Champions League hangover leaves Wenger reeling

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believed his side were feeling a Champions League hangover after slumping to their eighth Premiership away defeat at Blackburn.

Norwegian midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen scored the only goal in the 18th minute after great work by Craig Bellamy, who escaped down the right, shrugged off the challenge of Philippe Senderos on his way to the byline and cut the ball back for a simple tap-in.

The result was hard to take for Wenger and his team after their superb midweek victory over Real Madrid in Spain.

“It was a game that we were really unlucky to lose,” said the Gunners boss.

“We lacked a little mental sharpness but I cannot fault the players for effort because we were really on top of the game and gave absolutely everything right to the last minute.

“We were a bit too much within ourselves in the first half but that happens sometimes when you have played a big game in midweek. You know sometimes it is difficult to get going again.

“In the second half we played in one half of the pitch but unfortunately could not score.”

Blackburn have been berated in the past for their direct and physical approach to the game and although Wenger did not come straight out and add to that criticism he did offer an aside on Rovers’ style.

“Every game you face different kinds of problems. Today we faced a very different way to play the game and we got caught one where Blackburn scored a very good goal,” he said.

“It was difficult to find real fluency because the pitch was difficult and that did not help.

“It was important first not to concede a goal but after that, in the second half, we went up a gear and could not score.

“I am sad for the players because they gave everything but it was not to happen and we lost another game where we couldn’t score away from home.”

Wenger had previously described his side’s form on the road as “horrendous” after league defeats to Liverpool, Newcastle, West Brom, Bolton, Everton, Middlesbrough and Chelsea.

When asked how he felt about it now the Frenchman said: “That [result] does not make it better.

“I feel today is a bit of a different defeat to some of them because I feel if we had always played like we had today we wouldn’t have lost eight games away from home.”

In truth Arsenal did have chances to at least equalise – Brad Friedel made one great save from Emmanuel Adebayor in the second half – but none of them fell to top scorer Thierry Henry.

That was in part to the excellence of Andy Todd in defence, whose performance helped his side leapfrog Arsenal into fifth place.

“We are delighted we have been able to overcome a very established side,” said manager Mark Hughes, who got his tactics just right.

“We have got three points, leapfrogged above them in the Premier League so and all in all I’m very satisfied.

“We had opportunities. I thought Arsenal had a reasonable amount of possession over the 90 minutes, probably more than we had in the second half, but Brad had one save to deal with.

“Apart from that they never really got behind us and had shots on goal.”

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