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Arsenal Blackburn: what will happen

by Phil Gregory

Blackburn come to the Emirates this weekend, with manager Sam Allardyce arguably the antithesis of everything our own boss stands for. Ever unpopular amongst Arsenal fans for his teams’ “anti-football” physical approach to the game, credit must be given to Allardyce for making small clubs punch above their weight for years on end.

However, Blackburn Rovers have been distinctly average this season and not as hard to break down as one would expect an Allardyce side to be.

Recent form:

With Arsenal notching up three consecutive wins in the league and Europe, Gooners everywhere will go into this tie full of confidence. A 2-0 home win over an Olympiacos side that looked to park the bus much as Blackburn will try to do found themselves dominated throughout the game, despite the goals only coming later on in the match

With only one loss in their last six games, and a 89th minute winner in their previous game versus Villa (who normally travel so well) things are looking up for Blackburn.

Early on, a poor start became a desperate mission to get their first win under their belt and from then on the form has steadily improved. It’s still a mixed bag, with the home win over Villa a highlight, and a  3-0 away loss at Goodison Park a sore point amongst the Ewood Park faithful.

Injuries:

Arsenal are without long term absentees Denilson, Djourou, Nasri and Fabianksi, with Almunia also out with a virus, though back in full training (again, it seems). Eduardo is out with a thigh muscle injury, though Bendtner and Walcott are now available.

Blackburn are missing the impressive left back Gael Givet with a knee injury.

Key men:

With Blackburn fairly poor up front, and expected to park the bus anyway, Arsenal are going to look towards the creative players in the squad to break down the massed Blackburn defence.

With a plethora of riches in this regard, Fabregas, Arshavin and Rosicky all be looking to pick the pass unlocks the defence. With the previously goal-shy Robin Van Persie entering what looks to be a rich vein of form, Arsenal are not lacking matchwinners.

Blackburn’s recent resilience has owed much to a strong defence, with  Gael Givet slotting in well to replace the departed Stephen Warnock, though injury has ruled the Frenchman out.  Samba will always pose a threat at set pieces, while David Dunn has been performing superbly at the heart of the Blackburn midfield.

Arsenal expected line up:

Mannone

Eboue Vermaelen Gallas Clichy

Song

Fabregas Rosicky

Bendtner Van Persie Arshavin

Subs: Szcznesy, Diaby, Silvestre, Ramsey, Wilshere, Vela, Walcott

Where to start in terms of the detail? Manuel Almunia’s chest infection must be more like tuberculosis than was explained on Arsenal.com when the news initially broke.

It’s all very peculiar, considering he was “back in full training” to quote Wenger two weeks ago, and in the pre-match press conference issued today, he’s back in full training again! Surely if he’d had a setback, a statement would be released as it was during Rosicky’s lengthy layoff?

Eboue slots in at right back to aid breaking down Blackburn’s ten man defence; I only got to see the first half of the Olimpiacos game, but his performance arguably warrants this start too. That said, we could see Sagna for purely tactical reasons: he offers more aerially than Eboue, which will be important when we defend set pieces.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Ramsey replace Tomas but it’s unlikely. There wouldn’t be a drop in the quality of the final ball, and Rosicky should be wrapped in cotton wool during these physical matches.

Bendtner comes back into the side after his crash (I’ve heard some crackers from Arsenal fans “…in the aftermath of the crash, Arsène Wenger was heard saying Bendtner lacked experience and sharpness on the night…”) I quite like Bendtner in that wide right role, he offers a long option on the counter and often catches fullbacks out with unexpected trickery.

I’d like Song off when we have a two goal cushion. Sagna isn’t included on the bench as we are struggling for space, and he’s unlikely to be called upon even if he is included amongst the subs.

Prediction:

I’m going to agree with Ben, my Blackburn season-ticket holding friend, and go for three nil to the Arsenal. We aren’t the same team who could regularly be held to a draw by a poorer team; the creativity of the personnel at our disposal has seen to that.

Blackburn too aren’t the same team that were in and around the European places over recent seasons: previously impressive players such as Gamst Pedersen and Emerton are looking decidedly average, and Benni McCarthy is nowhere near the level of the 06/07 campaign, form that had him linked with Chelsea in the summer that followed.

Halftime musing:

With Manchester United’s multimillion pound medical department presumably taking the utmost care of Michael Owen, was anybody else surprised at Fergies quote of “… but he had a rest day, and he thought he was fine…” speaking in regards to the player playing after pulling a muscle in a recent training session? Correct me if I’m wrong, but is Owen a qualified doctor? Seems a very carefree attitude from the Manchester United medical staff, given his injury history…

Want more?  Try www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk for life 100 years ago.

15 comments to Arsenal Blackburn: what will happen

  • Renan

    Perfect. 4-0 to the Gunners ! ALLEZ !

  • walter

    A nice analys Phil but I really do think that Sagna will be involved somewhere. Wouldn’t be surprised if he even starts. Our defence in the PL was always with Sagna and I do think Wenger will stick to this.
    Just read somewhere on the internet dat Arshavin still is not 100 %, if we can believe this, so it could be that Eboue plays upfront or in midfield with Rosicky up front.
    But then again what do I know… only guessing… 😉

  • Wenger said that he dropped Sagna because he had played a full game for France… if so, then back he comes for the game v Blackburn.

    The forward line of Bendtner, Arshavin, Van Persie looks good, but if Arshavin is not to be rushed, why not Van Persie in the middle, Bendtner on the right and Vela on the left? To me, Vela has that magic of Arshavin in which he can take the ball through spaces that are so small I can only imagine they exist in a parallel universe through which Vela dives to re-enter real space a few seconds later.

