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Blackburn Rovers 2 Arsenal 1

Blackburn Rovers 2 Arsenal 1

The last away game of the season is always a rather circumspect occasion. For one reason and another, there are a large cluster of associates I only see and travel with at away games, with the season drawing to a close and one last trip to negotiate, a kind of sense of perverse sense of forlorn celebration and reflection were in order. Taking to the country's motorways every other week and cramming into planes, trains and automobiles for as much as twelve hours at a time gives you a chance to get to know people beyond their football allegiances (Pete`s encyclopaedic knowledge of absolutely bloody everything, Terry`s unabashed Michael Jackson fixation, Derrick`s knowledge of European terrain given the fact that he has missed a grand total of 7 Arsenal and Eire games since the mid 80s, Luigi`s apathy towards permanent employment) all of us complete and utter misfits in our own idiosyncratic ways. And who else would actually bother going to see an Arsenal team who have long since discarded their professional pride to watch them play Blackburn on a rainy Bank Holiday Monday but a band of complete and utter misfits?

So we travelled for one last hurrah in the North West. Fittingly given the opposing manager and the contemptible scheduling of the game, the road that links Bolton and takes you into Blackburn is the A666. Highway to hell indeed. Having arrived a good two hours before kick off, we journeyed to the Fernhurst Arms pub to watch the Ladies Cup Final, the pub was 100% chock a block with Arsenal fans who seemingly had us little sense as we did in travelling to the game. We could only watch until the 80th minute but were undoubtedly sad to hear the Girls missed out on yet another F.A. Cup in heartbreaking circumstances. I`m certain they`ll rectify it when they inevitably get to next year`s final. Once in the ground it became apparent that Song, Bendtner and Clichy had been left at home. It didn`t actually occur to me until about an hour after the final whistle that Rosicky had not featured either, which about sums up his contribution in 2010. Immediately I didn`t like what I perceived to be a laissez-faire attitude to the match from the manager, but consoled myself with the thought that this was probably a good platform for the likes of Vela, Traore and Walcott to prove their worth for next season. How d`ya reckon that went?

Arsenal began the game in a lively enough fashion, much like a child temporarily amused by bubble wrap before growing bored with it ten minutes later. In the 3rd minute, Eboue playing in a central midfield position picked up the ball in space and hit an angled pass to Walcott on the right, his pace saw him retrieve the lost cause and clip the ball back to Vela who inexplicably put the ball wide from 4 yards with the net winking. I deduce that he lacked conviction in the shot because it was on his right foot, this is how horribly limited Vela is on his right, he can`t even approach an open goal on it with anything other than pant filling dread. But Arsenal did move into a deserved lead in the 13th minute. Samir Nasri swung in a left wing corner which led Bacary Sagna to morph into some kind of Steve Bould in a parallel universe (how much better would that comb-over have looked on Bouldy?) to flick the ball onto the back post for Robin van Persie to head home his first goal since registering his second against Spurs in October. Robin, let me count the ways in which we have missed thee. Van Persie threatened with a dipping left foot free kick which Blobinson beat out with his flabby sausage fingers- which were presumably still coated in barbecue sauce. That was really that as far as Arsenal were concerned, they really couldn`t be arsed to muster anything else.

In yawning quite so visibly, Arsenal invited Blackburn to pressurise them with an aerial bombardment. Fabianski was forced into a fine save when he tipped over Pedersen`s free kick. But Rovers drew level from the resulting corner. Pedersen whipped it in from the right, Samba miscued his header as Fabianski appeared to be impeded, Keith Andrews fired the ball back across goal and Roberts touched the ball onto the back post where the wandering Samir Nasri had left David Dunn to chest the ball in from a yard. I believe Fabianski was fouled in the build up, but I know that Blackburn applied four unchallenged touches to that corner prior to the ball dribbling into the net and that we conceded laughably similar goals at Stamford Bridge and the Britannia Stadium to Danny Pugh. Questions abound with the goalkeeper, but you have to ask where were his protection racket? It was telling after both goals how sheepishly the Arsenal players trotted away from their under fire keeper to let him face the music alone.

