Firing Blanks

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.

16 thoughts on “Firing Blanks

  1. Very positive and fair post i must say. Its definitely not the worst performance we’ve seen, its just a lack of spark. The changes to the 2 wing man took much directness out of the team and i think Cesc plays better with both of them. Flamini took too many touches and its just not the pass and go style of Arsenal. Still we did not lose and there’s a replay to go. From a fan who just loves to watch Arsenal every minute, its not bad for a replay too. Cheers

  2. Agree with Hairy Bottle’s assessment of your post as “very positive and fair”. My own take: The match was boring but we weren’t bad — or, at least, most definitely not as awful as some other people make out. Also, it’s not like we’ve had our unbeaten run in 2007 stopped either!

    Additionally, judging from the last three Arsenal performances, seems like the following should be our first XI for now:-

    Lehmann; Hoyte, Toure, Gallas (he didn’t contribute much to the attack and he may not be fully fit but I’m not sure that it’s entirely coincidental that his being back in the team allowed us to keep our first clean sheet in ages!), Clichy (whose attacking runs we missed yesterday along with the attacking spark of Rosicky and Hleb); Hleb (if fit; if not, then Aladiere or Denilson over there in his place), Fabregas, Gilberto, Rosicky; Henry, Adebayor.

  3. Walcott the wonderkid!! ha ha ha ha . Please let me play Mr Wenger. I promise i’ll do all my homework after and tidy my dressing room, i finished the colouring you asked me to do. And in todays game I swear I WONT lose the ball, step on it and trip over i wont make ALL my crosses to the other side even tho the colours still confuse me a little. AND i sooo promise i wont hide behind other players so nooone can pass to me.

  4. Got the perpective well there YW.

    The umph was totally missing & we didn’t pressurise their back 10 enough. TH14 was no better than the Beast was,on Wednesday, but a least the Beast was “at it” all night.

    I would have liked to have seen Theo & Ali switched at times. Jeremie is looking very promising from the flanks, whilst Theo doesn’t really look comfortable there yet. Theo’s not had a very comfortable couple of months and that it is good for his education but perhaps he is best suited as an impact sub rather than a starter.

    Perhaps the new child on the blog will be able to make some more useful contributions.

  5. Best write-up of the game I’ve seen yet, makes a welcome change from the ridiculous negativity that’s been floating around and very level-headed, well done.

  6. Lennonhaspace

    Both yourself and Walcott are growing up in a public arena, the difference is that he is handling it better than you are.

    Now go to the back of classroom and pick up the pointed hat with a ‘D’ on it, sit down and read your ‘Janet and John’ books quietly whilst the adults have a conversation.

  7. I don’t understand where the negativity has come from. The performance was not that bad, merely quieter than we would ordinarily expect. People need to get realistic about what the players are capable of. Since beating Blackburn on 23/12, we have played fourteen games in eight weeks and another eight, excluding the FAC QF, before the end of March.

    The squad has to be rotated and with that comes the loss of understanding at times. Only Toure of the outfield players survived from Wednesday; Gallas and Ljungberg both had their first starts in months; Flamini was back after a couple of weeks out. They all need to time to get their touch back but in today’s football world, time is something that is reluctantly given.

  8. Thanks very much yogi. it’ll be my first game at emirate’s! from belfast so gettin over can cost a few quid. Can’t wait-thanks again!

  9. come now Yogi I am just teasing. You arse scummers do have an abundance of talent not overlooked but Walcott really is a bit of a joke. As a die hard england Im sooooo angered that he was picked as our “secret weapon” for winning the elite of elite competitions.

  10. Walcott is 17 years old, Lennon 20. Before he came to Arsenal, Walcott was a central striker; Lennon was and still is, playing as a winger. Therein lies your problem; Walcott is learning very publicly a new position and is not doing too badly at it either. There have been a large number of players picked for England whose delivery is considerably worse than the poorest cross Walcott has put in this season.

    He should not have gone to Germany; the only one who knows why is Eriksson and maybe one day he will come up with a plausible reason why. That he did shows the paucity of English talent. Wenger is quoted today as identifying the 14 – 16 year old group as England’s best skilled players, technically. That means a decade, at least, before they reach anything approaching footballing maturity.

    Walcott will become an excellent footballer, unfortunately at the moment it is a “fashionable” thing to knock him. A large number of people will be eating humble pie when he does come good.

  11. Seems to me that Blackburn will pose less of a problem in the away game, because they will have to come out and play, and also there is a chance that Gilberto and Hleb will play. I guess they feel that they will have an advantage because at least 10 more of their fans will come to the game..maybe. As far as fixture congestion is concerned, it does not affect us at all in the short term because we would have been playing Manchester City.

  12. Lets be honest Walcott has been givem more chances than Aliadiere, hes not ready to start yet. Yesterday we had 9 players both Walcott and Freddie were useless.Ali should be given a starting role he can play on the wing if enry and Adi start.Henry is a shadow of his former self he sems slower and off target. Dont lets blame the world cup he had a six weeks rest. For the return game probably Diably and Denilson will start.

  13. Sol

    How has Walcott had more chances than Aliadiere? If anyone thinks that at 17 years old he is anywhere near the finished article then they are plain bonkers.

    I think most people agree Henry is not at peak form yet but it is hard to see why not unless he has had a recurrence that they are keeping quiet. Strikers though always have a fallow period in their careers, perhaps this season is Henry’s?

    Not sure who he will start with for the replay given it is the next match after the Carling Cup Final. I suspect that it will not be Denilson or Diaby as I would guess both of those will play in Cardiff. Gilberto probably will start in Blackburn alongside Fabregas, Henry up front. Much depends on injuries but also on whether the Final goes to Extra Time.

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