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Blackburn Rovers 4 Arsenal 3

As my alarm sounded at 3am Saturday, my flatmate, with perfect synchronicity, walked through the front door after a night out. I was left to wipe my bleary eyes and run the gauntlet of London`s drunken revellers on the night buses of the fair city. It was so early that I had to wait 20 minutes for McDonalds on Holloway Road to open for a cholesterol murdering breakfast. The teeming, sheeting rain should really have been an indication that this was not going to be a day with a happy ending. Indeed, Young Tim`s alarm failed to activate (so he claimed) so he didn`t even make the match. Insert your own joke about the Arsenal defence here.

Having arrived in Blackburn at around 11.30am, we journeyed to our usual pre match watering hole The Fernhurst Arms. Trouble is, the once genteel establishment appears to have been taken over by the Nazi party. A 2 entry fee, match day prices almost double what they used to be and no service at all after 12.15pm. On top of this, the overly fussy bouncers seemed to be intent on telling every last punter exactly where to stand. I didn`t have dare visit the toilets in case some over officious Hitler started prescribing how many "shakes" I was allowed at the conclusion of my urination.

However, there was little regimented about the game itself. Though it appeared to start to script. Blackburn are a side incredibly low on confidence and quality. It showed too in the opening twenty minutes. There was little to no pressuring of Arsenal`s midfielders and it was a matter of time before such tepidness told. Arteta and Song exchanged passes in the midfield; Song played a delightful first time pass into the channel for Gervinho, whose darting run was married with a devastating low finish into the corner of Robinson`s net. The Gunners were supremely dominant as Rovers chins rested on chests. You always get the impression Arsenal need a second goal in that scenario so liable are we to concede under the slightest duress. United dominated Bolton in a similar fashion last week. They were 4-0 up in half an hour.

Arsenal`s new boys were linking again as Rovers wobbled. Arteta found Gervinho again on the right channel; the Ivorian shimmied inside Nelsen before unleashing a shot which was beaten out by the legs of Paul Robinson. But just as the Gunners looked sure to score a second, they contrived to concede a soft equaliser. Junior Hoilett slipped a simple pass between Mertesacker and Koscielny. Mertesacker and Sagna stepped up to play offside. Koscielny stood between two stalls whilst new boy Santos hung back. Yakubu raced through onto Hoilett`s pass and deceived Szczesny with a first time finish.

It emphasised the lack of a distinct voice, as well as understanding in the back line. Four different defenders tried to do three different things. Mitigation might be found in the unfamiliarity between the new look defence; but this has been something of a theme on the absence of Vermaelen, the lack of a commanding voice to act as an adhesive. Nobody talked whilst the move unfolded; nobody spoke up after its fatal conclusion either.

However, Arsenal reassumed the lead shortly before half time with some more scintillating attacking play. Gervinho tucked the ball inside on the right to Song, who again played a magnificent first time, defence splitting pass to Aaron Ramsey in the right channel. Ramsey had the presence of mind to cut the ball back to the onrushing Arteta, who slammed home his second goal at Ewood Park in 3 weeks for his first goal for the club. Arteta was a bright spot on the day, completing 94% of his passes, creating 4 goalscoring opportunities and returning one goal. There seemed to be no erring in the cohesion of Arsenal`s new boys upfront. At half time, you felt the away side had surmounted the blip of the Yakubu equaliser and would eventually blow their hosts away.

But in the second half; unsatisfied with the multitude of methods Arsenal have used to point the cannon squarely at their own stomachs, the Gunners managed to let Blackburn boss the game., Blackburn didn`t even try too hard to do it. Arsenal simply rolled out the red carpet. On 49 minutes the affair was all square again when Arshavin`s challenge on N`Zonzi was harshly adjudged as a foul between the corner flag and the penalty area. Rochina delicately clipped the delivery into the Arsenal area. Koscielny missed his header; the ball hit Alex Song and limply dribbled into the net. A comedy goal. The trouble is, when you let your opponents know that they don`t have to work very hard to score, you encourage them. At the same time, when you know yourself that even the feeblest attack can unbutton you, you shrink into your shell.

