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Blackburn away: the Untold Arsenal preview

By Phil Gregory

Here we are again, Blackburn away. Fresh off the blower asking the box office why my tickets haven’t arrived yet (they were very helpful to be fair) we’re straight into the match preview.

Arsène’s started up with the pre-match mind games, though he’s directed them at the referee. In speaking about the anti-football teams’ approach in assaulting goalkeepers, he’s looking to focus the referee’s mind on the issue so that when the game comes around, the referee deals with it appropriately.

Some would say it’s not his place to influence the referee and they may have a point, but I’d argue that if the referee isn’t observing the laws of the game, then Wenger has every right to bring his focus back to the book.

Looking at the rulebook, let’s not forget it is an offence to both hold an opponent (despite what Peter Walton and Nemanja Vidic may have thought last weekend) and impede the progress of an opponent. We saw both those offences clear as day on a few occasions in this fixture last season, but many Arsenal fans decided to settle on the “Fabianksi is terrible” line of argument instead of having a look at why he could only flap at the crosses (the poor bloke couldn’t even get near them thanks to some Blackburn oaf having illegally moved to block him off).

Unfortunately, this sort of nonsense is “part of the English game” and so fouls that would be stonewall fouls if they occurred out of the area (or stonewall arrests if they occurred in the view of a copper outside a pub on a Saturday night) go unpunished inside the box.

Hopefully Arsène Wenger’s comments will bring a little more sanity to the situation, but I’d go and put my money on us conceding from a set piece thanks to some foul not given right now if they took the bet at my local bookies.

Anyway, moving on and the news isn’t too bad (for us) on the injury front. The longer-term absentees of Bendtner, Frimpong, Ramsey and Nasri are all out, but thanks to our squad depth, none of those losses leaves us with a gaping hole in the squad. With Cesc making his return against Blackpool last weekend, and both of his deputies out, it seems likely we’ll see the Spaniard start his first game of the season along with Robin Van Persie.

Much has been made of a shift back to 442, but it’s all taking Wenger’s comments out of context really. When Robin came on versus Blackpool, Chamakh was put out wide right which works fine. Bendtner did well in the role at the start of last season. A big, tall player out in that role has a huge size advantage over the average fullback and offers a direct option on the counter attack.

One big misconception is that “he’s out on the wing” but he’s really not. He’s not being asked to hug the touchline like a traditional winger, he’s playing in the inside channel (as an inside forward). His fullback can offer an option on the overlap, while he can drive into the box in between the fullback and the left sided centreback (assuming he plays on the right).

This creates space. If the fullback follows him, our fullback has acres of space to measure a cross in while if the centreback moves to close him down, it creates space in the middle for Robin. It’ll be a fluid set-up, with Robin doing some time out wide and Chamakh in the middle but the theory at the heart of the tactic is sound. Drag players out of position, create space and exploit it.

Onto the team then.

Almunia

Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Clichy

Song

Fabregas Diaby

Walcott Van Persie Chamakh

Most of the team picks itself. Almunia continues in net (and again I implore Arsenal fans to get behind him) while the back four that played at Anfield is seemingly our first choice, though the France international Squillaci may have other ideas.

Song returns to the holding role after a stint at the back, while Cesc resumes the playmaker role. Abou Diaby is one player who has looked good so far this season, and he’ll need to keep it up with intense competition for the final centre-midfield slot once everyone is back fit. Denilson, Ramsey, Nasri and Rosicky will all have claims to the position leaving Wenger with a nice problem to have to deal with later on in the season.

Finally up top, I’ve gone for Chamakh on the left as I don’t see Theo being dropped in his current, clinical form. Whether Theo will make as big an impact remains to be seen, as Blackburn will sit much deeper and he won’t have the same space. However he can always get away from a player, and as long as he puts away his chances I’ll be happy.

