Many Improvements, Some Mistakes, One Big Result

Winning, while not playing well in an away game – that is the sign of champions. I think this game showed us that Arsenal have learnt some lessons and made many improvements over the summer.

I was most impressed by our collective defending. We all knew what Blackburn were going to do. Their primitive style is not a surprise for anyone. Last year a depleted Arsenal side lost at Ewood Park against that ‘route one’ approach so this was going to be a real test of our credentials.

I’ll analyze the tactical and technical aspects of the game in detail in a separate article after watching the game again. In this piece I just want to share some top of mind observations.


  • Collective defending, most of the balls into the box were headed away by the outfield players
  • Keeper wasn’t forced to come for everything and looked solid when he was called into action (As I’ve often said in the past, the real problem has been in front of the keepers)
  • We didn’t lose many physical battles anywhere on the pitch
  • No one was afraid of knocking the ball out for a throw in or a corner. If we can do this more consistently many of the suicidal clearances that end up in dangerous areas will be eliminated
  • There was no panic in the box although initially we were a bit nervy
  • The team had a lot more confidence in the second half and knew they could deal with the primitives
  • We held on to a lead against a system that is our biggest weakness!

Some Mistakes

  • We lost our concentration a bit after the first goal and got sloppy
  • Gave the ball away far too often by our standards
  • Defenders got caught ball watching in the box (this really irritates me)
  • We weren’t clinical enough in the final third even though the hosts gave us plenty of space

Any way you look at it, this was a big, big result from a confidence point of view and sends a clear message to the rest of the contenders. On a day when the Tiny pretenders lost at home we clearly showed the gulf in class between the top teams and the wannabes. That made the result doubly sweet.

I must also acknowledge Wenger’s genius. He put Chris Foy under the spotlight with his comments about the Stoke — Spuds game. Those were perfectly valid observations but the timing and the fact that Foy was refereeing this game made a big difference. This time Blackburn didn’t even try to go near the keeper because they knew the ref will be forced into calling the fouls. That made a huge difference. Last year we conceded both goals because of fouls on the keeper/defender and once that was eliminated Blackburn didn’t look threatening.

Yes, they got a lot of balls into the box but that style is considered primitive for a good reason. The percentages of scoring from such tactics are negligible. For the million balls they put in our box the hosts barely created three half chances. One was headed over, one was cleared off the line, and the keeper saved the third.

The only clear chance they created was, ironically, from open play and with the ball on the ground! I found Fat Sam’s comments laughable when he started talking about the chances they’d created. And frankly, I don’t see them troubling other top teams this year unless they improve their defending. As Wenger said, that might happen once there is a genuine fear of relegation.

Individual Performances

Almunia: Excellent. Caught what he had to, punched when he had to (only once if I remember right), and saved whatever came his way. He is not a bad keeper by any means and if the defending in front of him stays solid I can see him do well all season.

Sagna: Excellent. He did a great job at the back and made some impressive contributions in attack. Many players were involved in the second goal but Sagna did the best work in that move.

Koscielny: Got caught out physically against Diouf but apart from that he had a solid game. Won a number of headers in the box and read the game well. He was composed under pressure and his distribution was good.

Vermaelen: Was caught ball watching but I wouldn’t blame him for that goal. Another one who defended well in the box.

Clichy: There were five or six players at fault for the Blackburn goal but I’d say Clichy was the worst offender. After all these years he has to be better aware of players running from behind him especially when there was no other threat in the box. Had a great game on the left as he cut out many diagonal balls and did well to restrict the crosses from that side.

Song: Not close to his best but he had a relatively solid game. The only negative was the number of times he gave the ball away. Good contribution for the first goal.

Diaby: I was impressed by his physical game, was probably the strongest player in our team. He too won a few headers in the box. Even his distribution was better than what we saw last year.

Cesc: He looked far from his best and disinterested at times. His work rate was quite poor by his lofty standards. It’s a different matter that he was still the best midfielder on the pitch. I’m not sure he is mentally ready right now. Hopefully, he will be more focussed once the transfer window closes.

