Date: 17th February 2007 at 3:35pm
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It wasn`t pretty and it was far from a cup classic but Rovers end there decisive week still very much in both cup competitions, although we will now have the decisive week all over again!

There was never any danger of a 6-2 mauling here as Rovers` resolute defence kept Arsenal at bay for the full ninety minutes, ensuring a reply at Ewood Park on the 28th February.

Both Arsene Wenger and Mark Hughes made changes to their teams from the sides that played in midweek. Incredibly Wenger made nine alterations with Hughes making a modest four in comparison.

On a crisp and clear lunchtime in London, Rovers kicked off and immediately sat back. The opening ten minutes passed with little incident, bar a miscued volley from Thierry Henry in the sixth minute as both sides felt each other out.

It was clear from the opening exchanges Rovers had no intention of attacking the Arsenal defence, looking nervous and tentative going forward. Shabani Nonda was the lone striker with David Dunn supporting just behind.

All the Congolese front-man had to feed off was a number of long balls over the top and some poorly executed passes from Dunn.

Rovers were content to sit with two banks of four ensuring Arsenal had to play with width and there was little chance of balls in behind or the strikers dropping off. Mokoena was excellent in stamping out any loose threats in the middle of the park but the first half belonged to the back four, all of whom played their part in neutralising Arsenal`s threat.

Ryan Nelsen was back to his commanding best often making those decisive final tackles, Stephen Warnock completely eradicated any threat from the rapid Theo Walcott out wide, and Zurab Khizanishvili and Chris Samba were resolute, timing everything to perfection.

In a barren first half there was little else to report except some wild long distance efforts from William Gallas and Mathieu Flamini.

As the teams trudged off for half-time it was clear Arsenal were frustrated and an aggressive second half would ensue.

Right from the off Arsenal looked to lift the pace. They were more direct and the passing was beginning to zip across the surface in great synchronicity.

Theo Walcott drilled a shot wide after some smart link-up play with the impressive Jeremie Aliadiere, but that was to be his last involvement. Wenger aimed to shake things up a little by replacing Walcott and a forgettable Freddie Ljungberg with danger men Thomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Adebayor with twenty minutes remaining.

By which time Matt Derbyshire had been introduced in place of an exhausted Bruno Berner. Derbyshire almost made a telling contribution as well. A glanced header from Nonda found its way through to Derbyshire on the corner of the penalty area. He showed great strength to hold off Phillipe Senderos before hooking a volley over his head that looped dangerously towards the Arsenal goal. Almunia had to scurry back onto his line and tip the ball over for Rovers` first corner.

It was the first moment of danger Rovers had created and it was so close to dipping in.

Then came a moment of controversy. Referee, Martin Atkinson, had generally performed well, despite making some questionable calls, and in some cases none at all, against Rovers, however, he missed what appeared to be an obvious penalty claim from Arsenal.

Aliadiere jinked one way and then the next in the area and a flailing leg from a Stephen Warnock lunge caught the Frenchman and he collapsed to the ground. No penalty was awarded, much to the bemusement of the Arsenal contingent.

Arsenal continued to raise the tempo but Rovers were working overtime in order to contain them, and contain them they did, well until the 83rd minute.

It is the mark of a great goalkeeper when he does nothing for 83 minutes but remains focused to make three world class saves.

First of all Rosicky burst through after a clever assist from Adebayor`s hand but Friedel was quick off his line and thwarted Little Mozart on the six yard line with his legs.

Still Friedel saved the best for his encore. Some shabby and indecisive defending from Rovers allowed Adebayor to dance his way to the by-line before pulling a ball back to Henry. His dinked effort was drifting goal-wards before Friedel diverted it at full stretch but the ball rolled invitingly into the path of the onrushing Justin Hoyte. He thumped an effort goal-ward but in the flash of an eye Friedel was up and down again to make one of the saves of the season.

There was nothing more Arsenal could throw at Rovers so they will have it all to do again at Ewood Park, when Rovers will have a number of players back from injury.


There was some sound defending throughout, which will please Mark Hughes. In particular the display of Nelsen, who has looked a little short on fitness recently, but he was back to his best here.

There was nervy and loose passing from everyone.

David Dunn is still lacking the fitness but showed he hasn`t lost any of that spark with some excellent turns and tight control.

Matt Derbyshire made a real difference when he came on. He should start against Leverkusen because he is fearless and is high on confidence at the moment.

Player Ratings

Brad Friedel 9
Amazing saves at the end and this isn’t the first time that Arsenal fans will be cursing his name.

Khizanishvili 7
Returned at full-back and was great. Perhaps a little slow but he reads the game well.

Warnock 8
Could have conceded a penalty but that aside he was brilliant.

Nelsen 9
God is back to his best!

Samba 7
Another solid and encouraging display.

Emerton 7
Really helped out defensively and tried to creat an outlet.

