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What Were You Thinking?

Following the 6-2 thriller against Blackburn in December, Arsene Wenger told a receptive press, 'It is never boring here.' This evening that claim feels a little hollow following a drab 0-0 with Blackburn in a game diametrically opposed to the enthralling league encounter. All I can say is that the Gunners must really be enjoying their football at the moment, because they seem to want to play as much of it as possible. Arsenal need another fixture like Paul Daniels needs a haircut and yours truly, whose employment is still on probationary terms, could really do without another midweek away fixture oop North.

The Dutch dude has been laid low by a painful throat infection the last couple of days. But going against all medical advice, I clambered limply from my sick bed this morning, in spite of the nausea and diziness, not to mention a voice box that sounds like Bob Dylan having smoked thirty sandpaper cigars, I passed the late fitness test (to see if I could make a cup of tea without collapsing) and made my way to the Grove. Pre game, I made my first ever purchase from the Grove's catering facilities, my illness superceding my principles and forked out £1.50 for a bottle of water. Being an analytical individual, I read the label on the bottle, 'water from the Scottish highlands.' Those of you in the know will realise this means it is tap water. £1.50 for a bottle of tap water. Got to admire the business savy there.

Following their 6-2 hammering in December, and shorn of their chief attacking threats Gamst and McCarthy, Blackburn were hardly going to come up all guns blazing. Their primary objective was not to concede and it worked a treat for them. Ryan Nelsen was monumental at the back, I've always said that a sign of class is time on the ball, Nelsen always seems to get this and Rovers will have a fight on their hands swatting the predatory masses that will soon be vying for his signature. New signing Christophe Samba used his physical presence to great effect and the upshot was that Arsenal created little. The first half was an absolute non event. Both teams seemed quite content with 0-0, in fact at times it was like watching the Porto game all over again. Blackburn had no ambition of winning the game (I cannot blame them) and Arsenal lacked the guile/desire to break them down. Fabregas looked debilitated by fatigue, Gallas was incredibly rusty- which is to be expected and Arsenal's two wingers, Ljungberg and Walcott were bereft of any peneatration.

Walcott's first touch constantly let him down, and I think this elucidates his lack of confidence at present. Unfortunately, this is hardly surprising as our supporters have hyped him up to the nines and because he's not delivering hat tricks every game, people are beginning to question his talent. Shut up and let him play football. While Walcott has it all in front of him, Ljungberg is a shadow of the player he was five years ago, he is a one trick pony who cannot do his trick anymore. The first half saw just one opportunity, Gallas heading over from close range on six minutes. The Gunners did not appear keen to raise the tempo in the second half, apparently content to cram their fixture list with another replay as both sides ostensibly played for 0-0 (nobody can tell me that Arsenal bust a gut to win this game). It was only in the closing minutes that cruel reality dawned on the side that they created any chances. Aliadiere should have had a penalty after being tripped by Warnock. Rosicky and Adebayor's introductions from the bench livened up the attack as both players ran at the Rovers defence. Henry played a neat one two with Rosicky, but Brad Friedel stayed big to thwart Tommy Gun from close range.

The game's most glorious chance came with less than a minute left on the clock. Adebayor drove past Samba and pulled back for Henry, who went for style not substance as he flicked the ball up and limply prodded towards goal, Friedel tipped the ball out and Justin Hoyte arrived only to side foot into the outspread frame of Friedel. Surely a driven shot, hit powerfully with the laces would have been the better option. With all due respect, Hoyte was probably the last player on the pitch you would have wanted that to fall to. Blackburn deservedly held on for the draw and a replay. This will be another tough match, sandwiched between the Carling Cup Final and the second leg v PSV, to my mind some of the first team players just do not deserve to play in the replay, I think we should again deploy the likes of Diaby, Denilson show much more hunger and would give Fabregas, Toure etc a much needed rest.

