Feb 172013

It is difficult to know where to begin with a defeat like that. I’m going to avoid a blow by blow account of the game – by now you know and are probably sick of the details. We had a ton of possession, a stackload of corners, but came up against an excellent keeper, an organised defence, and got sucker punched at the other end.

None of those facts are rare in cup competition – they are the recipe for most upsets. But for a decade and a half, Wenger’s Arsenal have avoided defeat in such circumstances, always finding enough to earn at least of replay on those danger days, enabling us to chuckle at the Liverpools and Spurs of this world, regularly dumped out by lower league opposition. None of us are laughing tonight.

The post match reaction has been understandably hostile. I do feel that some of the anger is misplaced, particularly at the decision to rotate a few players. I’ve seen many comments that we were ‘prioritising Bayern over Blackburn‘ which isn’t something I buy into. The facts are simple – we are playing the Bundesliga giants three days after a Championship side, and if we were looking to win both matches (as we should be), we should logically play the strongest possible team against the Germans and rotate against Blackburn, in the knowledge that a team of eleven internationals should have it within them to defeat a side who until recently have been the laughing stock of football.

Today’s problem was not that we rotated – we still fielded a team that would be expected to win – but that the eleven that started the game did not do what was expected of them, did not perform at the level required of them. Football is a squad game and the notion that we should play our strongest eleven in every game is a foolish one. We won’t beat Bayern without Wilshere, Cazorla and Walcott – we can and should still defeat any Championship side at home in those circumstances. That isn’t complacency, that isn’t believing we just have to turn up to win, that is just the opinion that if the eleven that began the game had played to the standard we demand from them, and that they are capable of, we’d still be in the cup. They didn’t, and we aren’t.

A big problem with this Arsenal side is the inability to learn from past mistakes. I don’t believe that players don’t try, but performances vary too wildly in intensity, which has a similar visual effect. I’ve lost count of the number of times that players and staff have come out after games admitting that opponents had been underestimated, which is disappointing the first time and inexcusable on every subsequent occasion. I sincerely hope that the club has more sense than to allow such quotes to appear this week but you never know with our PR team. They did, after all, create a poll asking if fans would prefer fourth place or a trophy. Who are we, Spurs? Come on.

Where do we go from here? Well, to Bayern on Tuesday. I’m not saying for a moment we brush this under the carpet, but no players or staff will change before the summer, so any speculation on significant changes are moot at this point, and emotions are running too high to even have a rational discussion in those areas without getting lost in a sea of shouting. We must deal with what we have until then – a Champions League campaign that may or may not be short lived and a battle for fourth. Is that ideal? Not in the slightest – it is actually faintly depressing to type – but we are where we are and no amount of complaining will change it. The season needs rescuing in the meantime.

One of my biggest fears is that when he finally leaves, Wenger’s reign as Arsenal boss will be remembered for days like this, rather than the glorious and unprecedented success he has also brought. I hope it never gets that bad. For some, it already has. I doubt I could ever get to that stage – there have been too many good times.

Some more fun times wouldn’t hurt. Tuesday would be a good place to start.

  20 Responses to “Arsenal 0-1 Blackburn: Digesting a painful defeat”

  1. Thank you for a reasoned article….

  2. The only hope we have on Tues is that Bayern think we are no threat, which they do.
    So i hope that this is a brilliant match for us, especially in the defence and we surprise the world.

  3. […] We had a ton of possession, a stackload of corners, but came up against an excellent keeper, an […] …read more Read more here: […]

  4. […] We had a ton of possession, a stackload of corners, but came up against an excellent keeper, an […] …read more Read more here: […]

  5. The last last of the last straws? My concern for sometime now has been Wenger’s inability to rotate a squad which is akin to the inability to execute a plan B with any success. This may also be a contributory factor in our record of player injuries. I think new signings are now irrelevant unless and until we sign a new manager!

  6. I said it from the beginning of the season that Wenger should resign. He has no magic again and tactically deficient in the Premier league.

  7. Yes Wenger has strengths. Especially when he had players like Dixon Winterburn Keown Adams, Pires, Bergkamp, Viera and Henry. So his strengths belong to the great teams he was fortunate to have. His weaknesses? How amny times do we play against teams that park the bus? How many times do players put in a sterile performance? Over and over again. His tactical substitutions are abysmal. Here is his great failure. The team had no drive, leadership and balance. The substitutions were easy today. Take Giroud off. He did not touch the ball. replace him with Walcott. Walcott wants to play there and his movement and pace would have upset the defensive structure of BR. Take off Diaby. He is on drugs again. And replace him with Jack. Rosciky had the form to play some one twos with Jack and Theo. That should have been done in the 50th minute if Arsenal had not started and remained in fifth gear. Towards the end you may have put Santi on. After all Jack and Santi play a very similar game. While Gervinho is hopeless and missed his chance he still created some havoc on the left and the same goes for AOC. They were no where as ineffectual as Giroud and Diaby. Why wasn’t Giroud that got teh through ball from Rosicky insteadof Gervinho? Was Diaby playing a holding role with Arteta against a team that parked the bus. Where are the one-two-threes on the edge of the box with players running into the box to drag and move defenders away? Wengers strengths are those of a CEO. His weaknesses were there to see today and in fact have been there to see for the last 8 years. Yes play your style of football but what we have seen latelyis far from the fantasy football that was his brand. All things come to an end. Player and coaches come and go.

  8. Why not a full strength side at least we got a shot in this tournament. Beating Bayern a far fetch idea.

    • I covered this in the piece. It seems to be a common claim that we prioritised one match over the other. But if you wanted to win both matches (as should be our aim), this is the sort of team selection you do.

      You need a stronger team to beat Bayern than you do to beat Blackburn.

