Tuesday 12 November 2019

Wenger fast running out of answers as Gunners shoot themselves in the foot

Blackburn 4 , Arsenal 3, Rory Smith

Shrouded in the darkness of another false dawn, Arsene Wenger may wish to seek the guidance of his most recent conqueror on how to quell a gathering storm.

Steve Kean, after all, knows about mounting pressure, about endemic discontent. He had it all explained to him after taking the unusual step of agreeing to be grilled by a supporter last week.

The Scot's gambit worked: rather than 2,000 fans calling for his head before Saturday's amazing victory against Arsenal, only 200 materialised. Perhaps the same technique would work for Wenger as, for the first time in almost 15 years, his position is questioned.

"We had an open conversation which we put out on a podcast to an unofficial supporters' club that were unhappy with a number of things," explained the Blackburn manager.

"The inquisitor did not put forward any grievances. He just asked me about a number of players, how we want to play and about our transfer policy. It was a good conversation, and it seems to have gone down OK.

"I think that went a long way to changing the numbers (on the march). I thought it was going to be a couple of thousand but in the end it was a couple of hundred and hopefully they will go home happy. I have no problem meeting the fans. I have no problem taking questions."

Wenger, it is easy to suspect, might. Especially now, after yet another self-inflicted defeat.

And it's not simply because Arsenal lost -- this was their fifth defeat at Ewood Park across all competitions in the last 10 years.

It's to do with the manner in which they lost; how complicit they were in their own downfall; the fact that Gervinho and Mikel Arteta twice put them ahead; because twice Yakubu was left free to score his first goals for the hosts; and because, as Arsenal lunged towards the ludicrous, first Alex Song and then Laurent Koscielny put the ball into their own net.

"I do not have the measurement of humiliation," said the Frenchman, when asked whether this was more embarrassing than the 8-2 reverse at Old Trafford.

"They are two different results. This was down to a lack of sharpness and we were a bit unfortunate, too, but overall we never looked secure enough in defence. In our weak moments, we were not strong enough to resist."

It is a damning assessment, and one that hints at a shortcoming that has now become chronic. After all, Arsenal lost here after spending £31m in a last-minute trolley-dash through European football's shopping malls. They did so, Wenger admits, because they are not yet capable of "focusing completely" in defence for 90 minutes.

Two of Blackburn's goals came from set pieces, maintaining Arsenal's miserable record of conceding 50pc of their goals over the past two seasons that way.

That two of the four were also knocked into their own net by men in red shirts only added an element of farce to the rain-soaked proceedings.

When Gervinho left Paul Robinson flat-footed with a clipped shot low to the goalkeeper's right, Arsenal looked vastly superior. So, too, when Arteta rammed home Aaron Ramsey's cutback to give the visitors the lead once more after Yakubu's finish had drawn Blackburn level.

Arsenal, however, switched off. Song's knee diverted Ruben Rochina's free kick into his own net, Yakubu was left unmarked -- and perhaps offside -- to tap home Steven Nzonzi's cross shot and Martin Olsson forced Koscielny into a second own goal.

Marouane Chamakh drew one back late on and Arsenal had the chances to equalise but they failed.

No, perhaps aping Kean's deft manoeuvre and meeting the fans would be a bad idea, just at the moment. Too many questions.

Why spend £31m if it does not guarantee a solidity Arsenal have lacked for years?

When will Wenger be able to get his defenders to concentrate for an entire match?

The worry, of course is that defeat at the Premier League's lesser lights could become routine.

This result could be infinitely more damaging than their mauling in Manchester.

Old Trafford was so freakish as to be paranormal. Blackburn could yet be a paradigm. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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