Blackburn 1-1 Arsenal Match Report
Arsenal and Blackburn played out an entertaining and intense 1-1 draw at Ewood Park on Sunday afternoon. Arsenal took a 18th minute lead after Robin van Persie smashed home a loose ball in the penalty area but were denied three points after another awful mistake by their goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. Blackburn midfielder David Dunn fired in a fizzing effort from outside the area and even though the shot was hit straight at Lehmann he could only help the ball into the net. It was the German goalkeeper’s second error in as many Premier League matches and denied Arsenal the chance to win the incredibly physical match.
I watched the game via FSi and was disappointed to see Eduardo da Silva start the match rather than Nicklas Bendtner despite the obvious need for physical presence against Blackburn. Alexander Hleb was moved to the left and Theo Walcott came in on the right to replace Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Eboue respectively. Despite my disappointment over Bendtner’s place on the bench I have to admit that the first half performance was excellent. Some of the Blackburn players – Robbie Savage and Christopher Samba in particular – were overly physical at times but the Arsenal boys rode the challenges well and were determined to play good football.
Scrappy opener for van Persie
Van Persie copped some very forceful challenges and I was delighted to see him respond with the game’s opening goal just after the quarter-hour mark. A nice flowing move involving Cesc Fabregas and Gael Clichy saw Eduardo force a save from Brad Friedel before Fabregas and a couple of Blackburn players scrapped for the ball in the penalty area and van Persie was on hand to turn the ball in. I really felt a lot of the credit for the goal should go to Eduardo for his clever positioning but I was delighted to see van Persie benefit with his second goal of the season.
The goal gave Arsenal even more confidence and Mathieu Flamini and Fabregas were absolutely dominating the centre of the park. Fabregas in particular was sensational in the first half. In one five minute period he was involved in the opening goal, made some big challenges in the middle of the park and cleared a Blackburn shot off the line. Good stuff. Bacary Sagna also had an excellent half, looking solid in defence and classy with the ball at his feet. The one major negative about Arsenal’s first half performance was the groin injury suffered by captain William Gallas. Gallas (who will be out for 2-3 weeks) was replaced by Phillipe Senderos, who looked untroubled for the remainder of the half.
In the first half I really felt that Blackburn fell foul of their own reputation. Indeed, they seemed so determined to make a point about their physical prowess that they forgot to play football. Their constant need to foul Arsenal’s attacking players made them look nothing short of thugs at times. Their one opportunity came through a header from Ryan Nelsen that crashed onto the post, but apart from that it was Arsene Wenger’s men who edged the opening period. I thought Arsenal’s pressing all over the pitch in the first half was outstanding, with most attacks stemming from possession being won through tough tackling in the centre of the midfield. 1-0 at the break, and Arsenal in control. Or so it seemed.
Another Lehmann blunder
When the second half kicked off it was obvious that Blackburn’s manager, Mark Hughes, had changed their plan of attack. They began to play football and it seemed that Arsenal had forgotten how to do the same. The likes of Walcott, Hleb and Eduardo really went out of the game as Arsenal were forced to play long to van Persie because of good pressure from the Blackburn midfield. It seemed certain that Blackburn would find a way to goal via their dangerous set pieces but somehow Arsenal held on to their lead under immense pressure. They did so until Dunn fired in his hopeful effort and Lehmann could only fumble the ball into his own net. It was another inexcusable mistake from Arsenal’s current number one and their will surely be some debate about whether Manuel Almunia or Lukasz Fabianski should start next weekend against Manchester City.
After the goal there were more meaty challenges flying in before Nelsen was sent off for a second yellow card after a professional foul on van Persie. Eduardo and Walcott were replaced by Denilson and Bendtner respectively, with the Danish striker immediately having an impact and almost setting van Persie up for the winner. Indeed, the final chance of an exciting game fell to Bendtner on the edge of the area but he could only fire his half-volley wide of the target. Despite his lack of time on the pitch I really felt that Bendtner had a big impact on the game and should have been brought on earlier by Wenger, when it was obvious that Eduardo was starting to be muscled out of the game.
Positives and negatives
The match ended 1-1, a fair result in my books – and the exact prediction I made yesterday (Hurrah!). It was very much a game of two halves and Blackburn definitely deserved the equaliser despite the manner in which it was conceded. I think the Arsenal defence have done a great job in their opening three matches and it is important to note that the two goals they have conceded so far have been a direct result of Lehmann’s poor goalkeeping. It’s definitely not a bad result – especially after Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea all dropped points – but Arsenal will be hoping for three points over Manchester City next weekend to get things back on track.
To me the big positives to take out of the match were the ability of Arsenal to match Blackburn physically, the energy the team showed in the first half, and the good performances of Sagna and Fabregas. The negatives were the inability to effectively deal with Blackburn’s set pieces (despite Wenger’s opinions on the contrary), the lack of good football being played in the second half and the mistake from goalkeeper Lehmann. I think the average performances of Walcott, Eduardo and Hleb, who was forced into a wider role due to Rosicky’s injury, shows that Arsenal are still lacking another winger to support the squad and I will continue to be disappointed if a signing is not made by Wenger. Overall though, no need to panic after a grabbing a draw against a side that should make the top seven.
What do you think?
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