Theo and Chamakh playing wide quite clearly leaves Arshavin out of the starting line-up. The little Russian has been taking some unfair stick recently. His performances haven’t matched his level set at the beginning of  2009 but it’s fairly well documented that he’s playing with injury. With our depth of options in the forward positions, it could be wise to take him out of the firing line and do whatever needs to be done to help him return to form and fitness.

The bench should be strong, with the likes of Denilson likely to get some minutes if we are comfortable. Rosicky, Eboue, Vela, Wilshere amongst others will give us excellent options off the bench.

Prediction time. We all know what we’re going to get from Blackburn, but that team I’ve put out there has enough size and strength to dish it right back out, and has the advantage of being able to play some fantastic football too. I’m not fussed about performances here, I just want a tricky game out of the way and three points in the bag. 3-1 to the Arsenal, though I think we’ll grab the two goal cushion quite late on.

Billy the Dog interviews Fattus Samus ahead of the Blackburn fight

Untold Arsenal, not exactly the place for facts, but still, you can’t have it all.

Arsenal Worldwide, a completely different experience

Making the Arsenal, the greatest book on Arsenal ever written

Your first time with Arsenal, live – we want your story.

34 comments to Blackburn away: the Untold Arsenal preview

  • Adam

    Lets hope this early in the season that Blackburn try to entertain their home fans and come out to play ball not brawl. We might end up with a decent game. “I HOPE”.

  • Fedda

    I quite fancy Wilshere or Sliding Rosicky to start. Wilshere is strong, aggressive and gets stuck in when needed. Will be an interesting game, I always get nervous when we play Thugby Rovers away

  • schoolboy

    I’d rather have rosicky over diaby

  • jack

    It’s to late to get behind Almunia, he has been so undermined by our 2 million pound offer for a 37 year old keeper its impossible now for him to have any confidence at all. I feel sorry for him now because it looks like he will have at least a few more months of flapping and juggling before we get someone else in. The poor guy looks so scared and confused everytime he’s on the pitch it makes it funny for any neutral watching because you know something hilarious could happen any moment, but for Arsenal fans a corner or free kick into the box is a truly terrifying proposition.

  • Caribkid

    I rather like your lineup, but think Rosicky may retain his starting spot as Csec may not be physically ready at this time, especially against the gangsters from the “blackhole”.

    Clichey has been having a difficult time at LB in the early games and would love to see Gibbs in that position tomorrow. especially because he is so much better than Clichey in the air. It probably wont happen, but I can easily visualize Clichey losing his man on a set piece with a resulting Blackburn goal.

  • sweeta

    With all due respect to Blackburn , But i think we should win this match with ease if we must show a championship stuff.We have a more better Squad and a good bench, We can line up like this {Almunia Vermaelen Koscielny Sagna Clichy Fabregas Diaby Arshavin Walcott Persie chamakh} Bench Fabianski Song Rosický Eboué Denílson wilshire Gibbs Djourou. who say’s our bench is not good? Let me see what you think about my team. What is your team? Almunia 4 4 2 BLACKBURN 0 ARSENAL 3 Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Clichy Persie Fábregas Diaby Walcott Arshavin Chamakh

  • sweeta

    Editor’s interruption

    This comment has been cut as it had nothing to do with the original article. It actually referred back to a comment on a much earlier article, and that comment again had nothing to do with the article being discussed that time.

    It is bad enough to be so outrageously rude that you cut across a conversation with something quite unrelated to the topic in hand, but to do it by referring back to an old point which itself was an interruption to a conversation is just, well, eccentric.

