Connect with us

Match Previews

Match Preview: Arsenal v Blackburn EPL Match Day 5

In the Navy turning an aircraft carrier into the wind to receive aircraft is a slow and laborious task. The subtle degree the behemoth shifts is barely noticeable inside its belly except to the most flimsy stomachs. You’d never know it was turning unless you were out on the deck seeing it. This is how I perceive the current direction of the current Arsenal squad.

In the Navy turning an aircraft carrier into the wind to receive aircraft is a slow and laborious task. The subtle degree the behemoth shifts is barely noticeable inside its belly except to the most flimsy stomachs. You’d never know it was turning unless you were out on the deck seeing it. This is how I perceive the current direction of the current Arsenal squad.

The first three matches of the season were tortuous. From inane infractions to the usual cast of characters getting injured and the hyper-crazy way we went about our transfer business. The way we started, was nothing short of pure “One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest” crazy.

Now with a win against Swansea and a hard fought draw (almost win?) against reigning Bundesliga Champion’s Borussia Dortmund there is a general sense that Arsenal’s season has finally begun to turn around. Whether that is true or not gets a further test this weekend as the Londoners venture back up north to take on cellar dwellers Blackburn Rovers.

On one hand you’d almost feel sorry for Blackburn if you weren’t busy being concerned about Arsenal. Because if I am honest, I am not sure how much more we are improved. Sure, the performances against Swansea and Dortmund were gritty. But should they have been? Dortmund you could make a case for, Swansea? Er, not so much.

As we know I am always going to be bullish on this club. Even in the face of adversity I have every hope for my club as challengers. But I also like to think I am a realist and if I am a realist then the reality is that we are likely to be battling it out with Chelsea and Liverpool for the right to bring up the rear to the Manchester clubs.  And before I get the endless tweets calling me a “fake gooner” or claims that my location in the US limits my ability to be a true fan. . . let me say this. . . I wish the reality wasn’t so.

Whether we are in a  transition period and more reinforcements will come in January or next summer, is irrelevant to where we are now. And where we are now is a club that has a lot of burgeoing talent in its reserves and some fighting for places on the first team but that first team is lacking any truly mind blowing game changers. Players like Mario Gotze who we all witnessed first hand. Or players like Cesc Fabregas and Samir Na$ri ( you remember them right). Sure Jack Wilshere is a game changer but when he returns is still up in the air. Szczesny is a game saver and a world class keeper in the making. But this team cannot rest on those two alone. We have talent that is for sure but talent alone is lacking. We simply need more.

So where does that leave us? Well, this weekend it leaves us taking on a club that we have enjoyed a good spell against. In the last 10 games against Blackburn, Arsenal have won 7 lost 1 and drawn 2. In that run they have had two games where they have won 6-2 and two games where they have won 4-0. Additionally, Blackburn seems to hold a special place in the heart of Robin Van Persie as he has been quite prolific against this club recently.

Additionally, if you thought we had issues, Blackburn is a powder keg waiting to blow up. Prior to today’s match, reports are that there is set to be a 1000 strong protest trying to force the removal of the current manager, Steve Kean. Blackburn are also bottom of the league failing to win their last (first?) two matches at home. Things are not well at Ewood Park.

What this all means is that this is the perfect time for Arsenal to go in and continue the slow and laborious task of turning this ship around. The new players brought in on deadline day are still trying to integrate into the squad. They are having to do it on the fly as they did not enjoy the pre-season with their new teammates.  The Gunners are still searching for themselves and trying to lay out their identity in the post-Fabregas era. Remember for the last few years this club was all about the former Captain. Players were brought in to support him and play off of him. That is gone. Now the team is trying to find its way and its not easy in the spectrum of the EPL season.

But even in the doom and gloom there is hope. The primary chage I see in this team  is a renewed defencive focus. The Manchester drubbing aside (whether you want to believe it or not – it was an anomoly) and the wonder goal at Dortmund aside (50 times you try that shot and 49 times it goes over or hits the bar), there is improvement defencively. I truly believe we are seeing the emergence of new defencive star in Laurent Koscielny. The man does not shirk away from the big stage and is always a presence when he is called upon. Sure he makes a mistake here and there but they are less and less and he is young and getting better and stronger.

