Kick-off is in about 2 hours time away, and while we eagerly wait for the start of the match, let’s reflect on the teams.
Arsenal are missing the usual suspects through injuries. In with a shout is Ramsey, is who has recovered from his injury and has slight chance of making it for the match later. He tweeted that he is feeling better and was on his way to Blackburn, indication that he might feature in the match against the Rovers.. Also returning from suspension is Gervinho, Alex Song, and Carl Jenkinson. The Boss has also given a hint that Ryo Miyaichi might be coming off the bench as well, should we require of the youngster’s service.
Blackburn are sweating over the fitness of some players as well. Morten Pedersen is still suffering from a hamstring injury. David Dunn and Ryan Nelsen are both doubtful as well. The Rovers are set to give the three players late fitness tests.
Should any of the aforementioned players not make it, Blackburn are sorely lacking in service and creativity. Pedersen might not be as be performing as he did in the past which led to many top clubs being interested in him, but his pace and free kicks are always a danger, and Blackburn would surely by missing him. Even more so with David Dunn, who was Blackburn’s best player in last season’s fixture against Arsenal. The midfielder is essentially the heart beat of Blackburn’s midfield. He has the ability to hold the midfield, and turn defense into attack in a matter of moments. Dunn’s also has the ability to strike the ball at goal, and would prove to be Blackburn’s greatest threat should he start. The loss of Nelsen might not be felt as Blackburn has Scott Dann and Samba to hold the fort.
Blackburn have been performing poorly so far this season. They have lost 3 games so far, and only drew one. The Rovers are a physical side, preferring to play direct. Long balls would be pumped up front, and Yakubu is expected to lead the line and be their targetman. Another tactic would surely to be to utilise set pieces and try to score some goals with the hefty and tall players like Samba and Yakubu.
Arsenal should probably stick with the same back four as they have proved effective so far. The Boss might replace Gibbs with Santos, but my gut feeling is he would only introduce the Brazilian in next week’s Carling Cup to build up the left back’s fitness. Mertesacker and Koscielny, more importantly the latter, needs to be wary of Yakubu. Despite his age, the Nigerian forward has the strength and pace to match younger players. Koscielny is a little on the lightweight side, and might be muscled away easily. At the flank, Sagna just has to play to his usual standards, and not allow Pedersen to run riot. The back four also needs to extra alert when it comes to set pieces, as the height of Samba and Yakubu could pose as a threat to our goal.
In midfield, it would be interesting to see who starts. Song would be required to provide some muscle and defensive cover to the back up. Alongside, Arteta would surely be another starter to provide services up front. I would be inclined to start with Frimpong, as the youngster is an abundance of energy, and his bulky size means that he is more than capable of coping with Blackburn’s physical style of play. However, the boss might start Arshavin ahead of the Frimster, in a bid to provide more creativity down the left flank, and hope to unlock the Rover’s defense. The diminutive Russian has also scored 3 goals in 5 against Blackburn, and might do so again today.
Up front, Captain Persie as usual to lead the team. It is worth mentioning that Van Persie has scored a staggering 10 goals against Blackburn so far in 11 games. However, Van Persie won’t be much good if he lacks of services from our midfielders. As shown against Dortmund, the captain cutted an isolated figure up front. Gervinho, would be expected to start up front as well. The Ivorian is tricky, and might help to unravel the Rover’s defense with his pace. Normally, I would want to start Walcott too, and given that Salgado, Blackburn’s right back, is 36 years old, we could exploit his lack of pace with Walcott’s speed down the flank. However, Walcott, despite his goals, has a tendency to disappear mid-match, and it might be better to start either Benayoun or Arshavin up front instead. These two players are creative and their passing would be more effective than Walcott’s in any sense. Benayoun has the added incentive to start given his work rate, which would be useful in harassing the Blackburn players holding the ball.
Hence, I am predicting a line up to be something like this:
Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Arteta, Frimpong, Gervinho, Van Persie, Arshavin
This is no easy match, despite Blackburn’s woeful record so far. A wounded animal is dangerous as they would want to fight back and show their will to survive. Professional pride would mean that Rover players would give their all to give Arsenal “hell”, as emphasised by a certain Chris Samba. However, given our quality of players, Arsenal should be able to win by two clear goals. I am predicting a win of 2-0 to the Arsenal, and frankly, a win is what the lads should be aiming for.
We need to gain some momentum for our season after the win against Swansea, and this momentum needs to start by winning at Blackburn. Losing or drawing is a poor option here as the league leaders starts to pull away. So here’s to a rousing win by our Gunners. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!