  • Jazbo

    Dogs of war time at Blackburn:

    ———Almunia———–

    Sagna— Koscielny— Vermaelen— Clichy

    ———Song—-Diaby——-

    ———-Rosicky———–

    Walcott— Van Persie— Chamakh

  • ondgooner

    One thing wrong with our manager Arsene is that he has opinion on all things and therefore tends to talk too much which can be subjected to ridicule from those he directs his rantings towards. Allardyce, Pullis, Hughes, Ferguson and the list goes on come to mind. He should do well to concentrate on Arsenal’s tactical inferiority against some of these teams rather than these teams apparent over-physicality.
    Why give more credence to a far inferior coach to him like Allardyce on the eve of a game we should be winning easily if to be considered champion materials by raising issues on their style of play? Allardyce is then absolutely right by suggesting that Arsene is very worried and my fear is that this worry might then spread on to his team especially to our GK a.k.a Almunia. Arsene should just learn how to keep quiet in situations like this but prepare his team fiercely for any eventuality. Why would he wish to play mind games with inferior coaches like Allaryce? This can only mean one thing and that is that he is very worried and fearful!

    And if we do not beat Blackburn later on today and beat them convincingly then we should install another manager whom these players can respond to in the right way. How could Allardyce continually get the better of Arsene? It beggers belief!!!

  • ondgooner

    I would have Rosicky to play alonside Walcott and Cesc but not Diaby. Diaby goes AWOL at this type of games as I do not think he is up for the physical battle. Rosicky is as much a good player as he is a fighter hence my preference for him to Diaby!

    Arshavin I agree with you should be benched if to teach him a good lesson.

  • 0.9 Calibre

    Chamakh’s work rate will help us on the flanks. Playing Diaby against long ball teams makes sense, BUT if our lanky frenchman does decide to spend most of his time in the final third without tracking back then I’d much rather have Arshavin or Tomas in Diaby’s role (Outscoring the opposition as usual!). If he is fit, I’d like to see Theo play the entire 90 minutes irrespective of his contributions in the first half, his pace will become increasingly significant during the latter stages of the game when the opposition fullbacks are not at their fittest. So it all comes down to the question as to play the usual 2 holding MFs or play 2 purely attack minded players, Rosicky does track back quite a lot and imho if we are looking at that early 2 goal cushion, then we should probably play TR alongside Cesc and then probably bring in Diaby during the 2nd half. Even with a few players out, the Boss has a nice little problem to ponder over I must say. Putting all that aside, I’m looking forward to a 4-0 thrashing, fingers crossed 🙂

  • Adam

    Ondgooner, I do beleive that you have missed the entire point of this web site. If you belive that Wenger should be replaced then who do you prepose that the current board and owners of AFC replace him with, and how are you going to influence them into terminating his contract when they just got him to sign an extention. Plus the point of the article travelled about 30km above your head.

  • @Jack
    Almunia’s confidence has been undermined not by the attempts to buy another goalkeeper, but by the constant abuse by a minority of “supporters”. Yes, the guy has his failings, but he also has his strengths – e.g., the first half of the first leg against Barcelona last season. What he needs to develop is greater consistency. Nothing wrong with criticism; everything wrong with vilification.

  • Dark Prince

    @Phil- you left out Arshavin!!!!

    And also Rosicky!!!!

    And both have been in good form lately. I strongly believe that Wenger will use Song as a substitute for the defense bcoz Djourou is not yet fully match fit for this game. Diaby will play the holding midfielder and either of Rosicky or Arshavin to play on the left flanks. Also I wont be surprised if we start with Eboue to have some muscle power. Hopefully lookin for a demolition of Blackburn. I can read the score line as 5-0 for Arsenal!! 🙂

  • Two things are causing great confusion this season:

    First we actually have a team to select from rather than being down to the bones because of injury.

    Second we can genuinely debate three different tactical approaches –

    4-3-3 used last season
    4-2-4 used against Blackpool
    4-4-2 used prior to last season

    Curiously the Guardian is coming up with a 4-2-4 for today, with the team being

    Almunia
    Sagna = Vermaelen = Kos = Clichy
    Diaby = Song
    Walcott = Arshavin = Chamakh = Van Persie

    with Arshavin as the man behind the front three, presumably alternating with VP behind the front three.