Arshavin: Lost the ball quite often in the first half hour. Played much better after that. Did his share of defending as well. Took his goal well, I was surprised the ball went through that many home players but it was a well placed strike.

RvP: Really sad to see him go off injured but if the Dutchman misses only the international break then it will be a blessing in disguise. Once again showed his value with an inch perfect assist.

Walcott: Didn’t get on the ball as often as I’d have liked but he was my man of the match. I wasn’t sure this would be a good game for Theo to start but he proved me wrong. The first touch and technique for his goal was amazing and showed he was a natural. Looked lively every time he was on the ball.

Subs: Chamakh worked hard and played his part in the second goal. Rosicky and Wilshere did well defensively and helped us hold on to the lead.

Last year we were in top form but had two wins and a loss after three games. This year we haven’t been anywhere close to our best but have two wins and a draw. I think it will get better if we can get through the internationals without many injuries.

44 Responses to Many Improvements, Some Mistakes, One Big Result

  1. eirik says:

    what you said about cesc was nonsense. You could see glimses of magic and his low workrate was caused by lack of match fitness.

    • desigunner says:

      I certainly saw many glimpses of his magic, that’s the reason I said he was the best midfielder on the pitch. But he was nowhere close to his best and there can be many ways of looking at that … I wrote what I thought.

      • Amaan says:

        yes Cesc was not at his best it was bcoz he hardly had any game time after the world…..did not play in any single pre season friendly. played only 45 min of international and some 30 min against blackpool. that is it, he will be fine once he get his match fitness back.

        I thought Chamakh was superb in holding the ball……wat do u think DESI?

      • desigunner says:

        I agree with you Re Chamakh. I thought he ran the channels well and did a good job of holding the ball. I think he might turn out to be the signing of the season (hope I don’t jinx it by saying it)

  2. stephen says:

    the young guns are coming the young guns are coming Tottenham are running Tottenham are running .

  3. meditation says:

    Im still with the opinion that we need more defensive minded players. My opinion is that football is about chain reactions and balance. Look at blackburns goal again.I may be wrong because ive only seen the game the once but personally i feel diaby had a major part today in arsenal conceding. The defending foundations are implemented from your backline but when you defend as a unit without the ball it starts from the front . Have a look at diaby in the first phase of play when bolton had the ball in their defence just before their goal.Chain reactions. To be fair diaby stepped it up in the second half. Vermaelan really needs to curb his attacking instincts because for me he at times upsets the balance through his indiscipline . I was glad to see song tell vermaellen at one point to stay back when you could see he was just about to burst off. He needs to exercise more patience. what sense does it make to make runs all the time when its 1-1 in the 50th minute. It was a team performance today with players coming back to fitness,so the team will improve, but they can only improve with their will power and guidance. lets hope arsenes on the case.

    • desigunner says:

      I thought Diaby, RvP and Song were all at fault for not getting in the way of Samba’s run. They took it a little casually as I said in the article. After that it was a mistake by Koscielny and then one by Clichy. At least 5 players at fault, any one of who might have done something to prevent the goal.

      I think our players will learn the balance between attack and defence as they play together. There are times when we need someone like Vermaelen to step up. But it’s not easy to decide when to do it and when not to do it. I think Chelsea do it well, as do Farca.

  4. ak47 says:

    nice 1 des, cant remember the last time i wanted fab to be subbed! his talent is apparent but today his heart seemed to be else where. hope im wrong tho. weldone theo hope he keeps it up, cant understand why rvp started if he was nursing an injury? maybe he needs more calcium in his diet?
    i hope squizza is an improvement on kos cos that goal was way too easy, they pulled an arsenal on us!!! walked it in!!! i was devastated but kept the faith. deserved result.

  5. realex99 says:

    Spot on with the analysis, With the Blackburn goal I think Almunia could have done better. He was way off his line.

  6. Shashi says:

    The Cesc observation was reading too much into things. To me, it seemed just a matter of match fitness and sharpness. When he did get a feel for the pace of game, he looked like the Cesc of the old times and he would have played even better if he was not subbed right then.