Van Persie briefly flickered with a couple of snap shots in the second half but he was offered the sort of service you`d expect in a Travel Inn. Walcott ran willingly but lacked quality, Vela, I believe briefly got lost in the fourth dimension somewhere (you`ve all seen the movie Tron, right?), Armand Traore treated the attacking half of the pitch like some kind of outdoor landmine museum and Samir Nasri`s passing was more conservative than David Cameron. Abou Diaby treated us to his now legendary koala chewing eucalyptus impression as the game largely by passed him, whilst Eboue`s positive start where he had found pockets of space and driven at the Rovers back line had evaporated like a fart in the wind. I actually laboured temporarily under the misapprehension that the appalling Wigan capitulation might have hurt this team`s professional pride but clearly not. Pedersen roared through the Arsenal defence to force a one handed stop from Fabianski, Campbell might have fouled Pedersen for the rebound. In truth, I haven`t seen any highlights and the incident was right at the far reach of the pitch, situated as I was in The Darwen End Upper Tier. The Pole once again was last man standing as Hoilett easily rounded Traore but Fabianski thrust out an arm to produce an excellent save. Van Persie was then denied a clear penalty when he turned Salgado in the area only to be taken out by the Rovers defender. But having been so venomously criticised last week for a borderline penalty call at Villa Park, Martin Atkinson was not in the mood to surrender himself to the scrutiny of the hate filled media once more.

Ultimately, Blackburn eventually bullied their way into the lead. Pedersen swung another corner into the six yard area into a throng of bodies crowding the keeper, Fabianski did not deal at all well with the pressure and neither did his defenders as the Pole misjudged the flight of the ball leaving Chris Samba to head home from all of a yard. Fabianski is a young man at the nadir of his confidence and it`s difficult to conclude anything other than the fact that we are witnessing the unravelling of a once promising Arsenal career. Arsenal`s response to the goal was....was.....was.....? Well, there was no response and it`s clear that the fringe players on display weren`t interested in playing for their futures or their pride. In the last month, Arsenal have catastrophically destroyed the respect they spent the previous nine months earning. The feeling of negativity is well and truly permeating the club again, the manager spoke about what an impediment that atmosphere was to his team last season yet they seem to have no qualms in creating it again.

The road sign marked improvement that the manager has been pointing to in the absence of more glittering awards is becoming an increasingly foggy smirch on the horizon. The manager remarked after the game that the team had lost their competitive edge because they were no longer in the title race. That is utterly refutable for a number of reasons. Firstly, it`s clear that Arsenal lost their nerve the second they were actively involved in the title race. The manager himself said that the team would still have been in it with a win at Wigan. Whenever our title chances have been a whisper in the dark, the team have performed. The instant that whisper in the dark gathered momentum and threatened to become a bellow from the rooftops, the team caved in on itself again in an all too familiar geyser of shredded nerve. There`s a real feeling of groundhog day about the club at the moment, the same false starts, the same brief flickers of promise followed by the inevitable capitulation and promises of improvement never quite fulfilled. Something needs to be freshened up and no, I am not talking about changing the manager, but Arsene Wenger has tacitly admitted twice in the last two weeks that he couldn`t motivate his players. Perhaps his most damning indictment was when he closed his post match interview with, "Next week we play at home, not away." Another implied confession that he can`t get his troops up for the more difficult games at the moment. Thanks Arsene, how about asking the players to dip into their pockets and refund those of us that did get up (at unsociable hours I might add) for these far flung away games?

It`s telling that he has pointed so resolutely to the spirit Sol Campbell shows as an example to his younger charges who seem to think they can pick and choose their matches without fear of reprisal. In the end, yes we did have a lot of squad players playing and yes the season is winding down, but this defeat was not about our choices in the transfer market, the players we had injured, Blackburn`s tactics or even which goalkeeper we had playing. This was down to attitude and believe me when I say nobody in the Darwen End was satisfied with it. There are a lot of players who seriously need to ask themselves what they want from their Arsenal careers and the manager will have to ask them the same questions. You learn a lot about people in adversity and the revelations of the last month are not good. The team and the manager must be fools if they think this won`t have ramifications for the beginning of next season either. When we lost the title in 2003, we went out and smashed Southampton 6-1 and Sunderland 4-0, setting down our intentions early. After losing the title in 2005, we came out and gave Everton a 7 goal shoeing. This team`s response? They might yet suffer the ignominy of slipping into 4th place below Spurs. In many ways, it will serve them right if they do and they will face an absolute tidal wave of negativity if they do. Make no mistake Arsene and Arsenal, if the team produce another performance like this next Sunday, don`t bother coming out for the "lap of appreciation" because thousands and thousands of empty seats will stare back at you. Repeat this sort of half arsed performance and mine will be one of them.LD.

