Blackburn: the last retrospective

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By Phil Gregory

I was at the Blackburn game on Saturday, took my girlfriend to her first game on a bit of a whim after hearing on Saturday that tickets were available on the day of the game. I won’t prattle on about the game itself as that’s been done to death by now, but I will say a couple of things about the fans.

The last time I went to see a match at Blackburn was last season, when I went with a couple of Geordie mates to watch Blackburn versus Newcastle. Now as most of us are no doubt aware, Newcastle fans are renowned for being amongst the most passionate, turning out in droves no matter what tripe the team puts out on the pitch week in week out.

Yet at this game, upon finding themselves three nil down and worrying close to the relegation zone, the Toon Army went a little ballistic. I won’t list the chants, but “We’re shit, and we’re sick of it” was the chant that best sums it up.

How is that support? I myself am a fairly average footballer, and I’ve found that I’m a real confidence player: if I have a poor first five minutes, misplace a couple of passes or lose possession through a poor touch I’ll generally go on to have a sub-par game.

While the footballers we all love to watch are professionals, I think they too are affected by the fans in a similar way. Jimmy Bullard for Hull recently is a case in point. He’s by far their best player (not hard when the team is assembled by Phil Brown) and yet he was having an absolute nightmare, culminating in missing a crucial penalty and getting subbed off at half time.

When it became clear he was having a bad day, the fans went to town on the poor man, hitting his confidence and no doubt making the situation worse. This is exactly what I heard in the stands on Monday from a minority of the fans at Ewood Park. A couple of blokes in particular spent the best part of the last half hour spouting vitriol. How does that help the team? You have a right to express an opinion, but surely not when the team need your support and the match is still playing?

A couple of moments in particular stand out. One was the injury to Sagna: let’s set the scene. Sagna leapt to challenge for a ball in a manner that from where I stood was total commitment to the cause. He hurled himself into it, his only thought was of winning the ball and regaining possession.

He didn’t go in a little more softly and negate the risk of injury with the World Cup looming: in that moment he was putting everything into the Arsenal cause. So when he landed badly and I saw the ref gesture immediately for the stretcher (exactly as I saw he did from the stands when Ramsey went down at the Britannia) I was instantly concerned for Bacary’s wellbeing.

Not so the imbecile two rows behind me, who was yelling “get up you fucking softarse, we’re losing, getting up and fucking play on!”. Disgraceful behaviour given from what we could see, Sagna could well have got a serious injury – his landing could’ve dislocated his shoulder, and given the ref’s reaction that’s exactly what I thought had happened.

Later on, the loudmouth and a friend started up a nice song of “only one George Graham”. I don’t need to talk about this too much, whether it’s the fact he’s criticising Wenger’s team when it had TWO first eleven players out playing a team who’d only lost three times at home, or championing a man who is equal to Harry Redknapp when it comes to having a predisposition for brown envelopes.

The final whistle went and as we filtered out of the stand, the resident loudmouth started up again “you’ve lost it Wenger, retire you fucking idiot, you’re shit and your team is shit you stupid French bastard” and there we had it.

It has been coming, and there we had it: racism rearing it’s ugly head. Let’s make no mention of the faithful service this “stupid French bastard” has given our club or the current injury blight, nope, the team is shit and it’s because Wenger’s French.

I detest racism in all it’s forms, and have on more than one occasion have narrowly avoided a confrontation on a boozy night out when some uneducated moron spouts off at someone of a different race and I felt I had to say something.

But this man (and I use the word in it’s loosest possible way) was a fairly typical bloke, probably mid forties with a wife and kids. How would they react if they saw or heard his behaviour? There were kids all around us, families enjoying the game: should we really teach kids to look up to their elders when morons such as that are around?

Credit to the Blackburn fans though, on the walk back to the train station I got not one bit of grief that went beyond friendly banter, and even managed to pick up a cracking Chinese at a very reasonable price.

On the train home, we had the usual catastrophist talking nonsense to his mate about how we should buy X Y and Z. As ever the arguments were hilarious, and I eventually had to chip in and take the poor boy to the cleaners.

“Why didn’t Arshavin start eh?”

