Blackburn Rovers 1 – 0 Arsenal
I remember the first time I went to Ewood Park. Diabolical journey to the ground, Shearer scored the winner with less than 10 minutes to go. I always disliked the guy after that. He became even more nauseating with the “I creosoted my fence” remark after they won the League, no matter how tongue in cheek he may have thought he was being. I still dislike the bloke, even though he now plays for Newcastle, but maybe that is because he seems to be a nigglier version of himself. Perhaps its age.
Anyhoo, todays match pitted the conquerors of the Santiago Bernabeu against the thugs of Blackburn. Ain’t it amazing how reputations stick. One or two sendings off and suddenly the team is made in the mould of their manager. Maybe that’s harsh on Mark Hughes, always had time for him as a player – an honest man, taking and giving in equal measure but uncomplaining. If ever there was a case of the bully’s in the playground taking on the new boys, this was it. Ewood Park is one of those grounds at which we have a very mixed record, with draws, wins and defeats being suffered in equal measure. The team news ahead of the game was disappointing in that Ashley Cole is still not match fit whilst Freddie Ljungberg has picked up a calf strain and missed the match, having played his best match of the season and looking like the player we know he is.
How Real Madrid must have wished that this version of the Arsenal team had played on Tuesday! It was the usual frailties in defence, the sort of performance that is making Henry think twice or even one hundred times about signing a new contract. It was not until Pires was introduced at half time that the team looked like they meant business with Senderos and Fabregas wasting good opportunities with poor efforts. The worst culprit was Adebayour who squandered a good chance with only Friedel to beat.
Should Bolton and Tottenham win tomorrow, fourth place in the Premiership is going to require a Herculean effort to achieve. Looking at the fixtures ahead, Arsenal play Fulham at Craven Cottage next weekend, followed by Liverpool and Charlton at Highbury, Portsmouth at Fratton Park and entertain Aston Villa on April 1st. In seasons past I would have confidently stated that the team would grab15 points from these games, 13 at worst. This season though, in excess of 10 points out of that run will be considered a good return but I would expect at least 12 as a minimum. In the same period, Tottenham entertain Blackburn and West Brom, whilst visiting Chelsea, Birmingham and Newcastle which ought to yield them 10 points. Bolton have a slightly trickier spell of games. As well as an FA Cup replay at Upton Park, they entertain Fulham, West Ham, Sunderland and Manchester United but visit Newcastle and Middlesbrough. Of these, I believe they will return with a total of only 8 points, defeats being suffered at the hands of Manchester United and Newcastle. Blackburn, West Ham and Wigan all have reasonably tough games ahead, particularly The Hammers who are still in the FA Cup; Blackburn should win 8 points from their run, West Ham and Wigan should get 10 and 7 points from their run of games. Assuming Arsenal do get 12 points, that still leaves us in fifth place, three points behind Tottenham with their last ever visit to Highbury assuming greater importance. Now is the time for the team to stop underestimating their predicament and stop underperforming in the League.
Todays Tunes are from Cabaret Voltaire, a staple of the Peel show. These are taken from the album, Groovy Laidback and Nasty, which is perhaps their most commercial album and is, to the best of my knowledge, no longer available.