It was a diseconomies of scale which has reaped its effects again and again in 2011 and did so again with catastrophic consequences. Blackburn nearly took the lead within 60 seconds of equalising when Rochina`s flick put Formica through on goal with just Szczesny to beat, but the Pole in the goal made a world class stop to keep his team at parity. Having hobbled on manfully following a collision in the first half, Bacary Sagna had to limp off with a dead leg. Arsenal`s defensive cohesion had been troubling enough, but with Djourou in for Sagna, we lost Bacary`s attacking presence on the right- which caused the home side problems in the first half.

Sure enough, Arsenal crumbled even further into despair when Junior Hoilett`s corner sailed to the back post. Koscielny again misjudged his header; the ball came to the feet of N`Zonzi, who had time and space to control before lashing a low cross back into the six yard area, which Yakubu was on hand to sweep into an empty net. "We want another refund" came the brief, ironic taunt from behind me. The Gunners won a corner in their haste to equalise, but their desperation would be their undoing. Rovers cleared the corner easily and Hoilett broke; finding Yakubu on the right, Santos got too tight to Yakubu, allowing him to play the ball down the line to Olsson. Djourou then reeked of desperation as he dived in on Olsson but missed his challenge. The Swede prowled into the area, where again, Alex Song sold himself far too easily, allowing Olsson to skip round him to the by line and toe poke the ball into the area, off of the hapless Koscielny`s leg and into the net. Haste and panic gripped Arsenal`s rearguard action from inside their own half. Again, Blackburn didn`t have to work too hard to breach it.

But with 5 minutes remaining, Arsenal grasped a lifeline. Robin van Persie popped up on the left and lashed an inch perfect cross into the Rovers area for Marouane Chamakh to power a close range header past Robinson. His first league goal in 10 months. If anything is to come from the wreckage of Ewood Park, let`s hope our Moroccan will at least be buoyed to rediscover that early season form of yore. Arsenal pressed in vain for an equaliser. It was nearly the triumvirate of new boys that combined to steal a point. Gervinho found Santos on the left, the Brazilian`s cross sailed to the back post and Per Mertesacker climbed above his marker but somehow put his header agonisingly over the crossbar.

The Gunners mustered another opportunity in the last 5 seconds of the game. Koscielny`s long ball was flicked on by van Persie and Walcott steamed onto the scraps, lifting the ball over Robinson, only to be denied by a Ryan Nelsen interception as the ball travelled goalwards. Robinson appeared to take Walcott out and the referee might easily have given a penalty, but I can see why he didn`t to be honest. The final whistle just sealed our despair. After the building blocks of Swansea and Dortmund, we now have to start again. Just as we did when we thought we`d turned the corner against Blackpool. Just as we thought we had when we beat Manchester United.

This weekend we sit in 17th position, with the worst goal difference in the league, having effectively garnered 4 red cards and scored three own goals. We just find new and imaginative ways to cock the pistol at our temples. Blackburn are a poor team on a poor run. Yesterday, they barely raised their game but still found 4 goals, still managed to turn over two deficits and win the game with three shots on target. This is a seven month funk now and even though a good deal of the personnel has changed, the same old mistakes are being repeated. Different cast members are fluffing different lines. Are the players simply not listening to the manager anymore? Arsenal showed their baseline qualities against Swansea and Dortmund. They weren`t at their flowing best, but they reset their priorities and did what was needed to get a result. Just as they did against United and Blackpool- our only other 2 league wins since February. So why did they revert to the keystone cops stuff again?

Whatever you think of the current squad, they are better than 17th. They are better than a six goal defeat at Old Trafford and they are better than the Premiership`s bottom side. Yet for the last seven months, limited teams are time and again able to beat us with simple tactics. This means that the manager is currently not getting the best out of the players he has and hasn`t been for some months now. With every comedy goal concession and every boomerang result, we invite more pressure onto ourselves as teams face us with zest and confidence. They know that if we go ahead- even by as much as four goals- they have every chance of getting a result. I can`t pretend to know exactly what the problems are. We all wanted a big, domineering centre half. We bought a 6 foot 6 German international. We all wanted an experienced left back. We bought one. Defending is ultimately about more than just buying defenders though. It`s about more than just the back four and too many just aren`t taking the responsibility of defending from the front. I can`t pretend to know the answers. I don`t think any of us can. But the manager has to find them and sort them. Very, very soon. LD.