A very disappointing day and one of our most unsatisfactory performances of the season. I simply cannot fathom why Arsenal thought a replay was in their interests, the desire to win the game was simply not evident. Fatigue is no excuse because of the starting eleven today, only Almunia and Toure were significantly involved on Wednesday. With the World Cup last summer, the Qualifying Rounds of the Champions League and the regular events of replays/extra time, fatigue could derail our cup assaults. We will only have ourselves to blame should it happen. The large banks of empty seats were hardly surprising. The lunatics at UEFA once again prize boring, useless international friendlies over fixture list common sense, so the Bolton replay meant we had only forty eight hours to sell tickets for a kick off interfered with by television. The drab encounter meant BBC got their just deserts, they cannot expect to see a quality encounter by switching this game to midday given that both teams were involved in tough away games on Wednesday night. Still, my Carling Cup Final ticket came today and I fly to Amsterdam on Monday, plenty to help me forget the Grove's most forgettable match. Anyhoo, I'm going back to bed. I really should have stayed there in the first place. LD.

P.S I have tried for the fourth consecutive time to post pictures with my match report, but the imageshack site is still down. It has been for a long time. Unfortunately, this will be the last time I attempt it. I really hoped putting some pictures with the report could add something, but on the rare occasions that the technology is up to it, the results are usually very poor, with pictures distorted or disappearing without explanation. This is a real shame, but I just do not have the time to sit here for two and a half hours with every report waiting to see if the computer feels like complying with my request. Apologies for this, I think this gave a unique dimension and I wanted to give those of you who live far away and do not get the chance to attend games a small slice of the action. Alas, it appears my inclination towards technophobia shows no sign of abating.

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

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Saturday February 17 2007

Time: 9:24PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Stop liking walcott just because he's english. He was the worst player in red & white today. I don't want to see him play for arsenal again this season.
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17/02/2007 21:43:00

oh :0 (he said oozing with naivety) i thought they were just training for the real fiftht round game. oops!!
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17/02/2007 21:44:00

Blackburn just wouldn't come out today, they were the footballing equivalent of John Travolta.
Anon 1
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17/02/2007 21:53:00

get off walcotts ass if we said that every time someone played the way he did today half the team would be off for the whole season. the only way for him to get his confidence back is to play. arsene knows youll eat your words soon enough
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17/02/2007 21:57:00

tim stillman should be fired and i should be placed in charge i am the emperor of the world obey me or feel the conquences u stupid gorillas
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17/02/2007 22:08:00

henry was was absoloutly woeful, how many times dd he collapse in heap and wave at the ref, hes useless at the moment and should not play against eindhoven !!!!!!!!!!!!
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17/02/2007 22:08:00

I am really pi$$ed about the pics as I really wanted to see them!
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17/02/2007 22:16:00

Wenger is now moaning about replays in the FA Cup, he knew the rules of the competition before it started, that was the time to register his greivance not after another draw, He should not make statements after a game like this he should raise these issues at the Managers meetings and request they are raised with the FA.
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18/02/2007 00:07:00

Maybe Walcott should be dropped to the reserves to give him extra match time as a forward, which is his natural position.
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18/02/2007 01:48:00

As I've said for the last few weeks, I'd like to see Theo employeed on the left. I think today's game would've been the perfect time to do it as Freddie's been a competent right winger. I'm not sure it would've changed the game much, but it certainly couldn't have hurt.
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18/02/2007 05:37:00

why didnt wenger rest Toure? the guy deserves a rest more than anyone else. and what was the point in playing henry and fabregas for the entire 90 mins. i'm really worried about tuesday now..
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18/02/2007 07:43:00

thenry009, your attitude is the kind I detest. When Theo gets his confidence back you will be the first to congratulate yourself, you'll say "I told you he was brilliant." Like I said, he's 17, shut up and let him play. Col8, you're right, I don't think replays should be banned at all. Firstly, if the home side cannot win inside 90mins, then the away side has earned another shot. Secondly, replays can save football clubs, look at Exeter two years ago, Burton Albion last year. What should be banned are international friendlies. HG, I thought Henry was very good in the first half, he dropped deep and tried to influence play, but in the second half he seemed to want a free kick every time he got the ball.
Little Dutch
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18/02/2007 09:37:00

I keep hearing big clubs saying they have to play to many games, so just as an idea why not put a tem out to win and then give them rest when the job is done, you are making it hard for yourselfs
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18/02/2007 10:14:00