Berner 6
Looked a tad unsure at times but his defensive nouse helped.

Mokoena 6
Tidied up but he can not pass and do much else.

Bentley 6
Worked very hard but couldn’t influence the game.

Dunn 7
Some may question the seven but he put in ninety minutes and never stopped. Showed some nice touches too. He will be a real bonus when he is fully fit again.

Nonda 7
Tried his best and was always looking to play on the shoulder of the defence. Should be commended for his effort.

Derbyshire 7
Gave Rovers more of an attacking edge after his introduction.

Todd 4
Played two minutes again but still managed to get booked again! How does he do it?


27 Replies to “Arsenal 0.v.0 Rovers”

  • It was dull but tactically brilliant from Hughes. I know some claim that we don’t want a reply but at least we will have home advantage and a number of key players back like Gamst and Benni, maybe even Tugs too. Very impressed with us defensively!

  • You make it sound a far better game than it was. I wish your better players had played in this game because at least you may have tried to get out of your own box. It was a dire, probably a fair result overall because arsenal had no tempo to their play. Although it was a penalty & the ref was looking straight at it but after the wigan game last week we was never going to get it.

  • Hey Ash Goo, you have to make these articles interesting otherwise no one would read it, eh? It was dull there is no doubting that. However, when you have such a depleted squad as we do, we had little other choice. You would have polverised us had we attacked!

  • roversman, I know we would have. Thats why I wanted you to attack!! lol.

    I do understand what you are saying & as I said in a previous comment, us gooners know all about injuries. I do feel hughes could have tried to make it a bit more interesting though, 90 minutes of defending in a cup game is not great. I would have understood had it been a league match where points were at stake. Lets be honest neither team needed a replay with all the games we have!!

  • Ash, we’re a cup side… we don’t ness need points…. we want to win things and if we have to frustrate you then so be it!

  • copied from last thread…..i don’t agree ash goon…. We were awesome! Remember its not always about spectacle… but getting the job done, and bringing the status quo in your favour. We did that fantastically well today. Halted a fantastic team, with very skillfull players, got them back to our patch, its given some of our injured 1st teamers chance to get back for the replay and also stuck us in the record books as the first away team not to conceed at the Emirates……… Personnally i’d say WELL DONE YOU BLUUUUEEEESSSSS!

  • Fairs fair govt, good result for your depleted team today! Bear in mind though that you’re the second team to stop the gunners from scoring at the Emirates not the first! CSKA in the Champs League claimed that one , though you’re the first English side! Yep, bloody frustrating, but well done all the same!

  • Wasn’t pretty at all but we got the job done. Had a game plan and stuck to it. I didn’t want a replay but given a replay or going out today… only one winner isn’t there! Bring on the game at Ewood. We tried the play you at your own game approach and got thumped (even if the scoreline flattered you), resorted to the beat you up not good to watch and not something that I liked approach and still lost, and probably rightly so as a result. We set out our stall today and the Gooners couldn’t break us down, all credit to Sparky and the lads for that. A BIG thanks has to go to Bradders as he made a couple of World Class saves. Is our name on the Cup?!?! It will still be very hard for us to get past the Gooners in the replay but with players back, them with one eye (even more so) on the Champions League and 3rd/4th spot I have belief we could still come through this tie now and not just hope!

  • I was delighted to see Derbs back today! My favourite son has returned, start him againt Leverkusen on Thursday and my belief we’ll come through the tie will grow even more. The back four were spit on today, well done lads.

  • Wish Friedel was 10 years younger, but then he would be Barcelona’s GK would’nt he?
    Does anyone think Brown is a decent replacement? How about Enckelman?

  • Wenger is now moaning about replays in the FA Cup, he knew the rules of the competition before it started, that was the time to register his greivance not after another draw, Sour Grapes anyone.

  • Enk for me is a decent squad player nothing more, would far rather have Jas come in should Bradders miss out at all (which touch wood won’t happen until he calls time om his career!) I think Jas is a quality keeper and will make an able successor to Bradders but not a replacement, his absence will be VERY, VERY hard to fill. But hey Bradders has still got a good four years left in him I’d say if he wants?!?!

  • The big clubs want all the success and glory but don’t want to play the games! Sorry but you can’t have it both ways. To be successful you’ve got to be prepared to play A LOT of games. Players get paid enough and we get charged enough to watch them so just get on with it I say. Saw an interview with Adebayor earlier and he was spot on with his comments about people missing work etc to watch the team play, he seems more than grateful for what he’s got and is happy to give plenty back, you need more like that. The League Cup has been all but killed off (restricting ties to one leg until you get to the final, letting European participating clubs come in at a latter stage etc.) the FA Cup, the BEST cup competition in the world is going a similar route abolish replays and you put another nail in the cofin of the English game. Many clubs rely on replays and these can make this difference between them going out of business or not. Exeter for example a few years back, their pairing with United and earning a replay all but wiped out their debt. Replays may be a “burden” to the “bigger clubs” but tough.

