Arsenal's title hopes fading after home fire goes out

Arsenal 0 Blackburn Rovers 0

Arsenal were hoping for an upturn in their fortunes in April after a nightmare March in which they went out of two competitions and failed to win a League game, but instead the new month will seem depressingly similar for Arsène Wenger and his team to the one that has just ended.

They are, to all intents and purposes, out of all competitions. Wenger will not concede the Premier League title to Manchester United, but he might as well. United's win at West Ham earlier in the day had left Arsenal eight points adrift in second place, but their response was feeble, their football lacking its usual pace and creativity, and devoid of cutting edge.

Their point leaves Arsenal seven behind United, and although they have a game in hand on the leaders, who visit here on 1 May, they no longer control their own destiny. "Before we speak about the title, we have to come back to a good level of performance," Wenger said. "It was a flat performance – lack of energy level, lack of sharpness. It's difficult to identify one special thing. We started well, but very few players had the resources to raise the level of their game."

Blackburn should have been the perfect antidote to Arsenal's ills, having lost the seven previous meetings between the teams in north London. But they battled for their point, and survived the dismissal of Steven Nzonzi for a two-footed tackle on Laurent Koscielny with 13 minutes to go. Although Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelsen excelled in central defence, it was an indictment of Arsenal that they have probably had tougher matches. "We tried to put pressure on their midfield three and the lads showed a fantastic appetite," Steve Kean, the Blackburn manager, said. "In slow motion, [Nzonzi] gets a bit of the ball. Sometimes they're red, sometimes they're yellow."

Blackburn still seem likely to be heavily involved in the relegation battle, but will take heart from ending their poor run at the Emirates. Even though they have failed to win any of their past seven matches, and are only two points above the bottom three, they showed enough quality in this match to believe that they can pull clear.

Arsenal were at their best in the early stages. Phil Jones got in the way of a shot by Alex Song, Nelsen did well to avoid turning Theo Walcott's cross into his own net, and Paul Robinson kept out the winger's shot fromtwo yards.

Nasri, despite a bandaged head following contact with Nelsen's, set up the best chance of the first half with a low cross from the right after 30 minutes, only for Jack Wilshere to put his shot tamely wide from eight yards. But at least it was a shot. Although Arsenal regularly weaved their way into the Blackburn penalty area, their attempts to pick out a clever pass increasingly found only a defender anticipating well, and their attempts at trickery became almost predictable.

So far, so much par for the Arsenal course – as were two moments of goalkeeping uncertainty before the interval. Manuel Almunia let a long shot by Martin Olsson slip under his gloves, watching in relief as it rolled wide of goal, then failed to reach a dropping ball with an attempted punch, allowing Nzonzi an unchallenged header which went wide.

Predictably, there were calls for Wenger to replace him with the recently re-signed Jens Lehmann, who sat impassively among the substitutes. Instead, Wenger threw on Cesc Fabregas – who had not felt confident in his ability to play a full 90 minutes after recovering from a hamstring problem – Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner.

The changes might have worked, especially once Nzonzi had departed, but Blackburn deserved to hold out as Arsenal mounted a late siege of their goal. Olsson threw himself in front of Chamakh's shot after Wilshere's clever run, and Michel Salgado chested Bendtner's late header off the line – no doubt to applause from any watching Manchester United players. After yesterday's results, they must believe that the title is on its way back to Old Trafford.

Attendance: 60,087

Referee: Phil Dowd

Man of the match: Samba

Match rating: 5/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat