Arsenal's title bid in tatters

by AFP on Apr 03, 2011

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Arsenal's title challenge is in tatters as the Gunners lost more ground on leaders Manchester United after being held to a 0-0 draw against Blackburn on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger's side went into the Emirates Stadium clash knowing that anything less than a victory would not be good enough to maintain their push for the title.

The north Londoners would have been delighted to hear that West Ham were beating United 2-0 at half-time earlier on Saturday.

However, United's ability to respond to a crisis is in stark contrast to Arsenal's mental lapses and the Premier League leaders came back to win 4-2, while Wenger's men were unable to see off 10-man Blackburn despite Steven N'Zonzi's late dismissal.

Arsenal are seven points behind United with one game in hand and the destiny of the title is now out of their hands.

It is an astonishing meltdown by an Arsenal side who just over a month ago went into the League Cup final against Birmingham with genuine hopes of winning a quadruple.

Instead, they lost to Birmingham and then crashed out of the Champions League to Barcelona and the FA Cup against United.

It has been a frustrating time for Wenger, whose wait for silverware has now reached six years.

Arsenal winger Theo Walcott was vocal in English press on Saturday as he claimed his team would win the Premier League this season.

Walcott looked as good as his word too, as he started this match at breakneck speed with some surging runs down the right.

Walcott's pace and delivery almost caused Ryan Nelsen to turn the ball into his own next inside the opening five minutes.

While Arsenal enjoyed the lion's share of possession in the early exchanges, Martin Olsson had a half-chance to give Blackburn the lead but under pressure from Sebastien Squillaci, he was unable to hit the target.

Rovers midfielder Brett Emerton then fired his free-kick wide after Laurent Koscielny made an unnecessary foul on David Hoilett on the edge of the box.

Arsenal quickly upped the pressure once again and Andrey Arshavin's effort stung Paul Robinson's palms.

Jack Wilshere squandered a great chance to put Arsenal in front when he fired wide from just six yards out after starting the sweeping move.

But Arsenal's problems have been in defence this season and in particular with their erratic goalkeepers.

Manuel Almunia has come in for fierce criticism in recent weeks and he did his battered reputation no good when he spilled Olsson's speculative long-range effort

The Spanish keeper them fumbled at Paul Robinson's long free-kick into the box.

The second-half introduction of Cesc Fabregas as a 58th minute substitute failed to spark Arsenal as the hosts lacked the composure to break down Blackburn's defence.

They were even given a helping hand when referee Phil Dowd sent off N'Zonzi with 14 minutes to go for a tackle on Koscielny.

In truth the decision looked hard on the Rovers midfielder. But even with their extra man, Arsenal could not find a breakthrough as substitute Marouane Chamakh saw his late effort blocked.