This is a low – Blackburn 4-3 Arsenal

Regular readers of this blog will know that, for the most part, I’m always positive when it comes to the Arsenal, I like to think that I can be pragmatic in defeat and always back the team to bounce back from any adversity, but after the defeat at Ewood Park today I’m finding it hard to pick myself up off the floor and focus on anything positive.

Blackburn Rovers – a side who are owned by a poultry company, a side who before today had managed to win just five of their last twenty-five Premier League matches since boss Steve Kean replaced Sam Allerdyce – started the day with a protest against their much maligned manager and ended it above us in the Premier League standings (albeit on the same points tally of 4)

We can point to the fact that Rovers were gifted two own goals by the Gunners and that they should have had another chalked off for off-side, you can say that Olsson should have been dismissed for diving, especially as it came only moments after he’d had his name taken by the ref. You can say we should have had a penalty right at the death when Theo Walcott was taken out by Paul Robinson, but frankly what would be the point? Come the arse end of the season there will be clubs fighting for survival all with stories of hardship & woe – how decisions had gone against them, how luck had cheated them and how they had been professional and given their all. The truth is that at the seasons end the table won’t lie, teams will finish where they deserve to finish. For the most part score lines don’t lie either. This one didn’t & if you want to talk about relegation form then ours is rife with the stench if we go back to last season *Before you throw your toys out the pram, I am not suggesting we’ll be relegated. Merely pointing out that we’re currently going the right way about it.

The Blackburn goals came from our own slack defending, negligent as the lino may have been for Yakubu’s second (Rovers third) and unlucky as it may seem to concede two own goals against a side with all the fire power of a wet lettuce leaf, we’ve only ourselves to blame.

We started so brightly and at points we looked a little like the Arsenal of old, knocking the ball about, rampaging down the right hand side and seemingly prepared to waste a decent chance rather than tee up a team mate. Indeed if you want to point fingers at anyone then Gervinho’s wastefulness when he could have played in Van Persie, who surely would have put us 1-3 up, just before the half time whistle, then that is the kind of mistake we should be looking at along with the sides inability to defend.

After the game Arsene Wenger suggested that we are still “defensively fragile” after Old Trafford, but three of the back four who started today’s game didn’t even step foot on the turf up in Manchester. In fact Mertesacker & Andy Santos were both employees of other clubs at the time of the United crushing after which we were told reinforcements such as the German & Brazilian would improve our defensive capabilities.

Well we may have dug in and scrapped it out in Dortmund earlier in the week and we may have hung on to a clean sheet against Swansea at the Emirates last Saturday but if evidence was needed to conclusively prove it is the coaching and tactical instructions being given to the players as much as any shortcomings on their part then this result is it.

Our defensive line for the first Blackburn goal was as wonky as a DIY haircut and replays showed that it was Andy Santos, making his full debut, who played Yakubu onside. I mentioned in yesterday’s blog the need for stability in our back line, seeing a group of players play week in week out rather than than the personnel carousel we’re used to. Ironic then that it was Santos, the only change to our back four from our last two games, who played the Nigerian on side, especially as Kieran Gibbs had started to find some form thanks to a run of games.

When the sides went in at half time I honestly felt that we would see the Gunners come out and dominate the second half, Rovers looked for all the world a team there for the taking and you would have laid money that Steve Kean would have been visiting the local job centre come Monday morning. But, as the second half got underway there seemed to have been a shift in belief, Rovers suddenly seemed to have a bit more fight and determination in them. Indeed it took them only four minutes to get back on level terms.

Yes it was a total fluke and no portion of blame should befall Alex Song, but this was yet another goal conceded from a set-piece, when will we learn to defend them?

I don’t know about you but from then on it looked to me like only one side would go on to win the game, and in the pouring rain Blackburn Rovers did just that.

The massacre of Old Trafford was hard to take and hurt like hell, but in many ways it wasn’t unexpected especially given the side and indeed the bench we had that afternoon. This, this is much harder to take in my opinion.

The team has been strengthened, we all know it could have been stronger still but a certain Frenchman decided he would rather have £50m in the bank then players on the pitch who can actually contribute something other than trite smiles and self congratulations for having a healthy bank balance, so we can’t put it down to a one off as we’ve done with the United result. Bar Jack Wilshere & Tommy Vermaelan this was the strongest possible squad we’ll have to work with this season unless signings are made in January, but as I’m attempting to point out it’s not just the playing staff who are to blame.

I said after Old Trafford, and it certainly wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction, that I felt that Arsene Wenger has taken our club as far as he is able. No one should ever doubt just how far that is or level any form of abuse at the Frenchman’s door – he deserves nothing but utter respect from anyone who calls themselves a Gooner. But sadly the man who revolutionised football in this country is in danger of looking for all the world lost in a game he helped create. Someone mentioned on Twitter that Wenger no longer looks as if he enjoys it and it got me to wondering when he last did?

I’ll never call for his dismissal or demand he resigns, I’ve far too much respect for the man and what he has done at our club but what he does need to do is relinquish some of the power he holds. Firstly he needs to hand over the coaching of the first team to someone else or at least bring new people in and allow them to have an input and offer fresh direction. Many people ask why Steve Bould hasn’t been promoted from the wonderful work he has been doing with our under 18’s, well if rumours are to be believed, and I’m led to believe that in this case they are, our former defensive stalwart was offered Pat Rice’s position when old Pat wanted to call time on the illustrious years of servitude he has given to the club. Bould supposedly turned the offer down because he was told he would have little to no tactical input or the ability to coach so opted to stay in the role he is in which led to Wenger begging his old bench buddy to give him one last season (much like he did Cesc last summer, look how that turned out)

Many voices, mine included, have called for Martin Keown to be given a defensive coaching role but that won’t happen for the same reasons Bouldy isn’t higher up the food chain at London Colney. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that Keown has the capabilities and knowhow to fill that role and excel in it but there is a reason he is still sitting working for the beeb and not us. In fact, it’s just been pointed out to me that when we set a Champions League record for clean sheets Keown was working as a defensive coach at the club…

Rapid improvement is needed and if fresh ideas and instruction is what it takes to achieve those improvements then Wenger needs to swallow some of that pride and make these changes happen.

Since the final whistle blew I’ve seen a few Arsenal fans suggest that our expectations should have changed and this defeat shouldn’t be a surprise. Well I’ve never been the kind of fan who has high expectations, I think doing so only sets you up for a fall and a nose bag of disappointment. So my deflation and disappointment at this result, this performance, this start to the season and even towards the gaffer, are nothing to do with a delusional sense of expectation it’s just pure hurt. I’ve been a Gooner all my life, I grew up a stones throw from Highbury and I’ve seen us struggle in the past, but right now the ship is starting to look rudderless and when this has been the case in the past there has always been someone in a position of power at the club to take control and steer us in the right direction. Sadly at this moment in time, I’ve no idea who is there to do that right now and defeats like Old Trafford & defeats like today only serve to ram that home.

Thanks for reading

Paul

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