more coverage being given to Cesc’s apparently disparaging comments to Hughes about Rovers style of play, borne according to the player, out of frustration at his own performance. The truth is in the latter; Arsenal should have been able to break down the defence, there is more than enough talent to do so in the side. However, they did not and require a replay to reach what is now looking increasingly like the last hurrah of the FA Cup in Cardiff if newspaper reports are to be believed this morning. Lets keep a sense of perspective this morning; we have not lost, the unbeaten run at The Emirates is still intact. We are not out of the FA Cup, Arsenal will be in the draw on Monday and given that Blackburn will have to open up at home, the main thrust of the first XI will have had a week or so’s rest as they will miss out on the Carling Cup Final, there is every reason to be confident that the Quarter Finals will involve Arsenal as well.
Meanwhile, Stuart Pearce has tried to deflect attention away from Joey Barton by accusing the media of double standards by not hang, drawing and quartering Henry for his tumble in the area against Wigan. I am sure you will agree with me that both are comparable, the Wigan defender who tugged Henry was stretchered off after all. He wasn’t? So that means that Barton’s rake of his studs on Mendes’ ankle was designed, intended and meant to injure an opponent is slightly more serious. Still at least Pearce is showing the required credentials for the England job by talking out of his Arsenal.
Talking of which, the News Of The World this morning reports that Arsene believes that instead of letting a man in his underwear bare his Arsenal, you should give him trousers instead of getting him to drop his boxers and changing him. It is a bizarre way to explain his footballing philosophy, Arsene believing that you should not confine a flair player to the rigid straightjacket of conformity but build an environment in which he can thrive. Bizarre stuff indeed, indicative of that mischievious Gallic humour for which he is noted Suffice to say, the journalists have compared it to Cantona’s seagull comments a few years ago which were truly incomprehensible and lacking in humour.