On the face of it a 2-0 victory seems like a comfortable one, however last night was not pretty and although we were not exactly troubled by Blackburn, at 1-0, we were still walking on a tight rope. It was a perfect example of why matches that remain at 1-0 for so long, can be an absolute nightmare for any fan. I think it definitely showed as some fans started to get on the players’ backs whenever a pass went astray or a chance to shoot from 30 yards was not taken.
The players did seem to get caught up in the sloppiness that was ever-present last night. All over the pitch, players from both sides were panicking on the ball and all calmness went out of the window. During the first half we let Blackburn come into the game. Having gone one up after a rare headed goal at a corner by Senderos, we should have taken the initiative and pushed for a quick and decisive second. However, Blackburn came into it much more.
We failed to close them down and with Tugay in the middle they had a clever passer of the ball. Bentley and Emerton were given far too much room to get early crosses in but something really alarmed me when they did come in. Senderos seemed not to want to jump and attack the incoming ball. Blackburn’s best chance fell to McCarthy who did not connect with a cross properly. However, any better contact and the score was level. In hindsight its easy to say it doesn’t matter Phil did not try and head this ball away but it baffles me that he did not try and get his head to the ball when it was easily reachable.
Senderos is fighting for his place now Toure has returned. Up until last night he had looked solid but last night I think he looked suspect. When pace was used cleverly against him he did not look completely assured. In the air he was not his usual self and seemed to lack conviction throughout last night’s game. I feel that if he plays next Saturday he could be left exposed by the pace of United’s attack. Wenger has a big decision to make however.
Jens Lehmann looked a lot more comfortable from crosses and I must praise his professionalism with us. He may have complained a lot which I did not like, but he has come in and done a job with little fuss when called upon. One moment scared me and I am still not sure exactly what happened. The ball ran through to him and he slid towards the byline. He put the ball on the pitch and let it go as he went off the pitch. Whether he was aware that Santa Cruz was coming or not I do not know but the striker very nearly was granted with a glorious chance. Nothing is simple with Mad Jens I guess.
Gilberto’s performance was an interesting one. He did some things well; in particular some nice passes and bits of skill. However, he still looks well off the pace and I do not think he is adapting his game as he gets older. If he could make changes like Bergkamp did then he could still be a big player but I just do not see him having a future here beyond this summer. He slows the game down in midfield and gave the ball away too many times (as he has done whenever he has played this season). When Cesc moved inside more during the second half, we moved the ball faster and looked far more threatening.
I had discussed last week the idea of Cesc playing on the right if it was necessary and last night that came to pass. With Walcott strangely unavailable, Fabregas was asked to do a job on the right. I had mentioned he can dominate games with more space out there and whenever he got the ball he did just this. He linked very well with Sagna who was awesome down that flank. I lost count of how many times he burst down that flank to get crosses in.
On the other wing Hleb gave his full back a horrid time and was so unlucky not to get a goal. When his shot beat Friedel he was denied by the post and he was the one player who deserved a goal. He was always looking for a killer pass and fans will be pleased he started shooting more. Clichy was stifled by Bentley well and did not have the best of games. Saying that, it was not a bad game by any means, he has simply been playing at such a high level this season that we expect a lot. His battle with Ronaldo will be brilliant come Saturday, same with Sagna should he switch wings.
I said Hleb deserved a goal but Adebayor came close on so many occasions last night before finally getting an absolutely brilliant one. It was reminiscent to the one he got at White Hart Lane. The touch to get him away from the defender was class and the finish indicative of a man in the form of his life. That is 12 goals in his last 9, long may it continue. His general performance last night was not what it has been however. As the main striker his role is so important to us.
He holds the ball up and waits for support and runners. Last night Ade seemed a bit sluggish in this role and did seem a bit reluctant to come short and link the play as much. It did not help that Wenger moved Eduardo to the left for a period of the game to acommodate those players we had on the pitch. One thing did really annoy me regarding Adebayor last night. A pass was played to him as he made a curving run in behind. The ball hit the back of his heel which is pretty unlucky. However, once something like that happens a striker should fight to win it back. Normally Ade would but he just stood there and flung his arms in the air towards the fans. I would have wanted to see him get back and pressure the ball and then the fans would sympathise with him. Small thing, rant over!
Just as Arsenal did not play to their optimum level, I have not looked at everyone’s performances like I have done in the past. I will just sum up and say that Wenger said the focus was there but the performance not quite where we can get to. There will be times during the nervous run in that we do not play to our best. When our level drops, we must keep getting results.
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