    I am not saying that is any more accurate than Phil’s prediction in this article, or Billy’s yesterday lunchtime, but it does have one interesting impact – not only does it keep us guessing, it also keeps Blackburn guessing.

    Incidentally, no Cesc in the Guardian team either! They have him on the bench.

  • jack

    Fat Sam or as i like to call him jabba, doesn’t guess he told us a couple of months ago he targeted our keeper because he was a weak link…. guess what happened.

  • AnonymousGun

    Win this .. And teams will have to rethink how to beat Arsenal again. Lose and we will always have to prepare this sort of problem again.

    I’ll drop TW14 to the bench .. MC on his position, RvP up top, TR7 on left instead of AA23. RvP always scores against Robinson, and fielding him scores a mental advantage over Robbo. TR7 also to give AA23 a breather if he does indeed carrying an injury or a nice jolt to him to remind him that he isnt undroppable if he wasnt injured.

    Mid will be Cesc dictating from deep alongside Song with Diaby on the 3rd wheel. Diaby and Song provide physical presence in the middle and Cesc dictating from deep is much much better then him playing up top behind the strikers IMHO.

    2nd half swapped RvP for TW14 and juggled MC back in up top.

    While personally I like Diaby for his physical presence in the middle, he is some sort of a lumbering gentle giant, on the other hand TR7 seems to have a bit of fury and willing to stuck in.. however he is a bit brittle IMHO.

  • Armin

    What frighten me is that I cant remember game vs Fat Sam teams in which there is no scene with Arsenal player on ground screaming in pain and Bolton/Blackburn player with “bloody knife” over him wearing innocent face “I have done nothing”.
    I cant remember game in which Diuf wasn’t checking strength of Almunia shin, and Pedersen on ground each time they lose ball.

  • walter

    It shows you how far the average football/ARsenal fan has been brainwashed by the media about attacking and wrestling goalkeepers. When our manager rightly points out that this is not allowed according to the rules there are even fans who say that he should not do this.
    So what about a team that would say: well we play the ball with our hands if we want to. Against the rules? If we dot it long enough and consitently the ref will stop punishing it after a while and think it is just a normal part of the game.

    No, it isn’t and if the ref doesn’t do his job and is consistent in blowing according to the rules the manager MUST talk about this.

    Handball, obstructing the keeper at corners, kicking from behind, etc etc etc it is against the rules and should not be allowed as tactics.

    NO keeper can deal with fouls on him: Lehman couldn’t, Seaman couldn’t, Chech can’t, Van der Sar can’t, ours can’t. And they shouldn’t have to deal with it as no one should deal with the fact that one scores with his hands.

  • shotta-gunna

    The idea that Fat Sam or Blackburn have some psychological advantage over Wenger and Arsenal is laughable. Wenger’s teams have played 11 times at Ewood Park. The records show seven wins and two draws and two losses to Arsenal. The only way they can win is if Chris Foy fails to apply the rules. Quite rightly Wenger has focussed the spotlight on his ineptitude at Stoke vs Tottenham where Pulis’ thugs were allowed to play rugby rather than football with repeated fouling of the GK, Gomes.

  • podge

    Rosicky has to start he has been amazing the last 2 games maybe Cesc and RVP shouldnt start and we should reward the players who did so well last week with the same starting XI except Koscielney for Wilshere. In the second half we can bring on Cesc RVP for 45mins ease them back in we dont want any injuries especially to those 2.Lets hope the ref remembers page 113 of the rulebook and Almunia wont be fouled at every corner

  • Sorry Podge – no Rosicky, and in fact all the predictions (Billy, Phil and the Guardian) that we quoted here) are wrong

    Manuel Almunia

    Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen- Clichy

    Song

    Fabregas – Diaby

    Arshavin – van Persie – Walcott

    Substitutes

    Lukasz Fabianski
    Emmanuel Eboue
    Kieran Gibbs
    Tomas Rosicky
    Jack Wilshere
    Carlos Vela
    Marouane Chamakh

  • AnonymousGun

    Well, AA23 shoved a big fat humble pie on my face today 😀

  • goonergerry

    Tough game- actually Blackburn were competitive-Good defensive performance by us- all over the park- wasn’t Koscielny good? I love him already. Lets hope RVP isn’t badly injured.