13.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA (20.Djourou `53), 4.MERTESACKER, 6.KOSCIELNY, 11.A.SANTOS, 17.SONG (29.Chamakh `76), 16.RAMSEY, 8.ARTETA, 27.GERVINHO, 23.ARSHAVIN (14.Walcoitt `64), 10.v.PERSIE(c). Unused; 9.J.Y.Park, 15.Oxlade-Chamberlain, 21.Fabianski, 39.Coquelin.


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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday September 18 2011

Time: 8:57PM

Your Comments

1st
123spurs
Ahhhh, poor old Timid Timmy, boo hoo! I wonder if they'll drop the prices at your stadium when you drop into the Championship? By the way it looks like we're gonna walk to fourth. We've got this new lad, Adebayor? He's mint.
Tony Rocky Horror
For Wenger, see Cloughie's last season at Forest. Take the back end of last season of last season and the start of this and you're down and OUT!! I hope to god it happens the day we seal our Champs League spot. And it will!!!!!
Tony Rocky Horror
of last season twice!!! I'm so excited my mind's all a blurr!!! FACKING COMON!!!!
Tony Rocky Horror
Funny to see spuddy ****s strutting around because they finally won a game against 9 men. It's been a very odd weekend of football all round.
BlueBanes
Such is the lot of a Spurs fan. Their season peaks in September, but their delusion lasts a life time. 61neveragain
Little Dutch
Little Dutch-In all honesty, Arsenal are in trouble. I think anyone who knows just the slightest in football can see that. Arsenal will come back in years to come. For the first time since in god knows how long Spurs are the better team. That probably will not change over the next few years.
asherthesmasher
Ah! Little Dutch, So good of you to pop out of your End Of Season Rap Party to address us all, ta muchly ;-))
Born&BredSpur
As bad as we are at the moment i know that i'll never have to experience the crushing and recurring despair that comes with never having seen my team win a league title in my lifetime. I cant imagine how bad that must feel. Perhaps some of you Spurs boys can explain it to us. Good luck in the Europa Cup by the way.
Wyn Mills
ld, i think the answer is obvious. everyone knows how we play. we have only won 3 epl games in the last 16. we have been playing almost the same tactics for years, regardless of the capabilities of players available. getting points against us it is just a matter of playing the the right tactic. if an opposition has a few speedy players, they would just have sit back & hit some long ball down the flank & off course practice set pieces. we have been playing wingback when we have speedy players. times & times again, we were exposed. now even without speedy fullbacks, we are still playing them as if they were roberto carlos. jenkinson as a wingback against mu? santos who doesnt seem to be pacey to me attacking from the left flank? djourou running the flank when he replaced the injured sagna? doesnt it occur to wenger that our wingers never track back? our positional play is so chaotic. i think our evolution from playing breathless football to speechless football has now completed.
Joe_@**
The tactics against Swansea and BvB were perfect. Invited the opposition on and then tried to hit them on the break with the pace of Gervinho, Walcott et al. I don't know why Arsene belayed the use of that tactic for this game. It was also a matter of getting out of the blocks in the 2nd half I feel. Blackburn got out of the blocks quicker and never looked back although they were aided wonderfully well by our failings as a defensive unit.
Eboue=GOD
Defencive unit? we have one of the? Truth be told the players he put out on Sat where good enough to beat any team including Manure.....if only they had had a different manager that knows tactics and can adjust according to the opposition instead of insisting to look only invard. He saied years ago that they dont look at the opposition and how it playes but consentrate on their own play. What a lot of crap, Know your enemy is the most important information any general can have and same applies to football managers. And the spuds with a better team? Not in a million years. I would put our best eleven against any team with a proper manager and be confident we would get something out of that game.
Armory
But Arsenal's tactics have changed this season. Did you see the 1st and 3rd goals? A result of direct wing play. One getting into the box to score, the 3rd a result of swinging a good cross into the box. The midfield has changed, it's no longer built around one attacking pivot, but around Arteta and Ramsey swapping all the time. One sitting deeper, allowing the other to attack. It all worked pretty well in a forward sense. The truth is the collective defensive spirit isn't there. The pressing isn't good enough and the defenders are just in a blind panic at the moment. That's little to do with tactics. That's a case of getting inside player's heads. As for the Spurs fans. Jesus, do you guys never get tired of repeating the same delusional guff every year only to have to sheepishly revise your predictions come the spring? Fact is, if you really were confident of finishing above us, you wouldn't crow about it in September, you'd wait till it's actually happened in May. But you're not confident it will, which is why you know, subconsciously, you have to get your boasting in early. The irony is is that your team and your fans are held back by this small team mentality and your obsession with Arsenal. If you dropped it, you'd go a lot further.
