Defensive shambles deepens Arsenal crisis

Blackburn Rovers 4 Arsenal 3: Wenger calls situation 'terrible' as Yakubu shines for revitalised Blackburn
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The Independent Football

Four-two ahead with more than 20 minutes to play, the home supporters did not quite dare sing, "We're gonna win eight-two", but the temptation must have been strong. Had they succumbed, nerves would have been shredded in added time when Arsenal, having scored a third goal from the substitute Marouane Chamakh, missed four chances to secure a dramatic equaliser.

As much as passing up those opportunities, it was conceding two own goals in a frequently shambolicdefensive performance that put the skids under Arsène Wenger's side and emphasised that the arrival of the 6ft 6in German defender Per Mertesacker will not on its own bring about the desired improvement in that area. Wenger pleased supporters at last by signing five players in the last couple of days of the transfer window but the problem now appears to be integrating them. In the meantime they find Blackburn, bottom of the table before the game, moving above them.

"It's terrible," Wenger said of a haul of four points from five games. "It's just not good enough. We had many chances but just looked that we had a lack of focus. The spirit in the team is quite willing but you don't give away goals like we did."

Conceding four here was in many ways as worrying – if not more so – than the eight that went past the blameless Wojciech Szczesny at Old Trafford, for Blackburn are no Manchester United. Nor, it should be said, are they as bad as earlier results had suggested. Everton should never have won here, when Mikel Arteta scored a penalty after Rovers had managed to miss two of them. Yesterday it looked as if they were to be cursed by the same player, who, having moved from Merseyside as one of Wenger's last-minute recruits, restored the lead that had been earned by Gervinho, then lost to Yakubu Ayegbeni.

From the start Bacary Sagna and Gervinho in tandem down the right had shredded the unprotected Gaël Givet. In the 10th minute, Alex Song drove through the middle instead and Gervinho nipped between the static centre-halves for a fine finish. Normal service, it seemed, was being resumed in a fixture Arsenal normallywin with something to spare.

The sun immediately came out and one of Paul Robinson's excellent saves prevented Gervinho scoring again. Back came the rain and with it the dogged Rovers. In Yakubu they have added a wise old head to a young squad and the first-time touch with which he steered Junior Hoilett's pass into the far corner of the net was that of an old master. "He doesn't waste a lot of energy," said Kean, which could be taken more than one way but was intended as a compliment.

Blackburn's defence, looking more porous than Arsenal's, was then rent asunder again as Song played in Aaron Ramsey, who cut the ball back for the onrushing Arteta to continue his vendetta against the home side.

At half-time, Kean told his side to tighten up, and was rewarded within a few minutes. The Argentinian Ruben Rochina floated a free-kick that caused unwarranted panic in the six-yard box, where Song lunged and found the ball bouncing in off his knee.

Kean's next break came when Sagna was forced to limp off, still suffering the effects of a first-half challenge. The manager responded cleverly by bringing on Martin Olsson to taunt the Arsenal substitute Johan Djourou. After one run by the Swede led to a corner, Steven Nzonzi returned a corner into the danger area where Yakubu was again lurking in the right place. Possibly offside by a foot – his left one – he jabbed the ball in.

Olsson made the fourth with a superb run down the right, eluding Djourou's clumsy challenge and evading Song before forcing another own goal, this time by Laurent Koscielny.

Kean smiled at last, Wenger merely looked glum, though both men had further contrasting emotions to endure. As Blackburn sat back further than was wise, Robin van Persie had two headers well saved by Robinson, then crossed for Chamakh to head in. In a frantic period of added time, Mertesacker headed on to the top of the net; Robinson made possibly his best save, from Van Persie; Chamakh headed wide; and finally the substitute Radosav Petrovic saved the day after Robinson was for once beaten. Worried, Arsène? "You can't say you have no worries, when you see the performance we put in today."

Blackburn Rovers (4-2-3-1): Robinson; Salgado (Petrovic, 18), Samba, Dann, Givet; Nzonzi, Lowe; Rochina (Olsson, 56), Formica (Vukcevic, 65), Hoilett; Yakubu.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna (Djourou, 53), Mertesacker,Koscielny, Santos; Song (Chamakh, 76), Arteta; Gervinho Ramsey, Arshavin (Walcott, 64); Van Persie.

Referee: Andre Marriner.

Man of the match: Yakubu (Blackburn)

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