    • realex99 says:

      yeah, I think so too. When he gets his fitness and sharpness back, he will be awesome.

    • desigunner says:

      He didn’t look himself,that is established. Now we can think of it depending on what we felt while watching.

      I don’t want to be harsh or critical. Those were just my thoughts. It quite possible that I’m totally wrong.

  7. metalhead says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The analysis of all players is inch perfect. Poor old Almunia, despite all the pressure he came out and delivered a solid performance. I was scared Arsenal fans would blame him for the goal!
    Clichy’s awareness in the penalty box is appalling!

  8. meditation says:

    One more thing they can be too stationary when defending set pieces. If you watch man u they are always bouncing on their toes ready to move, watch flecther . you do this when defending and attacking to maximise your defending and attacking potential arsenal wait then react instead of just being alert. This same mentality makes them not defending as a unit or being caught flat footed. You then chase the ball rather than zonal press cutting off angles as a unit.Thats why in 100 metres races you start on your toes and long distance on your heels.Quick tempo and slow tempo.IF arsenal were more alert and on their toes they wouldnt have to chase because they would anticipate and already be there or block angles. The thing is im optimistic but certain things dont seem right. Gibbs deserves a run out. Clichys problem is he always lets the attacker turn an face. He only uses a form of pressing when trying to intercept not when his opponent has the ball.I think Arsene will sort it though

    • desigunner says:

      That’s a very good point. I think our players are more worried about the physical side and don’t attack the ball as well as they can. But this win is a big result and that should give them confidence to do better against other teams.

    • santori says:

      Blaming Diaby for the goal is harsh bordering on ridiculous. Diaby had a very solid game today( not to mention he’s already weighed in with one goal this season and put in 7+ last which is close to en par with Viera’s best in terms of goals per season)

      Kos needs to adapt physically to the premiership. I fear he might get muscled out otherwise.

      He seems good in the sweeper role intercepting and covering. I’m sure he’ll improve over time but he could struggle physically near term.

      Would be interesting to see how Squillaci does.

      Also, perhaps there’s another role for Koscielny to consider. I think he is a very intelligent player and he reads the game well. He could be easily dual-roled into covering for Song.

      • desigunner says:

        The dual role for Koscielny is a good idea. Could be that Wenger is thinking of moving him or Vermaelen into midfield when Song is missing.

        I think Diaby, RvP, Sagna, Vermaelen, and Clichy all had a part to play in that goal. Any one of them could have worked harder and that would have prevented the attack. Koscielny’s mistake was the obvious one but the others have to take their share of the blame.

  9. kc says:

    I’m convinced Clichy can’t defend in the box. Very frustrating watching him watch their goal like a spectator. Cesc was just starting to play like his Fab self again when Wenger subbed him out. He looked rusty in the 1st half true, but I think its match fitness issues and not lack of interest. I thought Arsh and Diaby had terrific games, and Walcott looked great again. Overall a Wonderful Victory, and the type of win we need to push for silver.

    • desigunner says:

      Hope you are right about Cesc. To me Cesc is the kind of guy who always wants to be on the ball and I didn’t see that. Also some of his passing was exquisite but at times it was really shoddy. We’ll know better in the next game.

  10. goonerbegood says:

    it was a fantastic game from the boys.
    it is time we give clichy a break,instead we should support his efforts,it won’t hurt.
    i have high hopes on diaby,i think diaby can play a vital role this term with song in midfield.was happy both played and i believe they will get better and stronger.(diaby and song need to embrace their strenghts and not be afraid of using.)
    overall we need to build on this game and push on ..
    to win the league ,we need to be consistent ,every game must be treated as a cup final.

  11. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by joseph obodai, EpiKnightz. EpiKnightz said: DesiGunner: Many Improvements, Some Mistakes, One Big Result: Winning, while not playing well in an away g… #Arsenal […]

  12. Shrek says:

    hey Desi, great analysis as usual
    actually have to agree with u abt cesc, didn’t look quite hungry for the ball as he always does ,lets just hope Barcagate hasn’t taken over him completely.I thought Wilshere should have scored from that sitter in the final moments, that’d have been the icing on the cake. We have to learn to tighten the screws as much as possible to kill a game.
    Have you observed Clichy whenever hes in a one-on-one situation ? He’s not able to go past his man quickly, has to start working on his dribbling and crossing skills a lot more.