Little Dutch
LD we are getting more flank play thats true but without a conducter in the middle like Cesc was we simply cant keep on defending this high up the pitch and ******** hell we still cant defend set pices after all these years! The same old proplems are still there and if the defense is panicing then it's because they dont know what is exspected of them. All the players in the back for on Sat are internationals and know their induvidual part of the defending it's when it comes to doing it as a team we fall down. look back to the BvD game where we had a good defensive play after the initial 20 min but even then we did not close down their players at the same rate they did to us. Doing that reduces the options they have greatly and takes the pressure off the back 4. This was lacking on Sat also and this is a team proplem not an induvidual pleyers proplem. This can so easily be rectified in Colney that one wonders what the ***** the training staff are doing!. But as for 11 against 11 I would be very confident that our best 11 could take on any team get something out of it IF they where properly set up to play as a unit which at the moment we are not. And as for new players needing time? No this bad run did not start in August it started before the end of last season.
Armory
Well said there, Armoury. It is becoming evident the Manager has lost the dressing room, for whatever reason. That team he put out can beat any side but lost to a combination of nave defending, profligacy in front of goal and a general lack of confidence (amongst aothers). Wenger has to guide the team into scraping out 3 wins in a row and a few clean sheets, then we'll see whether that doesn't do their confidence some good. As for the Spuds on here, I am only amazed at the self inflicted limitation of their ambition: to beat the Arsenal to 4th! If that doesn't confirm how much more successful and ambitious our club is than theirs, I don't know what else does. It's a long season, spuddies. Keep your celebrations on ice....good advice there for you.
Naijagunner
That was a depressing game to watch. The defence is a shambles, low on confidence, and organization. Our creative play has changed, like LD said above, but our defence has actually become worse. Some of that is down to new players, and also the new zonal marking that we are now employing, but there are some defensive basics and focus that this team does not have. This team needs a defensive coach (has needed it for the past 3-4 seasons). If Pat Rice cannot get the job done, he needs help! And quick. I have a bad feeling that this is not the worst of the season, and we could have a season like Liverpool of last season. Top 4 is certainly out if these performance continue.
prits
My last post was in reaction to Armoury's first, by the way.
Naijagunner
Prits I cant see this being down to Pat Rice. All he does is to follow a preset training scedule that the manager sets out. The the knowledge he has I'm sure off but the effort is not put towards defensive training by the looks of it. When GG was the manager the defenders where traind in defending until they had a telepatic knowledge of each others whereabouts and an understanding of defending surpassed by no defence in the UK. That was all done on the training ground and is not that hard to do but needs the time put into it and thats where I believe the proplem lies because it will disrupt what ever it is that the manager has them doing now and is clearly not working. Our back 4 are all internationals and have the ability to become a very good back 4 if properly coached changing the assistants will not do that changing our approach to the training and setup of the team will.
Armory
I very much doubt we're going to make 4th. In seasons past we'd make the top 4 because we genuinely believed we are title contenders and were aiming for top spot. This season the fans don't believe it and, more importantly, I don't think the players really do. RvP's body language is already resembling Cesc's for the last 2-3 years, i.e. not really believing in the team. I just cannot see the Manager turn it around, honestly I can't, and think our season will play out like the last few games. Scrape a game or two, then implode within a game. I just get the sense that Arsene is so attack-minded, has so much wanted to be a purveyor of the beautiful game, that the entire team's mentality is predominantly focussed on going forward, and this has been the case for the last few seasons since he's wanted to move to this technical, short passing game. Let's be honest, does anyone really believe Arsene can change things?
