Blackburn – Arsenal: 4-3
Written by Total Arsenal
Today we saw once again the two Arsenals we got to know so well in recent years: the one that dominates proceedings and scores great goals through wonderful football, and the one that cannot defend properly. Arsenal scored five away goals and won a penalty in the last two games on the road: against Manchester United and Blackburn. Yet, we did not take home any points from those games and conceded an unbelievable 12 goals in 180 minutes of football. Between the two away games we bought new defenders, midfielders and attackers, and whether we like it or not it will take time before these players are settled in and start making a real difference. I hear you say, why oh why did we not buy them all in June/July so they could have settled in better. The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.
Arsenal started so brightly. There was pressing, crisp passing, good movement upfront and especially Gervinho looked sharp. The midfield trio of Song-Arteta-Ramsey were combining well and bossed the midfield with ease and style. Arshavin did his bit on the left, but we were most dangerous on the right, where Gervinho and the always impressive Sagna combined very well to create chance after chance. Our first goal came from a simple and incisive attack: Song gets the ball in midfield, he moves with ease past a player, after which he delivers a beautifully weighted pass into the box: it quite resembled the one Theo made for Arsenal’s first goal against Dortmund on Tuesday. Gervinho makes a good run into the box and lets Song’s ball run past his body to then cleverly hit a reverse diagonal shot under the outstretched leg of Samba and past Robinson: 1-0.
Then we get the first warning sign of what was to come: a free-kick is simply aimed at – the throughout the game very impressive – Samba in the box, who is allowed an unhindered header from which he should have done better. A few minutes later, (despite Samba’s earlier chance) against the run of play, we concede the equaliser: a simple, low ball is placed past Mertesacker into the box and there is Yakubu to elegantly sight-foot the ball past Szczesny, with the outside of his foot: 1-1, and we have to start all over again.
Samba misses another chance, but it is Arsenal who score the best goal of the game, next. A beautifully worked combination between our three central midfielders: Song passes to Ramsey just outside the Blackburn box, the latter plays a clever cutback towards the D, where just in time, Arteta arrives with a clean and beautifully hit shot, high into the net: 2-1 to Arsenal! Football at its best, and surely, this time we are not going to give it away again…. The Away Fans sing their hearts out and life feels great. Just before the end of the first half we get another great chance. Arshavin uses his body strength and speed very well and makes a fabulous run on the left hand side – he passes to Gervinho who moves himself to a decent shooting position, but his shot is blocked. He could have passed to RvP who seemed in a better position to score, but Gervinho was totally entitled to take a shot himself. RvP could not have looked more Dutch if he tried, when he showed Gervinho his unfiltered dismay about not being played in by him.
Blackburn started brightly and pressed straightaway high up the pitch – with a high defensive line – putting us under pressure, to which we were slow to react. It only took five minutes in the second half before the defensive horror show to start. The lively Rosina ‘floats in’ – by a lack of better word – a free kick towards the first post: RvP gets outmuscled and cannot get to the ball, it then drops – very unluckily – on the thigh of Song, after which it disappears into Szczesny left-hand corner: 2-2.
Arsenal were still very much in the game and more than capable of winning it, but only three minutes after the equaliser Sagna had to come off and Johan Djourou came on. This turned out to be the turning point for Arsenal. It does not take long before JD gets his first yellow card and it is clear that his confidence is low.
Szczesny, despite finding the ball four times in his net, had hardly anything to do. However, in the 54th minute, a long kick from Robinson reaches Rochina, who plays the ball cleverly to the lively Formica who takes a shot inside the box, only to be denied by a great safe from you know who. Five minutes later, another defensive howler: a corner-kick reaches Nzonzi – who before he brings the ball down with his foot was able to send a text message to all his friends – he is not closed down quickly enough, and is able to put in a clever cross towards Szczesny’s right post: a simple tap-in by Yakubu: 3-2. The new Blackburn signing is just offside, but it is not spotted by the linesman and here you go, from being 1-0 and 2-1 up, we are now trailing 3-2 against the bottom PL club. Unbelievably, and oh so cruelly, another nightmare is unfolding right before our eyes.
Gervinho has not given up though and another clever run enables him to release the ball well to the ‘hammer’ left foot of RvP. The normally prolific Dutchman hesitates for an instance and his shot gets blocked. The following corner-kick is well met by RvP’s head but the ball disappears on the wrong side of Robinson’s right post.
Then the final blow is delivered. From another corner Blackburn can break. The ball reaches Yakubu around the halfway line who passes to Olsson. Djourou is quickly there to block him, but he is already on a yellow card and seems to hesitate as to what to do: he tries to win the ball cleanly but Olsson gets away from him, and Song is also not able to block him off: he ‘passes’ the ball to Koscielny, who inadvertently puts the ball past the flabbergasted Szczesny: 4-2 – game over, so it seems. Desperately unlucky: two own goals and a slightly offside goal all in one game.
However it is not over yet. Chamakh who came on for Song for the last 15 minutes, rises well inside the box between Givet and Dann to reach a peach of a cross by RvP with some power: 4-3 with five minutes to go. A number of chances follow: a great, super-cross by Santos for the revived, and towards the end of the game real leadership showing, Mertesackter – who misses a good chance; RvP’s shot in the box gets blocked by Robinson; Chamakh misses a good header-opportunity; and Theo should have had a penalty when Robinson took him down without touching the ball. It was not to be, and despite 57% of possession and 16 attempts on target (BBC), AND scoring three goals, Arsenal go home with no points at all, once again.
The team showed fight till the end: we never gave up and that at least is an improvement from last season.
Conclusions & Player Ratings
I have decided not to score individual players this time, as this would inevitably lead to discussions about how woeful some of our players have been yesterday, leading to the identification of the next lot of Arsenal players who need kicking out of the door as soon as possible. I am sick to the teeth about our need to single out individual players to blame, if and when we have a sequence of bad games. Clearly, some players have underperformed in this game but this is a new team, in a new post-Cesc era, and for me it is obvious that we are struggling with the system-side of things such as: communication, positioning, holding a defensive line and ‘zonal marking’, ability to find each other and anticipating what fellow players want to do, how to keep possession, how to dominate the midfield, how to create chances for the front players etc, etc.
Individual performances are often significantly influenced by these factors, especially at the start of the season and within a new team. And, although it is easy and gratifying to make one or more of our players into scapegoats – we are all humans in the end – this is not what we should be doing right now. The problem lays in the simple fact that the new players will have to be integrated with the existing players, in a new football system that best suits the quality of all our players, and makes us forget the departure of Fabregas. This is clearly far from ideal, but we are where we are.
I still have full confidence in the quality of our squad and Wenger’s desire and ability to change this round. However, this will take time and there is nothing we can do but hope that we will get back to winning ways soon. Losing to Blackburn hurts badly, and it is highly likely that we will get hurt and embarrassed again in the next few months, but now is the time to stand by our club, players and manager to see this period of transition through: we will need to win this battle by battle, game by game. Next game is Shrewsbury, COYRRG!