    • desigunner says:

      I think it’s a confidence issue for Clichy. He used to be very good in attack but I think our defensive problems have put some pressure on him.

  13. Sonu says:

    Good reading of the game Desi 🙂
    My personal Rating of the players are quite similar to yours
    Almunia: Seems to have finally got it together after the un-ending speculation of a new keeper coming in.He was organizing the defence and looked confident.Nice to see no flapping in the air for once.Also he gave a mouthful to Diouf which was good to see.
    Sagna:My MOTM(personally).Worked very hard both in defense and attack.His reading of the game was perfect and never let any attacks develop or crooses come in from his side.Although a goal was conceded from the right side ,there wasnt much he could do.
    Koscielny:Well he was good in the air and what I noticed is he is a good reader of the game.His partnership with Vermaelen was good and managed to catch M.diuf offside on a number of occasions.He hasn’t learnt the hard way about the physical nature of the league,allowing to be brushed off by Diouf.Should have slid in and given away a foul in my opinion.Anyways I feel he is here to stay and did his job quite well bar one mistake.
    Vermaelen:Just brilliant and he absolutely owned kalinic who looked clueless against him.I don’t think he lost a single header.Even Samba came up against him towards the end of the game but did not have any success.He showed he was the leader in defense and organized the line quite well.
    Clichy:Was caught out a few times early in the first half in one on one situations but he showed as the game progressed why Wenger rates him so highly.The best performance from both our fullbacks I’ve seen for a while.
    A great defensive performance and if we can rotate the back 4 and keep everyone fit then this defense looks a real winner.There was good composure and we did not panic every time the ball was thrown into the box or set pieces.They definitely have learnt from previous experience.

    Diaby:Was solid as a rock and provided great support both in attack and defense.The way he brushed off some challenges shows he has really added to the physical side of his game.His passing too was quite good and formed a good partnership with Song in the middle allowing Cesc to express himself.He read the game well and when the CB was out of position he got back to cover and I was highly impressed.If only he can add that extra ingredient called consistency in his game.He has the potential to be a feared mid fielder.
    Song:Really unimpressive hair style.Really should get rid of it ASAP.He was quite brilliant again in reading the game and I belive he is the best we have in the tackling dept in our team.His passing was a little wayward today.I think it was more due to him missing the pre-season and I expect him to be as good if not better than last season.
    Cesc:A captain’s performance.Had a few bad touches but controlled the tempo of the game brilliantly.Reminded me of the way Henry used to do it for us when our defense was under pressure.The first 20 minutes of second half was totally dominated by cesc.His vision and incisive passes were brilliant.Still doesn’t look a 100% fit though.Hope to see him back to top fitness and form soon.
    The Mid field held onto possession brilliantly.I think the stat read something like 75:25 in favour of Arsenal in terms of possession so we know the mid field definitely did their job.We controlled the pace of the game well which really quietened the home support.This is yet another indication of our youngsters having finally learnt from experience.