“Because he wasn’t fit to start! If he’d started and got injured you’d have complained about that too”

“Yeah but we lost without him.”

“We lost as Blackburn are a solid side at home, know how to push (no pun intended) the rules around and we had a squad decimated by injury.”

“That’s the modern game though. We need a squad. We should sell Eboue, Rosicky, Theo, Nasri, Denilson and Diaby. Buy Benzema, Hart and Cahill”

“Pal, you’re talking nonsense. Real Madrid tried that and it didn’t work so well. It might on Football Manager 2010, though. Should we have three excellent left backs so that when they all get injured we have a ready-made replacement? Looking at the players you want to sell, you’re actually making the squad smaller too.”

“But Denilson’s crap. I watch him every week and he’s always shit”

“Absolute rubbish. What about Barcelona, when he came on and turned the game in our favour?”

“Nah Denilson’s shit, look at Chelsea, they have Ballack on the bench.. He’s world class.”

“Ballack’s been dreadful this season”

“Yeah, he’s been shit, but he’s still world class, [he actually said that, no word of a lie] wouldn’t you rather have Ballack in the squad than Denilson and Diaby?”

“Nope, he’s dreadful.”

*The rest of the carriage of Gooners and Blackburn fans agree with me, and I give him a prawn cracker to keep his mouth from talking more nonsense.*

It’s just an exercise in futility. He’d make some unfounded statement, I’d counter it with evidence and he’d either repeat what he just said or say something else. The above is a fairly accurate transcript of our conversation. God help Wenger if these are the fans he has to please.

Only One Arsene Wenger.

Phil Gregory


Editorial note: I think Phil’s example sums up the dilemma we  face very well.  When there are people who just make a point, with no recourse to debate, and with no recourse to any facts, there is no dialogue.  Phil had it on  the  train, we have it now in  the discussions here.  So I’m going to go back to the tactic used a few times in the  past: Comments that are wholly off topic or which totally ignore issue we have resolved before will be deleted so those of us who want to follow a  debate can do so.  And  to be  quite clear what I mean, I’ll give one example if I may.  To come on  and say, “The youth project has failed” because all we have had is Cesc, will be cut, because it shows that the writer has not had the  courtesy to read any of the ten or more posts in which many of us have explained  that the youth project players are only 17 or 18 years old.  Likewise (as a second example) coming on and saying “we should have kept Flamini and  Hleb” without giving some evidence as to what happened in their first year or two at Milan and Barca, is nonsense.   As I was taught was I was about 10 years old, in school, if you want to join in  the debate, have the courtesy to listen to what other’s are saying first.  And as I learned  in secondary school, evidence is  generally helpful.  If you stay on  topic, cite evidence and are respectful of the site, you are welcome.

We should sack Wenger: he’s the same as Herbert Chapman

Back to the future and enter the world of fulfillment and ultimate peace

Go back 100 years, miss a turn and do not pass go

Eat more chips

40 Replies to “Blackburn: the last retrospective”

  1. This will prove interesting – what will Joe have to say (apart from making veiled homosexual jibes about my avatar picture that is!).

    With genuine regret that it has to be this way, this kind of censorship does lead to a better debate and should – in theory – stop trolls and serial wind-up merchants trawling for a reaction to fill their bitter, empty lives.

    It’s at least better than what happens at Le Grove – the site you can have an opinion not get one (unless the opinion does not concur with whatever pugnacious anti-Wenger bile Geoff is spouting today in which case you are banned for life).

  2. Of course when George Graham was boss, the same ‘fan’ in the crowd was probably shouting “Piss off you Jock bastard”

  3. Tony, a welcome surprise on the comments issues we’ve had recently. I was going to email you suggesting this, so I’m pleased we’ve taken steps.

    While no doubt some will whinge about censorship, I know that Tony won’t censor views that disagree as long as they do so properly. Numerous regular commenters such as Rhys disagree and are welcome to do so as they do it properly, so that there can be debate.

