Yesterday's game felt more and more like an exercise in futility, particularly in the final 25 minutes after Blackburn pulled ahead courtesy of a Chris Samba goal which resembled something that Thomas Holmstrom dreamt up as he stood in the crease for the Detroit Red Wings. Not pretty, but effective, and he left Fabianski screened, knocked over, and helpless.
But Blackburn's goals, of course, don't describe the entire game, a game in which Arsenal yet again dominated possession to no avail.
The Rovers, of course, had managed to score two goals at the Emirates in October, but that match turned out far differently as Arsenal came back twice and then ripped four more past whipping boy Paul Robinson. Although it is but a rough guide to the problem, the Guardian Chalkboard for the game yesterday gives evidence about the lack of Arsenal's final ball. Despite having the same number of successful passes as in October, very few of them yesterday managed to find someone in a position to shoot (even with almost all of Arsenal's goals in October coming from outside of the box):
Armand Traore almost never ventured forward despite Blackburn playing almost entirely through the middle, and he delivered most of his passes to Diaby or Silvestre rather than into more attacking areas. Indeed, Robin van Persie received very little service of any kind, whereas in October he had been the fulcrum around which the attack spun. Sagna did a better job of getting forward than did Traore, but his crossing was not effective.
Arsène Wenger put it best, saying, "Our passing was an illusion...It was not sharp, not crisp, without forward vision and it was not good enough to be dangerous." Blackburn's two goals were indeed disappointing, just as their two goals were disappointing in October, when everyone complained not about Arsenal's weakness in front of goal, but their weakness defending against the counter. The difference between a 1-2 loss and a 6-2 win is at the other end, and the Gunners just didn't have it yesterday.
[Note: I have been tinkering around some with the Guardian Chalkboards, and find them much easier to use when crowded like those above if one hides the numbers. I find them helpful in reconstructing and analyzing play, and if everyone else likes them, I'm more than happy to continue to use them. If people are annoyed by them, I can stop. I'm also very interested to hear what everyone thinks of the analysis. Soccer analysis, to me, seems to divide fans more than in any other team sport in terms of analyzing what happened, and I think that it does a great job of sparking debate.]