Obviously though the change in defence comes from the man between the sticks. We’ve said it all along, that a confident, take charge goal keeper was what this team needed to help solidify the defence. Arsenal have gotten this in spades with Wojiech Szczesny. Again, a young player who is apt to the odd mistake, but he learns from them and is determined each time to come out better.

If this defencive focus means less beauitful football and a return to 1-0 wins, I am all for it so long as it results in – wins.

Now to the match specifics.

How the Match Should Play Out

Both of these clubs have something to prove.  For Arsenal it is to show that they are gelling and moving forward. For the Rovers they want to show they are better than their record portrays. So look for this to be fesity match on both sides. With the return of Gervinho and Song, the Gunners get more stable and a little more speed in the squad which should prove hard for the Rovers. In the middle of the defence however is where Blackburn are stoutest with Chris Samba and newly acquired Scott Dann getting the duty. So the Gunners will have to fight for anything around the box. The best chance again is the forward line of Van Persie, Walcott and Gervinho attacking with pace which I think they will. Look for them to test former England number one early and often trying to force the match open and into the hands of the visiting Londoners. In the end it will be the Arsenal ship staying on course and another notch added in their developing belt.

Players to Watch:

Arsenal: Robin Van Persie. Simply put he scores on Blackburn. He has scored 8 goals in 10 games against Blackburn

Blackburn: Chris Samba. The former Gunner target will be out to show what Arsenal missed by not signing him.

Probable Starting XI:

Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Wilshere (ankle) Diaby (ankle) Vermaelen (ankle) Rosicky (knee) Squillaci (calf)

Blackburn: Nelsen (knee),  Pedersen (hamstring)

Leading Scorers:
Arsenal: Walcott 3 (1 league) Van Persie  3 (1 league)

Blackburn:Formica 1 (1 league) Pedersen 1 (1 league) Rochina 1 (1 league)

Goals For:

Arsenal (away): 1

Blackburn (home): .5

Goals Against:
Arsenal (away): 4

Blackburn: (home): 1.5

Last Five:
Arsenal: WLLD

Blackburn: DLLL

Goal Difference:
Arsenal: -7

Blackburn: -4

Match Official:
Referee: Andre Marriner (Matches 1, R0 Y2).

Broadcast Information:

UK: Sky Sports 1 1245 BST

GAMEDAY CHAT: It’s Open!!!!!!

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal: 3

Blackburn: 1

Final Words:

A lot is being made about whether or not Cesc Fabregas said he left because he felt that it would no longer be able to compete for titles against the likes of Chelsea, United, or City. The reaction to the perceived slight was astonishing. Unless you were me. Of course, I like my fair sense of controversy so I took to the twitterverse and said these two things:

1. If true I found it hard to disagree with that assessment.

2. Who cares what he says?

As I mentioned earlier I feel we are short a game changer or two in this squad to make us true title contenders. I believe the defence is getting sorted out but in the midfield we need some more “oomph.” Upfront it would be nice to get a clinical goal scorer to augment Robin Van Persie. Those kind of additions and folks we can talk about challenging for titles again. Right now, really at this moment, we are fighting for a Champion’s League spot that’s it. The FA and Carling Cups are our only realistic shot at silverware this year.

On the second point, seriously who cares what he has to say now? He doesn’t play here or even in the league. He is off at Barcelona and while their level of adversity is on a different planet they are not looking like the invincible crew of last season. (Did Cesc take the ability to hold on to a lead with him?) Cesc gave his all for us but he’s gone. Why what he says now matters to any gooners is beyond me. It has no bearing on the performance on the pitch. It has no affect on our club’s management. It means absolutely squat. So why even bother to care about it?

But to wrap it up though – Cesc has come out said he did not make those comments and made it a point to rail agains the press again and making stories up. For those who question it and whether or not this was just Cesc saying something because he regretted making his original statement keep this in mind – the Spanish Sports Press is notorious for making stuff up. Remember last season in one of the Classico’s there was reportedly pictoral evidence from a Madrid supporting broadsheet that said a Barca player was clearly offside before scoring a goal. Except there was a problem. Video evidence of the same situation clearly showed a Madrid player in the picture. The player had been removed from the image. Ooops.

In closing I really believe the truth lies in the middle somewhere – call it a lost in translation moment.

Until next time – Stay Goonerish!!!!


More in Match Previews