  4. Phil, nice write up.
    What is so strange is that when we lose like on monday people blame even players that are not even in the team as they are injured for the moment.
    When ever we lose people call for the head of Denilson and it doesn’t matter if he plays or not. If we lose it’s Denilson who is to blame for some.
    Very strange

  5. I suppose it’s human nature really, to always look for a scapegoat. Denilson is unfortunate as much of his game is off the ball, and what is on the ball is the basic side of things, keeping it simple and recycling the ball. He gets nothing flashy to do, so doesn’t catch the eye.

    Which could be why he decided to work on his distance shooting!

  6. Thank God one of them shoots from distance eh 😉
    Great article btw

  7. Yes, well said Terence – how on earth did we drill this habit out of Rosicky?

    He used to have a foot like a TRACTION ENGINE.

  8. Well another season virtually over, and lets be honest fellow gooners 12 months from now will be like groundhog day unless aw decides to abort this policy of trying to drive a ferrari with the engine of a focus, now lets reflect yes aw has been a great manager and its true he has bought to arsenal some of the best football we have ever seen, but fact this is 5 years without a trophy, and no we have no divine right to win, but it is clear as day follows night this team that aw has assembled will not compete against man u or chelsea, why wenger cant see it this is a complete mystery to me, this summer is time for wenger to change and sign 3/4 quality players to enable us to compete if that means shippin out the likes of eduardo, bendtner, silvestre. rosicky and the talented but non commited arshavin then so be it, what ever your views on this , fellow gooners i leave you with this thought can you name me another big team in europe who after 5 years without a trophy wouldnt be sacking there manager. aw change or go

  9. I’m sure there’s a stat that shows we’ve scored the most from outside the box in the League this season, I’d love to find the source. Just goes to show how the established wisdom gets outdated quickly.

  10. Finn – two questions for you.

    1. How do you think the league would have panned out if no team had any injuries?
    2. How do you think Chelsea and United would’;ve coped with our injuries? Specific examples could be having their best striker out for most of the season, 4th and 5th choice central defenders playing a fair % of games or key midfielders missing chunks of the season, along with their deputies.

    Yes AW hasn’t won trophies for a significant number of seasons, but at least three of the five were transitional seasons, where we were blooding youth. The other two he put together a credible challenge considering the competitiveness of the league and the circumstances.

    If the team failed consisted I would agree with you. But the fact is we are improving, and all the while doing it on a stable financial base. Can united and Chelsea spend big in the future? Unlikely. Are they improving every year? Not at all.

    All we need is the rub of the green and a few tweaks to the squad this summer

  11. Phil, I have counted it and I came up to 25 % of our goals from outside the box. I have them somewhere but not on this computer but I will be looking for it tomorrow

  12. An off point observation… Those flickering ads make the blog a bit hard to read…

  13. Now, im not saying this will happen, but in a kind of semi realistic but ideal world this would be the squad i would have next year… the player i have “to leave” i have nothing against, i just dont see a place for them in the squad
    Developing/Backup players could go on loan

    1st Choice 2nd Choice Backup Developing
    Keeper Buffon Fabianski Mannone Szczeny
    LB Clichy Gibbs Botelho Cruise
    RB Sagna Eboue Coquelin Hoyte
    CB 1 Vermaelen Djourou Nordtveit Ayling
    CB 2 Subotic Gallas Campbell Bartley
    DM Song Flamini Eastmond Frimpong
    M Nasri Ramsey Emmanuel-Thomas Henderson
    A Mid Fabregas Merida Wilshere Aneke
    InDHole Arshavin Rosicky Hazard Barazite
    F 1 RVP Walcott Vela Murphy
    F 2 Chamack Bendtner Wellington Afobe

    To Go
    Almunia- 4m Senderos-1m Sylvestre-free Traore-2.5m
    Denilson-6m Diaby-4.5m Eduardo-6.5m

    Total £ In £23.5m

    To Arrive
    Subotic-14m Buffon-15m Flamini-5m Hazard-8m
    Chamack-Free Wellington

    Total £ Out £42m

    Transfer Kitty Around £50m
    Balance £ £-18.5m
    New Transfer Kitty Approx £31.5m

  14. Thanks Walter. and I take it you compared that to the rest of the league? (or did I make that bit up!)

  15. finn absolutely spot on. I personally think more players need to leave like vela, gallas (if he wont sign), traore and denilson. I think eduardo should be loaned out next year to another prem league team such as west ham or blackburn etc. bendtner sold def, coz of this chamahk dude. well even mourinho said it nearly 3 years ago “wenger has the safest job in football” the board wont sack him because he makes them very rich with not spending any money!