      As I said in the piece, the problem wasn’t the rotation – it was that the players rotated in didn’t do what was expected of them.

  9. Can anything be worse than arrogance!
    Usual dead lose subs at the usual 20 mins to go time!
    Should have taken Giroud and Oxide off at HT.#
    Should play Sagna and Mersacker at centre back, Ver & Ros too prone to mistales of oine sort or another.
    Should not have relied on a rookie keepr or let Song go, total incompetence.
    Selling Van Persie to rivals what shocking bad business and cowardice.
    The Board is useless.
    The PR hopeless for letting Wenger continually insult us fans, and they could at least get looking smartly dressed instead of stumbling around in the old rag he wears.
    26 shots at goal = 14 no where near = 12 hit blindly with no professional skill.
    What would happen to an indivual playr if he did that? The forwards I remember would be hounded out if they missed 2 out of 3 chances. Walcott misses 3 out 4.
    Not one efficient sharp shooter in the team
    Only tactics backwards abd sideway passing.
    Its pure fraud to charge the prices Arsenal charge to watch this boring overpaid lot of reje cts (Wilshere excepted)t

  10. Arsenal is not foot ball club,…

  11. Why is your ‘biggest fear’ how Wenger’s reign is remembered? Arsenal F.C. is not Arsenenal F.C. Your biggest fear should be failing to win any more trophies under Wenger and sliding down the table, and that is happening right before your very eyes. Fans like you always say ‘we just have to approach the next game with what we’ve got’, but after we lose to Bayern and finish 5th, there is another excuse, such as ‘we just have to see if Wenger will buy the right players next transfer window’ and on and on and on it goes……

    • Well said, Wombledin. The writer of this article appears to care more about Wenger’s reputation than the future welfare of Arsenal. Elevating the man ( Wenger ) above the club. No-one is bigger than the club. But this is exactly what the A.K.B.’s do in their cult worship of him. We have a manager who is SO PREDICTABLE with his excuses, that I correctly forecast yesterday on the Le Grove site, what he would say after the Blackburn fiasco. He has a habit of repeating the SAME cliched statements – for instance, after Bradford, ( and matches since ), he said “It is important that we focus on the next match.” I said he would say the SAME thing after THIS game as well.

      And surprise surprise, what has he just said at the post match press conference ? This ; “It is very painful and disappointing to lose a game like that. It is now important to focus on the next game,” he said.

      Proof here ; http://www.football365.com/arsenal/8505022/Arsenal-manager-Arsene-Wenger-targets-response-after-FA-Cup-elimination

      He didn’t mention our “quality” and “determination” this time. He’ll no doubt trot those out after the Bayern game, whether we win lose or draw. Same deluded comments, just different matches. And if you REALLY want to know why we’re so consistently poor, read this : http://www.oohtobeagooner.com/arsenal-0-1-blackburn-we-keep-making-the-same-mistakes. Sums it all up very well.

      ( As does this ) – ” In Arsene we rust.”

    • I say we have to deal with what we have until May because we already know that nothing can or will change before then. In the summer, serious questions have to be asked, of course. I don’t dispute that for a moment.

  12. It’s time to go home,
    It’s time to ho home,
    Arsene Wenger it’s time to go home.


    • EIE- Hear hear ! Fully agree. But we’ll offer him a new four year contract,because the board are as clueless and unambitious as he is.

      ” In Arsene we rust.”

    • I have no issue with people having opinions either way on whether Wenger should be our manager next season or not.

      I do have a problem with abusing him though. Please reign that back.

  13. Wombledin – what do you mean by “fans like you”..you must be one of those new breed of so called fans who started supporting the Gunners when they were winning things…a lot of us have been here lot longer than you and we do know what it means not winning trophies. That doesnt mean we don’t care – we just love the experience of supporting the team..and we don’t turn on the managers either. Its sad but looks like folks like us are in the minority these days…sigh

    • Mike – It’s the “supporters” like you that are keeping the club in decline. And decline is what it is. Though I suppose you haven’t noticed have you, because you must go around with your eyes shut and your ears stuffed with cotton wool. When we support the team, we expect them to give something back in return. We expect them to make a sustained and concerted effort, to give 100%. Jack Wilshire epitomises the sort of effort I’m talking about. He’s the ONLY one who does. And we expect the manager to prepare and motivate the team so that we don’t get the shit performances like we did on Saturday. When we don’t display these minimum requirements, then naturally the fans are going to feel cheated and short changed. And rightly so. Their booing was completely justified.

      But I bet you just sat there silently, hoping that things will just somehow all work themselves out on their own. If you REALLY care as you say you do, you should be challenging the status quo, get angry and make your feelings known to the manager and board. Let them know that continued failure is unacceptable by boycotting matches, refusing to renew season tickets, not buying merchandise and food and drink at the ground, joining protest marches, write letters to the press, e.t.c. Staying silent should not be an option any longer. We’ve been far too passive for too long, and all that has achieved is Wenger and co. taking us for granted and continuing on with their policies which are clearly not working. Not only are we not winning things, but we’re not realistically even COMPETING to win them. Just what will it take to make you believe we need a change ? How much more evidence do you need ? Or do you want to remain blissfully ignorant of the realities ? If you still think Wenger is the man he was back in 2005, and can turn things around for us, you’re living in an A.K.B. type fantasyworld.

      ” In Arsene we rust.”

      • Spectrum – fans don’t keep a club in decline. We are currently in a position where the management at the very top of the club is failing the club. That isn’t the supporters fault, whether those supporters are screaming the place down or not. Supporters aren’t being listened to, so I never agree with comments like that.

        The way I see it, fans can do two things. Help the players on the pitch, and voice their opinions to those off it. Both can actually be achieved simultaneously.

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