Wenger cries foul as Fabianski is cornered by Blackburn's long-ball tactics
Blackburn Rovers 2 Arsenal 1
Tuesday 04 May 2010
Golf and football are relatively simple sports. Hit a ball in the correct direction and wait for some luck.
Sam Allardyce took his squad to Gleneagles last week for a golfing break and they used the tactics from the links back on the more familiar territory of Ewood Park yesterday, cannoning the ball in the direction of Lukasz Fabianski, the Arsenal goalkeeper, at every available opportunity.
It was a policy that worked in fine style as Allardyce's side made the most of Fabianski's goalmouth jitters to come from behind to beat Arsenal in a game that was many times more frenetic than the usual end of season affair.
Robin van Persie gave Arsenal an early lead after Blackburn Rovers proved that their defence could be every bit as porous as the visitors' as they failed to sufficiently mark anyone at a corner as Bacary Sagna nodded on at the front post which allowed van Persie to ghost in and head past Robinson from less than a yard out.
The goal forced Rovers to fish around in their bag and get the driver out. They simply bulleted the ball forward in the general direction of Jason Roberts and the penalty spot – whichever was furthest – and then waited for Fabianski to self-destruct. He was badly positioned for David Dunn's 44th minute equaliser as Rovers ploy finally paid off. Fabianksi flapped at a Morten Gamst Pedersen corner and from the resulting melee, David Dunn tapped home the equaliser before matters went from bad to worse after the break.
Pedersen again delivered a corner into the six-yard box and Fabianski failed to get to a delivery he should have swallowed and Chris Samba was the beneficiary as he headed home a goal that turned out to be the winner.
Arsenal No 1 Manuel Almunia is hardly held in the highest of esteem by the Arsenal fans but in comparison to Fabianski he looks like Gordon Banks, although Arsène Wenger refused to blame him for loss, claiming he was impeded twice at the critical moments.
"I thought he had a good game," Wenger said, apparently being serious, before blaming referee Martin Atkinson. "I think he had no chance as a goalkeeper, he was pushed every time. I'm very disappointed that he let that happen in the football game. It is unfair to the goalkeeper. They did it well and they do it well but you feel that you have to give more protection to the goalkeeper. When you jump in the air and you are unbalanced then what can you do?
"I think they were fouls on both goals, every time they wanted to stop the keeper from getting the ball. They had two players whose only purpose was to stop him. When you stop the keeper from getting the ball then it is a foul." And what of Fabianski's already wafer-thin confidence now? "It should affect the confidence of the referee not him."
Allardyce waited long and hard before responding to the question in the post-match briefing about what Wenger had said about his team. He decided to take the diplomatic approach, regardless of what he was feeling and backed his side's muscular approach, saying: "My response to that is if you pinpoint the opposition's weaknesses enough then eventually they will be exposed. And the amount of balls into the box to the keeper who has been a weak link was my main tactic and it has paid off today. We beat them fair and square and the ref did not see them as fouls.
"I'm not overly concerned about what Arsène says, he has said it before. It was a tactic that worked well. I prefer him criticising me and us winning than praising me and us losing."
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-1-1) Robinson; Salgado, Samba, Nelsen, Givet; Andrews, Grella (Hoilett 57), Dunn (Jones 85), Pedersen; Olsson; Roberts Substitutes not used Brown, Jacobsen, Emerton, Basturk, Di Santo
Arsenal (4-4-2): Fabianski; Sagna, Campbell, Silvestre, Traoré; Eboué (Eduardo 77), Diaby, Walcott, Nasri; Vela (Arshavin 67), van Persie Substitutes not used Mannone, Djourou, Gibbs, Eastmond, Henderson
Referee M Atkinson (Yorkshire).
Booked: Blackburn Grella, Pedersen Arsenal Campbell, Silvestre.
Man of the match Pedersen.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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