    Robin Van Persie:I am really starting to worry now for Rvp.In the brief stint that he was on the pitch he showed brilliant movement and vision.His pass onto Theo to score the opening goal was pure class.I feel Wenger should have started with Chamakh first off and then brought on RvP as B’burn tired.B’burn were really snapping on his heels all the time and I hope his injury is nothing serious.
    Arshavin:The On and Off man of Arsenal.It was nice to see him more involved in the game tonight and I was initially not in favour of him starting the game.But he combined well with clichy and really troubled the B’burn backline.Showed good poaching instincts to score the winner.Still needs to work on his defensive game.Left Clichy totally isolated when he had time to get back and help him out.Not the best game he’s had but good enough to sink Rovers.
    Walcott:He is slowly but surely growing in confidence.His run from the blind side of the LB.His touch to control the ball while running at full speed and the composure to finsih the way he did is all reminiscent of Henry.The problem with his game last season was he did not get himself involved as much in the game and used to spend a lot of time hugging the touch line.This season he has been given the freedom to run through the middle which he is doing quite well.Hoping to see more of the same from him this season.
    Chamakh:He was brought in earlier than he would have expected to due to RvP’s injury in first half.Although he wasn’t as good as RvP in terms of movement he held up the ball very well and brought everyone around him into play.Walcott really benefitted playing off Chamakh.Worked hard for the team,was full of running and also supported the defense.I love his work rate.
    Wilshere:He had a good chance to slot his first Premier League goal for Arsenal.He will still get it soon I am sure.His best moment was when he bundled Samba to the ground and won the ball off him.Brilliant! 🙂
    Rosicky:Came on for Fab and had a little difficulty adapting to the tempo of the game.Made a couple of Rosicky-esque challenges that I so love to see but wasn’t as effective as Fab in keeping possession.Seems to have lost his shooting boots.Hope he remains injury free ,his expeience can be invaluable in our pursuit of silverware this season.

    • desigunner says:

      Thanks 🙂

      I think Sagna could have actually intercepted the pass to Diouf if he had been a bit more alert. But overall he was second in my list after Walcott.

  14. aravindvr says:

    Against BlackBurn(or BIG Sam’s any team) what counts is just the result.Stats have no importance wen we play against these kinda team.
    We’ve done enough and won it…
    The only negative is Clichy-may be the most experienced Gunner, did commit tht schoolboy error…
    But tht can happen to any Fullback and we need to cheer our boys.
    Lets be positive.With Squillaci,our backline is gonna get stronger and Almunia is gonna get more confident.
    Our squad depth is great and may be the best in Premiership.
    We have atleast 3 players in all positions.
    Wenger’s team-building is almost complete.
    Good times are slowly coming back.

    • Gunner says:

      i fully agree with u, except for GK.. but if all our defenders can provide adequate cover and support, think we still can pull it thru..
      Think some form of rotation needs to practice now in order to conserve our players and make sure they have be availibel thru out the season.

      possible rotation:
      CL: all 1st team
      EPL: 1st team for all top 10-12 teams, rest 1-2 players for other games
      FA: 50% 1st team, 50% reserve till the semis..
      Carling: reserve or youth team.

      • Jon says:

        We are playing Spuds in Carling…hope our young ones will steam roll them

        I appreciate Almu for doing his best even under gr8 pressure…He is a man of character

      • aravind says:

        ya I agree on that…squad rotation is onw of the key element in focus this year.We have too many players in midfield if all our players are available.
        But that has not been the case past few seasons.
        Little Nick is another player I am watching out for.He could be our powerful targetman.In ChLeague,Bendtner’s availability is crucial.

        In fact we have so many variety of attacking players.

        Pace- Walcott,Arshavin
        Pass-Cesc Nasri Rosciky Wilshere
        Power-Song and Diaby
        Bergkamp- Van Persie
        Drop Back/Headers- Chamakh
        Target Man- Bendtner
        Skills- Eboue 🙂

        So many options.But how well they are utilised will decide our season.

    • desigunner says:

      I’ve always believed in our depth and if the other team face injuries like us they will really get exposed. Hope most of our guys stay fit and Wenger will have some luxury like he’s never had before.

  15. TW says:

    You are spot on about Clichy and defenders ball watching. If he’d just turned his head once to see where the goalscorer was coming from there would not have been a goal.

    We are continually criticising our central defenders but both full backs get caught out of position conitnually and need to defend better.

  16. Rock says:

    We definately do need another attacking player, because of injuries but not only that, the bottom line is we got a lucky break with arshavins goal yesterday and other than that we didnt create much, we don’t create much against decent opposition and will only do so against the likes of blackpool, bolton at home.