  • walter

    One could and some will blame Koscielny for the goal but I thought it was the fact that Sagna had gone forward that dragged Koscielny out of position and this was the big mistake at the back.

    And could we please for once, well not my first time, praise Almunia for his goalkeeping today. He had an excellent save early in the game and he was solid all day long.

    I noticed that Blackburn didn’t dare to attack him that much and I think this is down to the fact that Wenger focused on this pre match and Fat Sam was affraid the ref would act.

    The ref didn’t act at all. He just did nothing at all…

    But 3 points in the bag and that are 3 more than last year. 7 points from a possible 9 with the fixtures we had, not a bad thing.

  • walter

    I also noticed that the stadium was empty on many places. Now who would pay money to see a team play football like Blackburn does?
    If you would do a statistic on possesion you would get something like:
    Arsenal 60 %
    Blackburn 5 %
    ball in the air 35%

    And then to think that on that one and only occasion they managed to play the ball over the ground they scored….
    I think maybe most of the Blackburn fans will ask for a refund as the goal was too nice to see and not an ugly up and under goal

  • Bio

    Nervy game…the kind we must win. It is obvious the team is maturing, as we refused to be bullied off the park. We coped well with their long balls defensively..no panic displayed.

  • Kieran

    well, was a cage match as only one card was shown, but Arsenal played tough as well, apart from some defensive glitches I thought we brang it. Good to see Almunia commanding his area as well

  • Paul C.

    OUTSTANDING RESULT!!!!!

    I thought Diaby was absolutely superb. Song and Cesc were awful in the 1st half, Song improved after the break (although his appearance didnt – am I the only one who thinks Song has gone from looking really hard to like an effete fairy that you’d worry was aiming to rape you from behind?) but Cesc didnt. We will put that down to rustiness.

    Apart from Kos’s mistake for their goal I thought we defended strongly. That kind of physical challenge is something Kos will have to get used to – he will see that every week.

    Walcott – what can you say? He looks like a different player.

  • RedGooner

    Great to see the workrate today its what you need when away to clubs like blackburn, stoke, sunderland etc.
    I thought clichy was out of position a lot today and could have been caught out even more. On the goal for blackburn I thought clichy also should have known who was behind him and perhaps attacked the ball and cleared.
    Fab was rusty but the future looks bright we will only get better everyone had a good game but clichy needs to get tighter on his man and improve a little.

  • Phil

    Great game, just got home. Excellent display from Almunia, I was delighted to see him go toe to toe with Diouf when the thug started mouthing off. Great stuff.

    We looked a little rusty in the first half, with Song in particular playing poorly. Really upped it in the second, and I think 1-3 would’ve been a fairer scoreline. Good solid defence overall.

    Anyone else notice the pressing game? I often saw three offensive players boxing Blackburn in very early, great to see.

  • jazbo

    Not a great game but a very good result all things considered.
    The goal when it came was well worked witha net buster finish from Theo.
    The BB goal was a real sickner, Diaby, Kos and Clichy all to blame for the goal.
    This miight sound strange but we looked a better unit when RVP and Fabregas went off, this tells me that the Arsenal boys have now come of age and can only get better.

  • Dark Prince

    Very nervy game. But we did well!! Has anyone noticed that we have conceded in each of last 11 consecutive away games???

    Hope we can keep more clean sheets away from home.

  • AnonymousGun

    How many minutes RvP have played this season ?

    And he already got 2 assists .. Imagined if he was fit allseason ;_;