Blackburn 2 (Dunn 44, Samba 68) Arsenal 1 (Van Persie 13)
If I were in Arsene Wenger’s shoes this morning, I’d have called the players in, sat them down in front of a big screen, and played them Sam Allardyce’s post-match interview. And once it was finished, I’d have played it again. And again. And again.
Looking at his smug face, gloating at the success of his predictable tactics, should drive the message home to those who failed to put in the required effort yesterday – if you play one of his sides, you have to be up for a battle. Cruise around the pitch, duck out of the physical contests, and you will be beaten. Stand up to the challenge, and your superior ability should shine through.
And for goodness sake, give your goalkeeper a little protection. If three opponents are crowding him, get in amongst them and disrupt them right back. It isn’t rocket science, people.
But apparently, to some of these players, it is. Traore, given an opportunity to prove his worth at left back, shirked every opportunity to drive forward. Vela missed a sitter early on then vanished. Diaby had another of his lazy days.
You can’t afford that against Blackburn. In fact, you can’t afford that against many teams – go away from home in the Premiership and you will face a challenge – it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, they won’t make it easy. If they work harder than we do, any technical advantage is cancelled out.
Of course there are extenuating circumstances – we lost Song, Rosicky, Clichy, Bendtner and Denilson on top of our existing absentees. But while a drop in quality is understandable, a decline in effort is baffling – the thing with injuries is it gives the squad a chance to shine. They not only failed to take it, they didn’t seem that bothered.
We have one game left this season, and third place is still not secure. A draw against Fulham is all we need, and while that might seem a foregone conclusion, so would some of the other games we’ve chucked away in recent times. We fought so hard to be in the title race this season, and the stark contrast in fortunes as soon as that drive slipped away shows just how little we can afford to let up. A small drop in work rate and the points dry up.
Fabianski has taken the flak this morning, and he was indeed at fault for the second goal – he was bustled but he and the rest of the defence need to be stronger than that. But I’m more annoyed with certain other members of the team – the Pole worked hard and made some fine saves under pressure. Some of the rest ambled around as if the game didn’t matter.
It did matter, to the fans who will be here long after they’ve departed. It will always matter against Sam Allardyce, and if they never want to see his smug face again, they’d better buck their ideas up.