  16. Oh well, could anyone explain to me what Finn’s comments here have to do with the article?

    As I read the article it was about the attitude of supporters. Finn’s article is about something quite different. That’s what I am trying to stop.

  17. Shane, what about squad depth? Traore is as good a 3rd choice left back as you’ll find, and we’re already light in the wideleft position behind Arshavin (rosicky and Nasri aren’t direct enough to play there for my liking).

    Totally disagree with you on Bendtner, he’s been excellent and most sides in the league would snap our hands off for him if the price was right.

  18. a Mate asked me How many Premiership titles have Arsenal won at Old Trafford can someone please tell me. Ive googled everything but cant seem to come up with the answer.


    Silly me.

    After posting the above I went digging and searching, and noticed that Finn and Shane had certain similarities in their writing style, their praise for each other.

    I peered a bit further, and looked at addresses, and sources, and…

    What do you know. All the evidence points to Shane and Finn being the same person, or at the very least two people sitting at the same computer.

    We’ve been done – in our politeness, our willingness to be reasonable and to be open to opposite points of view, we’ve been had.

    My apologies to one and all for not noticing this earlier. I suspect that quite a few more of the commentators putting the same point of view across are all the same people too.

  20. I know the stat about scoring from outside the box but, regardless you must admit we do not shoot from range often enough. This is a frustration almost every Arsenal fan and most neutrals feel throughout the season.

  21. I suppose it comes down to footballing philosophy really.

    Allardyce-ites would argue the more the ball is in the box, the more likely a team is to score

    Wengerball works on the premise of possession leading to better chances with quality players creating, so is the better view in his mind. Long shots would lose possession, and Wenger would argue don’t work as often as if you created the chances and shot in the box.

    I’d argue we score plenty as we do (and this season that’s been done without Van Persie. Our football is frustrating when it doesn’t work, but if we look at the data, it works very often.

  22. I spend many an evening reading the various Arsenal blogs – ANR, Gunning Hawk, Le-Grove and this one to name a few and I always liked this one and Le-Grove the best as they are polar opposites of each other and I always found my self somewhere in the middle. I don’t want Wenger sacked but I am absolutely astounded at his sheer blinded ignorance at our obvious failings – Goalkeeper, tactical ineptitude and defensive naiveity. Simple things like when we defend a corner leave a couple of our forwards on the halfway line so their whole team can’t bully our keeper like against Blackburn. However yesterday’s Untold Arsenal blog brought to my attention something ugly rearing its head over at Le-grove. Racism. I’m sorry but they’re calling Wenger a C**t, a French Bastard, Wenker, all sorts. I always suspected them to be a bit Right wing but I was mistaken – they are far right facists and it’s scary. I agree with a lot of what is said over there but not the abusive racism that’s taken place. With the ammount of foreign players in our team I don’t understand where it’s coming from?

  23. @Tony,

    I suspected as much on holiday in Florida… I could have sworn I pointed out in a funny way but I guess it slipped through the cracks…. I distinctly recall three writers with the same writing styles with different avatars… Finn, Shane, & ? Forgot… I suspect as you there are a bunch of peoples trying to get our goats… Not me though. I’ll try to help out when I see that.

  24. hehe…nice observation tony…i think i should try that thing some time 🙂

  25. Lol about Finn!

    Phil, to be honest, compared to the other european big teams, as gooners we’ve been quite the trusting and lenient fans, in a manager who most of us still believe could bring us even greater success. Its telling that most call for player scalps, very few actually want AW to go. So its not about AW pleasing the fans, as its become fairly evident he really doesn’t bother about the fans a lot. Why else would he never even have the courtesy to apologize to us over some of these displays, choosing instead to defend, almost comically, players like Flapianski. Fabregas, a true captain who respects the fans, had that courtesy after the Porto match.
    AW is not about to go around pleasing the fans – signing AA23 then that FA semi fiasco is further proof – neither is the board, therefore those of us who feel we have no obligation to support him currently are not in any way wrong. The residual support we owed him from his ancient achievements is rightly fast expiring.