Gooner_Vin
@Gooner_Vin Not I and havent believed he can for some time now..
Armory
If we're talking about a race for 4th, a glance at the league table suggests Liverpool and Spurs are not far ahead at all- both have had their bad results too. There's no reason to suggest that their poor results/ performances are temporary blips, whilst ours are terminal. I think we need to go back to basics, as we did when we started the 08-09 season poorly. Cesc got injured so went to toughing out 1-0's and put a run together. I think that's what we need to try and do now. It shows the coaching staff are capable of getting the team to adopt that approach. But to do it, they need to get inside the players' heads.
Little Dutch
If we're talking about a race for 4th, a glance at the league table suggests Liverpool and Spurs are not far ahead at all- both have had their bad results too. There's no reason to suggest that their poor results/ performances are temporary blips, whilst ours are terminal. I think we need to go back to basics, as we did when we started the 08-09 season poorly. Cesc got injured so went to toughing out 1-0's and put a run together. I think that's what we need to try and do now. It shows the coaching staff are capable of getting the team to adopt that approach. But to do it, they need to get inside the players' heads.
Little Dutch
I wanted to write earlier but with so many experts on this site felt a bit lost. I agree in part with some of the points made but despair at conclusions reached, I thought that bringing on Theo earlier would have been better, I also thought that Gibbs could have been brought on in place of Santos and Carl Jenkinson for Sanga. Confused, very confused. I listened to Kenny Samson talking about the drills he used to have with the whole back four defenders 3 to 4 hours every day( match days excepted).The old Adams trick of putting his hand in the air and the back four lined up and did not move, yet on Saturday the all fell back into the 12 yard box and put their side on side. Why has the system of at least one if not two players on the goal line? Twice the ball would have been stopped if we had a player there. Felt perhaps the turning point was when Gervinho failed to notice RVP in open space which would have put us three goals. Reaction from RVP who seemed to berate Gervinho for failing to pass when perhaps a different skipper would have treated it differently. Even though I think RV>P is a great player no forward in my opinion can captain a team from the forward position. All good skippers IMO are half back or defenders , they can see what is happening. The team is down in confidence lacks a leader but the nuts and bolts are there we need someone to put them together. IMHO
alwaysgunner
It seems at the mo that event scoring 2 or 3 goals is not enough to guarantee 3 points. The defensive part of the game is the bedrock to every successful team. Not conceding stupid goals is half-way to winning the game. RvP has to score 5 goals a game to make sure we win. It can't go on like that. Arsene is highly paid and it's his job to sort out his leaky defence. No more nonsense please. We need a solid warrior mentality where every player is determined to strongly shut down the opposition.
Gael-Force
Goon fans, Tottenham are a better team than you. They have better strikers (ironic huh) better defenders and better midfielders, i wouldn't swap modric, bale, parker, sandro or lennon for any of your midfield. Same goes for our defence, dawson, king, gallas (irony again), benny and walker are all better than your shambles. To be honest the only players from your team i'd have in a spurs shirt are RVP and Walnut. I haven't been able to make a statement like that, and really mean it, in years. Maybe we haven't won a Prem league title, but at this moment in time we have more chance than you lot, and if ours is next to nothing yours is non existent. I see your gonna turn into liverpool fans and start on about past glory as the future looks bleak. Cesc is doing well though huh? at least theres that.
Himwhatwhats
Himwhat, Tell us something we've not heard for the last 50 odd years.
Naijagunner
Sure LD, I'm not suggesting that this blip is terminal (although your post may have been directed at a few others also), but its really difficult to see how this team can put together 1-0s. We seem to regularly concede 1-2 goals per game and rarely maintain clean sheets. No one seems sure of what needs to change, but change is certainly required. Some of it will come naturally with the back 4 playing together more often, but the defensive side of things has been poor with various different personnel over the past 3-4 seasons. It is obvious to Wenger too (he has said so very often in the past year), but the fact is that he has been unable to change things.
prits
Walcott at Spurs Himwhatwhats!!!!???? That muppet can't sell a dummy to a baby FFS! Get a grip man.