    Of course on the other hand I have just had a couple of glasses of red wine and it is friday.

    Does anyone know, is there life on Blackburn?

  • Phil Gregory

    Eboue starting was purely a personal preference – sagna’s shortcomings in his final ball are there for all to see, and with Blackburn lacking up front i wouldn’t be worried about having Eboue at the back there at all. That said, we will almost certainly see Sagna !

  • Cape Gooner

    In respect of the Almunia saga, I know as little as everybody else. However, I would like to speculate that he has been badly affected by all this England nonsense. He went from being a clear first choice (my opinion) to someone nobody wanted. I think he should have got his British passport and then stepped back and left it up to Capello.

  • tony

    its amazing how jus a few months ago eboue was getting booed and nothing could go right for him but now evryone is calling for him to replace sagna. i wasnt one of those though cos i knew the guy had talent. i knew that he cudnt jus become a bad player overnight. i was so convinced of this because in 2006 he was part of a backline that took us to the cl final thats why i believe senderous would become a good cb as well. my favourite eboue game has to be against real madrid at the bernabau. he marked zidane so tightly he resorted to fouling him. go on eboue make them regret ever booing you!!!!!!!

  • don't believe the hype

    I agree about Eboue and Senderos tony. They are both confidence players and as their confidence grows we will see more and more of their quality.

    Cape Gooner, I don’t think Almunia’s woes have anything at all to do with the England speculation, because I don’t think he was really hoping to get the call. I read somewhere that a close relative of his wife’s either died recently or is seriously ill. If true it could explain why he might be a little distracted.

  • Re Eboue, personally I was surprised when we signed Sagna, as I felt we already had a good right back in Eboue, and a backup in Hoyte the Elder.

    I have never been 100% convinced of Eboue as a midfielder, and he seems to lack cool in front of goal, but I am the person who eight games into Henry’s first season suggested that Wenger had made an error. So what do I know?

    In other matters, the Appy Arry Redknapp story is fun – suddenly he went to being so likely to resign that the bookies stopped taking bets on it. The story is that the police are about to deliver their next statement on Arry (who remains on police bail) and hence the stories.

    Nice to see the Totts unsettled a little. Especially with Arrys previous clubs (Southampton and Portsmouth) both in such an atrocious position.

    Meanwhile if you have any interest in history, there’s a commentary on Arsenal v Blackburn from the season 100 years ago on http://www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk

  • Only Fabregas

    Has Almunia ever been good? His record since he took over from Lehmman has not been rosy. So many weaknesses. In 2006/7, Champions League finals. In 2007/8, Chelsea, Spurs and Manu games and many others. In 2008/9, Hull, Ronaldo’s 41 yards free kick, Bentley’s speculative long ball and many other games.

    I don’t even have to raise the issue of 2009/10 season; it has been obvious for everyone to see. Some fans talk as if it just happened this season, his unfitness for the position has always been there.

    Personally, I think any GK who’s not a national GK is not fit to be a GK for the Arsenal. We’ve had GKs like Jennings, Seaman, Lehmann who were all great GKs and won titles and Cups for us.

    Arsene should get rid of him once and for all.

  • Sykegooner

    Tony, you seen to have forgotten that wenger will find a way to squeeze in diaby into that starting line-up. Do you think this is where it stops, against blackton?

  • shotta-gunna

    The reason why Diaby may be squeezed in is simply because we are playing Sam Allardyce and his Blackburn thugs. Our midfield and forwards cannot comprise six very skillful but relatively small, short players. Blackburn will simply make it a physical aerial battle. We need balance to combat their physicality on the air and on the ground. Remember: This is a team when the chips are down simply put Christopher Samba upfront and lump the ball up in his direction.

  • don't believe the hype

    Shotta-gunna, people forget that the PL is a marathon therefore it requires full use of the squad over the course of the season. We have to have balance in each game, which is why the taller players like Bendtner, Diaby or Eboue might be called into the offensive positions to add some other qualities to the mix. You cannot just send out your best 11 players if they all happen to conform to a certain physical type, it just will not work because how ever good they are at retaining possession, the opposition will have the ball some of the time too.

  • The comment “Personally, I think any GK who’s not a national GK is not fit to be a GK for the Arsenal. We’ve had GKs like Jennings, Seaman, Lehmann” gives me cause from concern.

    Lehmann was not Germany’s keeper for much of his time with us, and was heavily criticised – indeed he was dropped for a series of games when Almunia came in. What’s more a man who plays for N Ireland is an international for his country, but that hardly compares with playing for Spain.

    If there is a problem it should show in the stats – the number of goals let in is a good start, the number of shots parried not stopped, and so on. For this discussion we need real information rather than “it has been obvious for everyone to see.” Not to me.

  • Jazbo

    All i can say is just be prepared for a nasty encounter tomorrow so the team i would like to see is this:

    ——-Manone——

    Sanga—Gallas—Vermalen—Clichy

    Eboue—Cesc—Song—Arshavin

    Bentner—RVP

    Subs: Szuznesy Ramsey Senderos Vella Diaby Wallcott Wilshire

  • jazbo

    6-2 what a result, just goes to show how much i know about picking a team, what great way for the players to celebrate Arsene Wengers 14 years in the hot seat, a cameo by the great TH14 it’s just a pity that Paddy got to London too late to come to the party and ended up at Chelski.
    The best however was the after match interview given by fat Sam, no mention of his team being put to the sword by a rampent Arsenal, he insted chose to have a moan about the ref, great stuff!!!!