By Avenell Dave
I sat watching Arsenal’s latest limp display against Blackburn yesterday trying to see the positives.
I saw Bacary Sagna fail to assert himself as a player of his age and experience should so; I saw Theo Walcott trying his heart out but not having the ability or the end product to match; and I saw Sol Campbell doing his best to rally the troops even though his own abilities seem to be on the wane.
If ever there was proof that the beautiful game on its own will not suffice, it was last week’s defeat of Barcelona by Inter Milan.
For all their skill and talent, Barca were undone by tactical nous.
We may dislike Jose Mourinho for his defensive traits and arrogance, but the guy knows how to change games and how to neutralise threats – something Arsenal were once famous for.
I recall the last trophy arsenal won – the FA Cup in 2005. If ever there was a case of anti-football, to use Arsene Wenger’s parlance, that was it.
Battered by a far better team for 120 minutes, we were only ever going to win that game on penalties and so it proved.
Wenger seems to have forgotten the manner of that win and yet the irony is that it came at a time when we were renowned for playing sexy football. Personnel that day prevented us from competing at the same level as M*nure.
Teams play to their strengths and that’s something Blackburn have been doing all season.
They don’t have decent forwards so they use set plays as the most efficient way of creating opportunities.
Looking at the goals we conceded, Flapihandski had little chaqnce with the first, his defence waiting for someone else to clear the ball rather than anyone coming and making it theirs.
But while there’s an argument that David Dunn backed into the Pole as the cross for the second came in, a stronger keeper would have used his body to push his way through.
Have you ever seen a penalty awarded when a goalkeeper comes for a cross and he’s surrounded by opponents trying to outmuscle him and get in his way? No, me neither.
In fact, goalkeepers are often over-protected and yet Flapihandski allowed himself to be bullied and out-manoeuvred.
Some of the things that set English football apart from other leagues are the physical nature of games, the competitiveness of teams from top to bottom and the way no team lies down in the face of opposition.
Who would have thought Burnley would beat M*nure or Wigan would beat the Ch*vs?
The fact is, Wenger could have played Blackburn at their own game - and that means making a point in the media about potential roughhouse tactics from his opponents as a way of flagging it to the opposition.
And he could have reminded the players which shirt they were wearing and the responsibility that comes with that.
How many of them really cared? How much can you excuse players because their application drops when there's nothing really to play for?
Shrek Rooney is renowned for being as competitive in rehearsals for mock 5-a-side games during filming for adverts as he does in first team games.
A few of our lot clearly don't have that hunger and Wenger failed to motivate them.
If Inter taught us anything it is that intricate passing is of no use without a cutting edge, the willingness to fight for every ball and show pride in representing this club.
I still think we'll get third place but nine defeats says it all and while things could be so so so much worse, learning how to defend and how to compete is a lesson we have not yet learnt with any consistency.