  • Hughes da man, sorry but your last comment was somewhat arrogant. Wenger wasn’t moaning at all, just stating facts, the fa have already changed the rules of the fa cup which is why semi finals & finals are already decided on the day. Of course wenger doesn’t want replays & neither in truth does any team that regularly plays european football. Each manager wants to look after their own interests thats all. As for col8, if sour grapes were involved I think wenger would have been complaining about corrupt officials who don’t give us penalties when they are clear cut, instead he says these things happen & didn’t whinge like the Fat Sam’s, Martin O’neills, Paul Jewell’s & mark hughes of this world.

  • How do you make it out to be arragont Ashburton? The FA Cup NEEDS replays to make it fair on ALL clubs. Srapping semi final and final replays shouldn’t have happened as it was, the FA were wrong to do this, but being played on neutral soil gives no club an advantage so playing for a draw gives no advantage, except an extra game but still not on home turf. Rovers are pretty big club but try seeing this from clubs point of views that don’t have the success that Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and United do. To be the best you’ve got to play a lot of games, you can’t be successful without doing this so you can’t be unhappy at having to play a lot of games. Players get enough money and the bigger clubs have big enough squads so they can cope. Ideally we wouldn’t have wanted a replay from this game but if playing for a draw brought you back to Ewood kept us in the cup and gave us a better chance of winning and progressing I’d take this any day of the week. If we want the cup bad enough we’ll dig deep and find that something extra and cope with the massive amount of games that will pile up with a squad far small than Arsenal’s and the others.

  • I like Arsenal and I like Arsene Wenger but Ashburton for you to say Wenger doesn’t “whinge” come on be serious!?!? He can whinge with the best of them unless he doesn’t see what happens… Just because the ref didn’t give the penalty (and it was a penalty no two ways about it) that doesn’t make him corrupt.

  • No I said he didn’t whinge, not that he doesn’t. My point is that he rarely blames ref’s for anything, occasionally yes, but not like some of the others. If he is guilty of one thing, he doesn’t always give the opposition the credit he should, mainly because he concentrates on his own team performance. I remember Jewell saying last season that arsenal should learn to lose gracefully, then he shows up his double standards by reacting like he did last sunday. I posted on the arsenal vital site comments & will say it again, that people should learn to do some research before spouting rubbish. Wenger suggested doing away with fa cup replays as a way of bringing down fixtures. It wasn’t with regards arsenal’s current position but more in response to fifa who want the premiership reduced to 18 teams so more international fixtures can be fitted in. Their overall plan is to reduce all european leagues (top leagues) to 16 teams, so who does that hurt?? Certainly not arsenal!! But its easier for people to go off clips of what wenger said or things that are printed in the arsenal hating media, rather than actually view a whole interview & see what questions were asked!!

  • By the way, I wasn’t saying the ref was corrupt either. I was having a pop at all the managers, eg paul jewell & fat sam who have accused the refs of being corrupt after the last weeks games against us. I also thought dowd was poor last week but a vital decision went against arsenal when the game was 1-0 to wigan, but jewell preferred to overlook this because it didn’t suit his agenda!!

  • Fair play, I tip my cap to you their you did say he didn’t, not he doesn’t whinge… The FA, FIFA, UEFA etc. are basically out for themselves. The big clubs will be support by these organisations so as long as these clubs support them in return they’ll be seen OK. Changes won’t effect the likes of Arsenal but football is a game about more than just the big clubs the footballing bodies need to remember this.

  • In fairness to Wigan though they should have had a penalty which would have seen you go down to ten men when 1-0 up, thirty seconds later a man light and an offside goal later it was 1-1. I honestly can’t recall what Arsenal had ruled off at 1-0 down, was it a clear goal or something?

  • Yes adebayor scored a goal which was onside but ruled offside!! The score at the time was 1-0 & it was before all the other decisions. So it should have been 1-1 & i honestly feel had that been given we would have won anyway & all this penalty stuff etc would never have happened. Decisions go for & against teams but Jewell just wanted to blame someone for his teams awful display of sportsmanship like timewasting from the first minute!! Against blackburn this season we have had a man sent off (quite rightly for reacting) yet savage stayed on despite his violent attack on gilberto & now we have had a blatant penalty turned down, but apparently big clubs get all the decisions!! Personally I would rather win a game with no controversial decisions but it seems certain managers want to blame refs for their own incompetence!! Was it dowd’s fault wigan lost 8 games in a row?? or was that jewell’s fault??

  • Yeah at Ewood we have to give it a go, but more importantly we will have some key players back. We have every chance of progressing I think.

  • that game was as dull as ditchwater, but fair play to you guys, sparky obviously wanted to make sure nothing unfortunate happened like the end of the game in the league. It was up to us to find a solution to the problem, and we couldnt do it on that day. There’s always the replay though 😉

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