Arsenal 0 Blackburn Rovers 0: Arsenal sleepwalk to a bore draw

Last updated : 17 February 2007 By Brian Dawes

Cesc in aerial combat
With just three days notice and despite terrestrial TV showing the match live Arsenal sold 56,781 tickets, including about 7 to Blackburn fans. Tugay, the dirty little runt who tried to cripple Cesc at Blackburn a few weeks ago wasn't fit and neither was Benni McCarthy. Arsenal were without Van Persie, Eboue and also Hleb who was suffering from a virus. Hleb obviously didn't have his anti-Allardyce jabs before going to the Reebok in midweek.

Our consistently unpredictable line-up today featured Almunia, Gallas, Walcott, Aliadiere, Ljungberg and Flamini. It was a bright sunny cold day but it seemed that neither the fans nor the players had got going by the end of the first half. If anything much happened in the first half it must have been during one of those periods where I'd dozed off, one of those many periods where I dozed off due the tedium.

There was one move where Henry nearly danced through. In another Aliadiere had a decent run gave it to Flamini who shot wide when Jeremie was looking for the return ball. Almunia was forced from his slumbers to come out well to clear, but only the once. Henry got through and there was a Blackburn handball, but it was ball to hand. Freddie and Zhizanishvili were nearly but not quite at it. Walcott nearly had a run and did have a decent cross that was cut out. Blackburn played a succession of cross field balls that went out for throw ins and Kolo got bored so had a crack from 40 yards but his shot was blocked when it had travelled no more than ten feet. Arsenal nearly woke the crowd when Gallas, playing left back, cut inside and fired one over. And that was it.

Counting the empty seats was more entertaining. Counting the Blackburn fans took all of four seconds. This was without doubt the worse half of football I've seen at our new stadium to date.

Arsenal upped the tempo after the break but nothing was going to happen until Adebayor, Clichy and Rosicky appeared. And the cheers for their warm up were as big as for anything happening on the field of play. Kolo had a run and shot as Blackburn sank deeper into their own half. We had a half decent move that won a corner but it wasn't anything to write home about. Cesc to Thierry who cut inside from the left and saw his shot saved. Gallas who is still a very long way from being match fit was replaced by Clichy. Walcott had a shot wide. I like Hoyte but I feel that he and Walcott together are never quite in unison regarding their positional play. Theo is closed early, often double marked and has yet to n how to cope with this, but he will.

There were a few nearly balls. Blackburn's only notable contribution was to force Flamini to hook clear from a Bentley freekick. Another handball appeal from an Aliadiere cross. There were a couple more corners that caused Blackburn no real problems before Theo and Freddie were replaced by Adebayor and Rosicky.

Henry went down on the edge of their area but referee Atkinson was in 'play on' mode no matter what happened. Adebayor nearly squirmed through down the left but was squeezed out. A hooked shot from the Blackburn right was their one real chance but Almunia tipped it over with a great save. Bentley was carded for taking out Henry. Then in a decent attack Aliadiere was tripped in the box and from the reaction behind the goal should have had a penalty, it wasn't cut and dried from our angle. Play went on and Hoyte set up Henry who hit one. A text arrived from limping John who couldn't hobble to the match today proclaiming 'cert pen' from his TV view.

Blackburn reverted to type as Khizanishvili cynically axed Tomas who was on a fast break. Worthy of more than the yellow card he received. Clichy with a great run. Senderos beat Nonda and Hughes threw yet another wobbly. Their manager was far more animated than his team. Clichy missed a spiralling half chance which he failed to volley effectively. Rosicky was almost in following some one-twos. Hoyte was hurt but still combined well in our right side attacks. Total pinball in their box, including a half chance for Henry as Hoyte whacked a goal bound shot from close in only to see Friedel pull off the save of the game. Timewasting was now rife but there were only three minutes of added time during which Dunn, furthest player from the dugouts naturally, was replaced by Todd who managed to get booked before touching the ball. Final score nil-nil. The first goal-less match against an 'English' team at our new home and maybe an inevitable result given the 6-2 earlier in the season.

On the plus side I got some useful kip for most of the match, none of our players were carded and seemingly none were badly injured in what could be another important week for the Club. On the down side this was by far the most boring game I've seen in our new home and I've seen them all so far. It's clear that we could and should have upped the tempo much earlier in order to hit a rhythm and play our slick keep ball passing game. Our failure to do so had everything to do with other priorities as did Le Boss's team selection, which was more about giving Gallas and Ljungberg a run out than winning a Cup tie.