Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday September 14 2008
After the hyperbole and fanfare surrounding the portent hat trick of Walcott on Wednesday, it was back to real football and a visit to Ewood Park. Mark Lawrenson may compound his astounding lack of research and knowledge with proclamations of Arsenal struggling at this venue, but our recent record there is actually very good. Having foolishly decided not to bother sleeping the night before the game and even more foolishly elected to drink six cans of red stripe and eat a kebab the night before, the uneasy marriage of beer and 'bab made for an uneasy marriage in a journey that was predominantly spent with my face against the window snoozing. As we pulled into the ground, the pavements were awash with Arsenal shirts, with the visitors beringing a 7,000 strong contingent.
Regrettably the powers that be at the Arsenal Box Office, despite having the entire Darwen End at their disposal, decided to shove the away scheme members right over into the corner. The scheme states that away scheme members are given the best seats where possible. Having spent the entire match craning my neck with a rhythmic drips of water slaloming between us, I would despute that particular claim. Anyway, once my it of pique had evaporated the game got under way in an unusually low key manner, which manifested itself in the stands. Blackburn looked uncharacteristically timid in the middle. However, Arsenal's glaring lack of a protecting midfielder was unneccesarily whetting Blackburn's meek appetite. I'm not sure howmany of you saw the match yesterday, but Denilson abandoned his role as the holding player so often that it was Fabregas who played the position for most of the match, a galling waste of Cesc's talents. In the fifth minute, a bouncing ball caught Clichy on the hop, Emerton powered beyond the French full back and flighted in a cross which, unbelievably, saw Roque Santa Cruz unmarked. Luckily he put his header over the bar. How on earth Arsenal currently sit with one goal conceded all season is a mystery on a par with crop circles and Roswell.
However, Arsenal's 'anything you create we'll create better' approach bore fruit on the eight minute. Walcott received the ball from van Persie on the left hand side, Theo's exuberance from his midweek brace was evident in his steps as he thundered inside, hurdling challenges from Andrews (who had already taken a chunk out of van Persie) and Nelsen before putting his head up and finding van Persie on the right of the penalty area. The Dutchman received the ball and slotted past Fatty Robinson with customary applomb. A neat finish, particularly when you've got a figure resembling an inflatable sumo wrestler bearing down on you. Blackburn's response was immediate, Jason Roberts outmuscled Gallas to hold the ball up, it ran to Santa Cruz whose rasping strike would have ended up in the net were it not for Toure's afro. All hail the afro, but the Arsenal defence had more leaks than a rusty collander. Though they nearly motored into a two goal lead, a Rovers corner was cleared to Warnock on the half way line, Eboue dispossessed him brilliantly, leaving Adebayor with yards of pitch in front of him, he galloped forwards and released Walcott on the left, but the over excitement was apparent as Thoe steered his shot over. Another shaky moment was on the horizon, Emerton again powered down the right with Clichy not offering resistance, his low cross trickled past the seemingly apatehtic figure of Gallas, but with Santa Cruz lurking, Toure scuffed the ball behind for a corner. Gallas is a player who really needs to wide his head in now, because his start to the season has not been good enough. Much like his compatriot Henry, his body language is pretty transparent and he looks down in the mouth. He needs to pick up quickly, because thus far the fact that he has gotten away with it is more luck than design. One more moan before I paralyse you all with negativity, when returning the ball to Blackburn in the first half following treatement to Warnock, Sagna unsportingly rolled the ball next to the Rovers corner flag. Please, please, please can we not use despicable characters such as Chris Sutton and John Terry as role models, Arsenal F.C. is above the lowly behaviour of such infidels.
Another free header for Santa Cruz gave Gooner hearts reason to flutter, this is Santa Cruz scorer of eight headers last season given two free headers inside the first half an hour. Walcott's brst down the right nearly bought rewards, he picked out van Persie on the egde of the box, his control was impeccible but his volley was inches wide. Fortunately, Arsenal grabbed an undeserved second right on half time. Arsenal played possession brilliantly in the middle of the park, playing 27 passes, until van Persie fed Denilson on the left, he steered an inviting cross to the backpost for Adebayor to squeeze a low header under Robinson's love handles and into the net. It's just as well Denilson did manage to produce going forwards, because he was conspicuous by his absence in the defensive half. Wenger simply has to play Alex Song alongside Fabregas, he may have his doubts as to whether Song can play the role long term, but his reticence to buy leaves him with little choice in my eyes. At this point I have to ask why Ewood Park bothers with the big screens at the corner of the Darwen End, Arsenal chances weren't replayed, the time was not shwoing, no half time or full time scores were announced.
The second half saw Rovers with nothing left to give and the Gunners were allowed to play their football. Walcott nearly produced an exact replica of his first England goal when Adebayor fed him on the right, Theo took a touch to steady and fired a shot goalwards, but Nelsen's touch took it wide. Toure's header was beaten out by Robinson. Emmanuel Eboue of all people sent a rasping shot towards the top corner which Robinson's frankfurter fingers managed to tip over. From the resulting corner, Eboue returned to form with a wild volley which he spooned over. 'We've only come to see Eboue' came the reply from the visiting supporters. Eboue, it must be said, had a terrific game, playing both right and left and even filling in at right back for a time when Gallas was off for treatment. It was his bursting run which yielded Arsenal's third goal when Warnock tripped him in the area. Wonders neevr cease, Eboue goes down in the area and he actually was fouled. Darryl sitting tomy left showed me the incoming report on his phone from the BBC website which labelled it a 'blatant dive made much worse by Eboue's dramatic hobbling.' I keenly await their apology now that it transpires Eboue is injured. I watched the repeat of Match of the Day this morning and no mention made of him being stretchered off. They cannot lose their rights to Premiership football soon enough, let them waste public money elsewhere.
Adebayor converted the penalty, placing it low to the left, where every single one of his Arsenal penalties has been placed to date. Time to vary the routine Ade. Jack Wilshere made a slice of history, replacing van Persie to become Arsenal's youngest ever player. But it was fellow substitute Ramsey who made a final impression, slipping a slide rule pass into Adebayor, who just about rounded Blobinson to slot home the perfect hat trick. Right foot, header, left foot. Once Ade learns the subtleties of the offside rule we're going to have Europe's most feared striker on our hands. His name was sonorously aired throughout, with the summer hatchet seemingly buried once and for all. All in all a pleasing forward display, but I am afraid the lack of a dominating centre half and a defensive midfielder still looks like an enormous hubris and better sides than Blackburn will exploit it. It may sound deplorable to complain in the wake of a 4-0 away victory, but we cannot continue with a philosophy where we accept conceding as an inevitability, teams in the upper echelons of the league will not be easily brushed aside and we must be tighter. I am afraid that means doing away with this mallapropism whereby Denilson is considered a defensive midfielder, it's a misjustice to him and the team. Particularly Fabregas' sense of duty causes him to drop back into the position. On the positive side, Walcott looked a much more confident and dangerous player, more adept in tight situations and more willing to be sirect and demand the ball. Let's just hope we get a bit better at winning the ball back and getting it out to him.LD.
Date:Sunday September 14 2008
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