    We lack directness and that’s what undid us last season just as much as the defence, against teams in the top 6, we cudnt create anything! let alone score much last season, games against chelsea, united, spurs, villa, everton @ home. (not including the everton away as they were truly shocking that day)

    Yes we’ll score plenty against low quality opposition, it’ll always happen, but we lack direct, match winners. Rosicky, Eboue, Vela to me arent going to win you the league, sue me, but they are just not. We need someone who will sometimes do something diff and have a shot once in a while when things arent going right, theres too much passing and going backwards rather than moving the ball quicker and going forward (aka barca), actually creating chances. We don’t create chances against decent opposition, even blackburn.

    Someone who can run at players and be a little greedy and do something on his own and take initiative, if we had a ronaldo we would’ve won the league last year hands down and this year too. Someone like an Afellay, even an Ashley Young, an IMPACT player is needed or believe me we won’t win the title or champions league this season for definate, just being honest. Theo is arguably our most direct player but we need more, thats for sure.

    How many times have we dominated possession with mind numbing passes across the midfield with no impact, and the other team ends up creating way more – and scoring. Liverpool away, 10 men, average team, and we hardly created anything apart from 1 or 2 chances at the end pushing for the equaliser. Soz for the long post, but if AW doesn’t get the player we need by tuesday, you can forget silverware again, cause the bigger teams will continue to dominate us. I know most will disagree, but it will happen. lol.

  17. dxtr says:

    Why do you guys give Arsha such a hard time? i know he drfits in and out of games but all geniuses seem to do that. Look at Messi, he is very rarely involved through out Barca games, pops up every once and a while with a bit of brilliance and its that unpredictability that makes him so amazning. Same can be said for CR7, Robben and a plethora of past greats like Luiz Ronaldo, Rivaldo and El Diego.

  18. IndianGunner says:

    Great post Desi.
    I had one question and thought you would be the best person to answer.
    I read a lot of comments from different sources on how Koscielny should have slid in or give-in a foul on Diouf to prevent the cross.
    However from what i saw he was the last defender. So if he did commit a foul on Doiuf would he be sent off with a Red? I was not sure of the rules for the situation but i guess the last sending off(Pool) and being the last defender must have influenced his decision for not going in for a tackle.
    Would love your thoughts on this

    • aravindvr says:

      Kos definetely made a mistake there.
      But if u c it again he got slightly off-balance.

      But Clichy’s glaring error is unacceptable at this level of Football.A perfect example of Ball Watching.

      Hope it does not happen again to our much experienced Left Back.

      Some guys are questioning Verminator.He was perfectly doing his job right.So is a much improved and loyal gunner Manuel Almunia.

    • desigunner says:

      I don’t think he was the last man because he was on the flank and there were two defenders in a more central position who would have been able to cover. It would not have been a red card offence. If the run had been down the middle then that would have been a valid point.

      I think his reading of the game failed him in that instance. He could have slid in and knocked the ball out for a throw but I guess he thought he’ll win the physical battle. Good, early lesson for him.

  19. Furovich says:

    I’m actually surprised that Clichy has been criticised for the goal. For me the problem was the fact that Song was the only midfield player in a position to defend and Sagna was way out of position. The biggest problem wasn’t that Koscielny was beaten by Diouf but rather the fact that there was no cover. Realistically Sagna should of been back there and whats more is that once the ball was played out to Diouf, Sagna showed absolutely no urgency in getting back in a position to defend.

    • desigunner says:

      I think if we follow the chain of events, it all started when Arshavin gave the ball away to Samba.

      Diaby, Rvp and Song all made half hearted attempts to stop the big man. Sagna was in a no mans land because he didn’t expect the ball to be given away so cheaply. Nonetheless, he could have done better by covering the angle of the pass as Diouf was the only realistic target for Samba. The Koscielny made a mistake and the defenders in the box were not alert to the threat behind them. All these players are at fault to a varying degree.

      • Furovich says:

        yea completely agree really. when Arshavin gave the ball away, all those players you mentioned didn’t show enough urgency. It was a problem last year as well but atleast in this match and against Liverpool I think you could see the team is generally more focused. But getting caught on turnovers is still the teams biggest weakness.

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