Lets all calm down, its only been a few games & absolutely zip can be divined from whats happened so far. Chelski were going to have won the Prem by Christmas last season remember, ended up 7 points adrift in 2nd on GD from Citeh.

Reality check fellas.

Spuds-U-like
So true, Himwhatwhats we're now on another planet to Arsenal and with the players we've got it's only a matter of time before the trophies start racking up. Arsenal have fallen behind through complacency. They were sold the idea that the new stadium would equal more success, but it was all a delusion. Their recent defeats were not just one offs as some of their fans tried to claim: they were in fact irrefutable signs of inevitable decline. Believe me, this is a mess, beyond anything we've seen in football and will ever see again, they are facing total Armageddon. So sweet, so, so sweet..
Tony Rocky Horror
Mostly well said S-U-L now take grandad home his incontinence bag is leaking.
iceman10
Tony RH, what you say is true. For them, this start is as bad as the 2 points from 8 was for us in 08/09 when you relate it to our respective league performances over the last 6-7 seasons. Levy took drastic action that worked, a legitimate question is whether their board can do the same or hold their nerve in the realistic probability that Le Whinger will pick up results & performances quickly.

Spuds-U-like
Hey iceman, we get this from him on VS a lot more often than you do on here. He's quite harmless really.

Spuds-U-like
So true SUL and here's the crucial point: had we NOT acted then we would have been relegated, of that I've no doubt because we were rudderless. That's exactly the feeling I get when I watch Arsenal now. They can sling all the insults they like but the fact remains that their 'not winning a trophy gripes' are about to pale into insignificance in the context of what is about to happen if they don't act NOW. They are now officially in a tailspin, and if no one stands up to be counted in the boardroom to save the club they are *****ed. Plain and simple. They can stand by Wenger until the death if they like, but if they do then how can their alliegances be to Arsenal? Answer: they aren't, their are now in fact to Wenger personally! All I can say to that is good luck to them. This is down fall time, real, real madness in the bunker stuff. Sad, even I feel a bit nostalgic for the good old away days at Highbury. Nonetheless: if you are in the bottom three after eight games you'd be stark raving mad not to offer Gus Hiddink pretty much anything he wants to take over until the end of the season. The time for loyalty and pride has been passed. It's getting late, and it can't be left for much longer.
Tony Rocky Horror
Wenger used Chamakh in the right way on Saturday. With better crossing he's a lethal weapon. With Ramsey and Arteta we at least have players who can deliver crosses with a degree of accuracy. But has the penny dropped or is this style of play something that's been forced on Wengerball? These were positive aspects of our offensive play which couldn't quite mask the abject wretchedness of our defensive organisation. My own view is there is an obvious lack of communication going on back there. The evidence is the complete absence of immediate post-goal And the body language. How is van persie going to rollock his players when he's halfway up the field?
Wyn Mills
The present situation dates back immediately to The CL final defeat, and the manner in which it happened, and indicates that that defeat just dealt a huge psychological blow to the whole squad. It was that moment that belief in what Arsene was doing came to a grinding halt and it is very difficult to see how the present management will turn this around, and I thought that I would never be saying that. Our form and points earned from the time of that game place us firmly in the relegation zone and whilst there is undoubted talent in the squad at the moment the sum of the whole is considerably less than the sum of the parts. Forget fourth place and look closer at fourteenth. Realistically that Swansea game was a six pointer even at this stage of the season.
grouvillegooner
The statement that "we are no longer title contender" already sum it up for our season. I was very sadly surprised to hear AW said before the season that "they would aim for 4th place". If you aim low, you achieve even lower. Roger Federer played most beautiful tennis of all times, but once he lost his confidence, he just can't get it done, evidenced by 2 defeats in grand slam matches from 2 sets up. This is unthinkable for a player and a team that believe in themselves.
dyiu2000
 

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