21.FABIANSKI, 3.SAGNA, 31.CAMPBELL, 18.SILVESTRE, 30.TRAORE, 2.DIABY, 27.EBOUE (9.Eduardo `78), 8.NASRI, 14.WALCOTT, 12.VELA (23.Arshavin `67), 11.v.PERSIE(c). Unused: 20.Djourou, 24.Mannone, 28.Gibbs, 43.Henderson.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday May 4 2010
Time: 8:36PM


I believe this was the only game all year that wasn't televised in my area and it sounds like that is a good thing. I honestly believe that most of the Arsenal players have the required skill and physical attributes to win trophies but there is something missing. Whether it is conviction, confidence, or just plain wrong chemistry, I don't know, but something is obviously wrong. I honestly never thought we'd win anything when the transfer window closed last summer so I'm not devastated and surprised by our lack of trophies but I am really disappointed at the sense of deja vu I feel. Early season arrogance and points lost? check. Injuries mount and require 3rd and 4th choice players in new positions? check. Mid season charge to get spirits up? check. No winter transfer activity? check. Crucial players running out of gas and breaking with a month and a half left in the season? check. Wenger complaining about injuries and others' tactics while pointing at progress? check. I don't need any big name big money signings but I do want some real men signed. That doesn't mean crushing physical monsters, but MEN. Players who appreciate what they get to do for a living and are willing to use every ounce of their God given talent every time they are on the field. Players who are more concerned about showing they deserve to be called world class than where the nearest microphone or blog is.
04/05/2010 20:57:00
Sorry, I forgot paragraph breaks disappear when I hit submit.
04/05/2010 20:58:00
Boycott the last game. The only response we can give this bunch.
04/05/2010 21:02:00
It looked like they just didnt care, they aint gonna win anything so they aint gonna try. Whats needed is players who want to play for arsenal, would give blood, sweat, tears for arsenal. Players who would fight for the team. Even look at when some of them score they dont even celebrate. Theres no passion, I miss the players like wright,vieira's and adams, pires Im just disgusted at the moment, wont even be watching on the last day
04/05/2010 21:05:00
I don't expect the "I'd die for my club" attitude from players. They are professional athletes paid to do a job. Some of them do become genuine fans of the club like Henry(yeah I know he is a PR hound but I do believe he's a fan) but most of them are just there to do a job. I'm ok with that, I just want them to play with some personal pride and a general recognition that the supporters DO live, eat, and breathe the club. Personal pride combined with genuine effort will allow me to forget a lot of deficiencies. ( see Eboue and Campbell this year)
04/05/2010 21:20:00
Spot on LD. This squad (including the 1st team out injured) like being the underdogs, but crumble at the 1st hint of pressure near the top. That is the biggest challenge that Wenger has to overcome. Is that going to be solved by bringing in an extra 2 players? I dont think so, unless they have the mentality of a Sol Campbell, who has shown that some of the fringe players are a ******** disgrace.
04/05/2010 21:21:00
I want some players in this season that have enough mental stability and intelligence to realize their careers have an expiration date and it is up to them how they are remembered. I truly don't care if bringing in someone sets walcott or nasri back a bit in regards to playing time so long as they can learn how to keep that fire in their belly going from someone who has already learned the lesson. Let's sign some men who can show the boys what they've been missing and while we're at it let's add someone to the coaching staff that understands and loves Wengerball but also understand the tactics of effective defense.
04/05/2010 21:26:00
Wenger's inability to motivate his players, and his very obvious lack of tactical flexibility, is something that we're all to some extent aware of. It perhaps points to why he has always failed to clear the final hurdle in his career. A succession of 2nd or third placings at Monaco and Grampus Eight, suggests someone who is pretty much obsessed with football theory rather than strategy. After almost 15 years coming up against teams like Bolton and Blackburn he still hasn't devised a plan for countering the style of play. He's stuck.
Wyn Mills
04/05/2010 21:30:00
I second that smithdj. This team is crying out for some defensive organisation, not just for the back 5, but for the mid field to offer protection for the defence. We need someone like Tony Adams, Bould, Dixon, Winterburn etc to help out, and I'm sure all they are waiting for is one call from Arsene Wenger.
04/05/2010 21:51:00
I expected alot more yesterday, a bit of pride and passion, but I was clearly asking for too much. I had forgotten that another shockingly insipid display was on the cards, as they players were still basking in the glory and reprieve of having 1 shot against Man City.
Cockney Rich
04/05/2010 21:52:00
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