I cudn't agree with Little Dutch more.. Walcott has loads of potential but just lacks the confidence.. and also Freddie looks totally lost and ineffective.. I think he'll leave come summer! And yeah, our performance wasn't all that great, but Blackburn came out with a plan and executed it pretty well...
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18/02/2007 10:29:00

ccfcks, a better idea would be to stop making top players play stupid friendlies. UEFA have to wonder why the last two World Cups and the last two euro championships have been so awful. International football threatens to destroy the game at its most basic level.....oh hell, what am I saying? It's all Arsenal's fault, sod intuition or intelligence, let's just blame Arsenal because that's easy.
Little Dutch
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18/02/2007 11:06:00

I have to say, while i can see the sense behind arsene's reasoning here, it's a bit blinkered and selfish, in my opinion. As noted here, replays can be extremely beneficial to small clubs on a financial tightrope, and we as a big club cannot be so tunnel-visioned as to ignore that. As to risk losing small clubs due to financial causes would be to lose a little part of the magic of the game, and that cannot be allowed to happen. As is also mentioned here, international friendlies are less welcome, scrap or reduce them in the calendar instead. Considering Le Boss called international football part of the past, i'm surprised he did not turn his attention to that more than replays. »»Arsene Knows««
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18/02/2007 11:47:00

Dont talk so silly Little Dutch, you have wrote very intelligent comments in the past but now write that international frendlies should be banned, i spose you also back the idiots who boo'ed england off the field at old trafford, they didnt deserve that and the england players deserve better than that not there fault they have to listen to a Sh*t manager. But to ban international friendlies is like saying lets ban pre-season friendlies, friendlies bring more experience to the teams and plenty more team togetherness, what was ur motive behind saying lets man friendlies. i agree in not having them at certain times of the season but to say they should ban them was just a stupid comment to make. Another thing is you sit and say that the last 2 world cups and the last 2 european championships have been awful, DId you wtach them ? obviously not enough because if you did you would of tseen all the goals, games and all the excitment they created, the last 2 world cups have been great and the last european championship was even better maybe not for england but for football in general it was an amazing outcome for football all of the world! think about what you say m8 .... we are all lovers of the gooners but we should not let that overcome our love for football in general and because things havnt gone our way blame it on other footballing issues u may have ...
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18/02/2007 11:48:00

england players deserved all they got, if i paid good money to go and see that (even though i would NEVER) i would boo them, how can players like lampard and gerrard hype themselves up that much and continue to put in performances like that without ever simply saying i played rubbish, no they blame others, they deserved those boos.
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18/02/2007 12:09:00

Wingston very sensible comment. Tо me, the solution is to reduce the silly mid-season friendlies, and find a proper format for the international competitions (qualifiers that is) which would make club & country football work together, not against each other. The FAs should be held more accountable for the injured players (Owen, Gallas, etc.) and should be made to pay damages to clubs for this. Replays are indeed of great financial benefit, not only to the small clubs. They are also part of the tradition therefore I see no chance in changing that.
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18/02/2007 12:12:00

International friendlies should be reduced. No one likes them, they don't seem to add anything, there are so many substitutions as to render any observations pointless. Wenger knows the rules on replays and a team should not be penalised for looking for them. In a lot of Europe's domestic cup competitions, the games are two legged so whats the difference. You deserved a clear penalty but is Henry on his way out? .. Adebayor seems to lead the line far more effective. In re: Paul Daniels, since when do you need to get a haircut for a toupee?
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18/02/2007 12:43:00

Did anyone actually bother listening to Wenger's comments on scrapping fa cup replays or are you all just going on whats printed in the anti arsenal media????? Firstly Wenger didn't say lets scrap replays he said it was one idea to reduce the amount of fixtures. Don't forget its Fifa that are trying to force the premiership to reduce to 18 teams & actually eventually want 16 teams all throughout europe. This is so more international games can be played & hence more money for the federations. If the premiership is reduced its not going to be arsenal that suffer, so why should wenger care!! However he speaks out for alternative methods & everyone jumps on him. Can some of you try listening to him next time before jumping on this s***. Obviously you all believe cesc wants to quit arsenal aswell because his agent said madrid were a massive club, after all why bother finding out facts when you can just spout anti arsenal c***!!
Ashburton Gooner
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18/02/2007 13:01:00

international friendlies are currently being used for what arsene has used the Carling Cup for this season, to try out new players and try new things out ... these young lads came on i did what they was told to do by there S*it manager ... they did not deserve to b boo'ed off they did what they could ... i was there i was sat in the stands and i was ashamed to b english when the team was boo'ed off ... the future of our football boo'ed off ... with some good managment things woiuld b differant ... all of u would be the first to go crazy in support if they had of won ... but as usual your very keen to criticise ... i dont care about gerrard and lampard and the rest of the first lot half of them didnt start and not many was there to see the match out as they had been substituted off ... rio gave a good game and so did dyer its about time people look at the football and not the negative points ... until you can do that you shouldnt pass comment ... Sir Harry i completley agree with you they should be reduced but not banned as LD said ... or maybe moved to more appropriate times of the year to play them .
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18/02/2007 14:24:00

