Monday, 4 April 2011

Arsenal Fail To Show Up Against Blackburn When It Really Matters.

I've stood by this Arsenal team all season long, despite my prediction last August that they didn't have enough to win the Premier League. My thoughts on their title chances started to change when Chelsea self destructed, and I genuinely felt Arsenal could take the title from "Manure". What they needed to do was to give everything they had in every game, and play with the belief of potential champions.

When West Ham led "Manure" 2-0 at half time yesterday, I genuinely felt that the title was there for Arsenal to win. In the second half "Manure" showed why they are the favourites to win the title, by scoring four goals, and gaining the three points. They may have been fairly poor in the first half, but they showed the attitude of champions to take all three points. The referee was generous in not sending Nemanja Vidic off on two occasions, and awarding them a penalty to put them 3-2 ahead, but they showed the commitment and desire which was sadly missing in Arsenal's play later in the day.

I have never liked "Manure", or anything to do with their club, and an awful lot of their supporters I know, only support them because of the trophies they have won. However, I have to admire their ability to sit seven points clear at the top of the table, with a team that isn't fit to lace the boots of some of it's predecessors. If they do go on to win the league it will be a sad reflection on the current state of the game in England.

In my opinion Arsenal have a better team than "Manure", and they play much better football too. However, it takes more than good players and good football for a team to win trophies, and Arsenal are clearly missing those extra ingredients which "Manure" have. The ability to take a game by the scruff of the neck, and win it, no matter what might go wrong during the game seems to be eluding Arsenal. Visiting teams will not come to the Emirates and roll over, and Arsenal appear to think that they will. The desire and intensity that is required to put teams to the sword is currently missing from the Arsenal team, and I don't know if they can find it again this season.

It's hard to see what has gone wrong, but for me I think it goes all the way back to the 4-4 draw away to Newcastle in early February. Arsenal were 4-0 up in that game and cruising, when Abu Diaby was sent off, and Johan Djourou limped off. What followed will live long in the memory of Arsenal fans, as their perceived soft centre was exposed by Newcastle, and the game ended 4-4.

Since that game Arsenal have played five league games against teams they should have beaten, but they have only taken nine points. In those games they scored only five goals, despite the fact that four of the games were at home. That form is simply not the form of champions, and it has opened the door for critics to point out that Arsenal just do not have what it takes. At the moment, as an Arsenal fan, it's very hard to counter that argument.

The only way that argument can be countered is by the players on the pitch, and they have eight games left to do that. The destiny of the Premier League is no longer in Arsenal's hands, and they need other teams to do them a favour or two at least. Even if Arsenal win their last eight games they will still need "Manure" to drop points to enable them to take the title. The belief of the Arsenal fans is fading very quickly, as the players continue to flatter to deceive.

Arsenal's next game is away to a Blackpool team who are fighting against relegation, but do their best to play good football at all times. Blackpool play a very open and attacking style of football which should suit Arsenal, unless the Arsenal players don't put in the required effort. Blackpool have shown on numerous occasions that they are capable of beating any team in the Premier League, and if Arsenal put in the same effort they showed against Blackburn they will struggle. I still have faith in the Arsenal team, but my faith is flagging, and the players need to show the fans how much playing for Arsenal means to them.

On Saturday Arsenal knew exactly what they had to do to keep the title in their own hands, and to be honest they just didn't do it. The only player missing from the expected line-up was Cesc Fabregas, as Arsene Wenger decided not to risk him from the start. Besides Cesc, Arsenal were able to start with all of their best attacking players in the team, and surely that should have been enough to beat a Blackburn team which had lost nine of their last 10 away games.

When Arsenal drew 0-0 at home to Sunderland a few weeks ago I genuinely felt they should have won, as a combination of poor refereeing and bad misses cost them two points, but against Blackburn the pain was all self inflicted. There were very few clear cut chances created by Arsenal, and the only time I felt they were actually going to score was when Jack Wilshere put the ball wide from six yards in the first half, with the goal gaping. There were a few good crosses which Arsenal players failed to head on target, and a goal line clearance in the last minute, but Blackburn worked very hard and deserved their draw.

Besides the lack of intensity shown in attack, the Arsenal fans were treated to a very nervous display in goal by Manuel Almunia in goal. On two occasions Arsenal almost conceded goals from his mistakes, and when they have to face Liverpool, The Spuds and "Manure" they will suffer if he is still in goal. In my opinion he is completely devoid of confidence, and it is a mistake to play him. If the alternative is to play 41 year old Jens Lehmann, and put James Shea on the bench, then the boss has to stand up and make that decision.

There is a growing chorus against the boss, and if Arsenal fall away in the title race yet again, those voices will get louder and louder. It's his job to pick the best team available, and send them out with the instructions to do what is needed to win the game for Arsenal. If the players he has don't have all the ingredients needed to win trophies, he has to bring in players that do. It would appear that he is blind to the needs of the team, and his belief in some of the players is clearly misguided.

There was no Denilson or Diaby in the Arsenal team against Blackburn, but still the result didn't come. It's hard to find a scapegoat in the team that played, and despite his inability to perform properly in goal, it's not Almunia's fault that Arsenal didn't score. The youth project the boss set out with is close to completely failing, and if Arsenal can't start winning games again they won't even finish runners up this season. I really hope they can find their form again, starting next week against Blackpool, and if Cesc can put his injury behind him, he has to be the man to make that happen.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights from Saturday's game.

See You Tomorrow.

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