    Only thing I now owe my support to at the grove aside from The Arsenal, are players who show heart and commitment.

  26. In other news, the spuds are becoming a bit annoying now, aren’t they?

  27. wenger needs to buy at least 2 defenders(if gallas goes) and 1 defensive midfielder in my opinion, i think that’s fair enough assessment?? that’s required to win at least 1 trophy.

  28. I admire you Tony. Not only for your incisive arguments, and sound reasoning but also for your patience. For it takes unbelievable patience to write a blog that objectively defends the club/manager/players from the very people that support it. You’re a far better person than I because reading some of the responses that you regularly get, I would :
    1) mutter obscenities
    2) break something
    3) stop bothering to write anymore

    I have a question for you :

    Considering the stubborn mule that the lord Arsene Wenger is ( It may not seem like it, but it is a compliment ), do you think the supporters starting to turn on him will have an effect on his decision to stay?

  29. I am really perplexed by the attitude of some of our fans. The ones who do not see that finance is the single most important factor in modern football are not worthy of the shirt.

    I am also concerned about the guys who say “I know that Fabianski was fouled, but he still shouldn’t have flapped”. Do we need players who are not only capable of playing the game at the highest level, but are also able to play at that level outside of the rules? Must we have castrated players so that when they get kicked in the crouch and the referee doesn’t blow, they show no pain and defend at the required level? Must they be able to play wearing bullet proof vests so when the opponents shoot them and the referee doesn’t blow, they defend to the standard required?

    Guys, I say you are idiots. There is only one place to draw the line and that is at the rule book. Desigunner has done a wonderful frame by frame analysis of both goals against Blackburn and they are both preceded by bad fouls. Not marginal fouls, but blatant, obvious fouls. That they weren’t blown is unlikely as a kick in balls not being blown. Hold on a minute…..they weren’t blown!

    Tony, if I were a season ticket holder, after watching Atkinson give two goals to Blackburn and not award a penalty to us and a red card to Salgardo after his rugby tackle on RvP, I would not renew my season ticket. Not being a season ticket holder, I just have a lower state of interest. The referee is the most important person on the pitch, and that makes football much less enjoyable.

    Following my theme of exaggerating current events, what would fans think if a person or a company bought Liverpool, but instead of putting in 700m like Abramovich, they put in 7 billion? They could buy the best 20 odd players in world, paying their clubs six figure sums in transfer fees and paying the players 400000 or 500000 per week. Gerrard and Torres could be kept à la Lampard and Terry. A stadium would be built out of petty cash. And boy, would they win trophies! Ridiculous? No more ridiculous than Chelsea is now. I read recently of an EPL club with a 15k salary cap. Chelsea has several players on ten times or more than that.

  30. Considering the stubborn mule that the lord Arsene Wenger is ( It may not seem like it, but it is a compliment ), do you think the supporters starting to turn on him will have an effect on his decision to stay?

    Well, I think I would say, “screw the lot of you,” but then the man is obsessed by what he is doing, and he sees the results of the 17 years coming through the youth project.

    I suspect the dirty tricks going on around him in terms of what Chelsea and Man City and others are up to are far more obscene than what some “supporters” are saying.

    And elsewhere (sorry just lost track of who said it) yes I was tipped off about the oddities of Finn etc, and it was my fault for being slow. Something like 20 different identities all “debating” with each other. Quite amazing.

  31. pushing, physical play is gonna continue in epl, teams will continue such tactics against arsenal….it’s not gonna change, but will wenger???i don’t think so…hence no title for wenger in his remaining tenure….i will be very happy if
    1)he changes or
    2)epl canges or
    3)wenger performs a miracle and win title with his current attitude

    but most importantly he stops blaming everyone else for HIS TACTICAL INABILITY…

  32. Man, some must have a sad live if you want to debate with yourself on the internet.
    Or you must be someone who is just trying to give the impression that there are many who think like him. In the hope we shut it up?

  33. Nicely written Phil. Bit of hard luck sitting in front of Le Grove and Stubby?

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