Achilles, I don't particularly care if England were booed off or not, they're not my team, how England fans treat the English team is not my problem/interest. Friendlies are utterly useless, most players pull out, as Sir Harry said the substitutions make them useless and when players do play they do so without heart. I've said in articles on this page before, that a four day training get together would be far more beneficial. Pre season friendlies are about fitness, international friendlies rob players of fitness. The current England malaise is not down to McLaren, he is not to blame for forty years of under achievement, the F.A refuse to invest in the grass roots of the game. Two years ago, Brooking and Wilkinson tried to build the Burton Centre of Excellence, an academy that mimics France's fruitful Clarefontaine, the F.A pulled the plug on funding citing the cost of Wembley Stadium. England's problems are a lot less simplistsic. Finally, the last four international tournaments have been poor. This summer's world cup is widely regarded as the worst ever. WC06 and Euro2004 were both won by the most negative sides in the competition.
Little Dutch
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18/02/2007 14:46:00

In fact, the most memorable moment of the last World Cup was a headbutt. I think that says it all.
Little Dutch
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18/02/2007 14:48:00

Anybody see ray stubbs yesterday on MOTD?...I haven't seen such a blatant anti-Arsenal bias since...the last time that *****e was on
Anon 1
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18/02/2007 16:05:00

Rosickys bangers against the septics for me!
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18/02/2007 16:11:00

Boring it most certainly was! Hopefully the replay will be a lot better!
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18/02/2007 16:36:00

Anon1, read my thoughts son. An article will appear on here in a few minutes that you might like!
Little Dutch
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18/02/2007 17:24:00

Notice Richard Keys started on arsenal yet again today. Sky just cannot leave it alone, the only incident they can bring up from all of yesterday's games was the cesc/hughes row. Jamie Redknapp sticks his nose in again with 'Its not the first time he has done it, he had ago at my dad last season for no reason' without producing any evidence or being able to say why he had ago at him!! Then he starts on wenger by saying discipline has to come from the top!! They really are a bunch of top class w******.
Ashburton Gooner
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18/02/2007 17:47:00

The funny thing about that is AG, last season we were told were a bunch of softies, too lightweight and too easily bullied. So one of our younger players develops a little bit of an attitude, grows some balls and now all of a sudden we're public enemy no.1. If you look at the two biggest criticisms of Wenger's last two teams, they have been 1) too dirty, 2) too soft. My old man used to say some people don't know if they want a s***, a shower or a shave.
Little Dutch
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18/02/2007 18:17:00

Nobody can so much as behave perfectly all the time; everyone acts or reacts in ways that's regrettable. Sure it wasn't the wisest thing to do, but the point is that Fabregas apologized for the incident. And if I may add, I believe he was sincere about it. It's done deal and yet, nobody really seems to focus on the apology and keep re-hashing the event over and over and over and over... ~___~P
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18/02/2007 20:38:00

that's because it's hard to sensationalize an apology... not much scandal value in that. So no interest in that from Murdoch corp. »»Arsene Knows««
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18/02/2007 23:13:00

He shouldn't have apologized in the first place. His comment was spot on! So Hughes is p###ed off that a kid tells him his side didn't play? They didn't - if you set your team up like that, you have to live with the stick. To call that bunch of hoofers footballers is an insult to the likes of Fabregas.
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19/02/2007 06:50:00

little dutch thinks because a team that wasnt known as one of the worlds greatest won the euro cup that it was a crap tournement u need to watch more football youngen
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19/02/2007 17:05:00

haha Wingston75~ I swear I look at the entertainment section of MSN and then I look at all these football news and it's not HALF as interesting! x) Is that good or bad? x_X
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20/02/2007 01:29:00


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