Blackburn Rovers Preview: A Chance To End The Season On A Positive
Arsenal travel to Ewood Park this afternoon for the penultimate Premier League fixture knowing that a point will secure third place and passage to the group phase of next season’s Champions League. Sam Allardyce was bragging at the weekend about his fantastic record against Arsenal, hinting that having found the ‘magic formula’, he had no intention of changing the way his sides play in this fixture. No-one can say that they have not been warned about the tactics he will employ.
Blackburn has a record which mirrors that of Birmingham City in their clashes with those at the top of the table, a solid record of draws perhaps more meaningful in this afternoon’s encounter as they have been achieved in the past month or so. A win should not be taken for granted but should be achieve nonetheless. Arshavin’s return to the squad is a welcome boost as is the continued presence of Robin van Persie leading the line.
For some though, the afternoon is about redemption. Arsène has taken time to express his support for Lukasz Fabiański, falling short of making it unequivocal but boosting the Pole’s confidence along the way:
The Wigan game was such a massive disappointment that you think it might be ‘make or break’ in the next game. Do you expose him by playing? Is it better not to play him to give him time to recover? I think it’s always better to play straight away.He still has to show that he can be consistent. I know he has the talent and he has shown against Man City that he is mentally strong and that he can respond. Now the next target is for him to show that he can be consistent.
The key word is “consistency”. None of the current crop of Arsenal goalkeepers has developed this trait in the first team, all prone to mistakes. Before condemnation is too universal, mitigating factors exist for some. Inexperience of youth applies to Fabiański, Mannone and Szczęsny. Equally, no goalkeeper in the world is exempt from making mistakes but those at the peak of their powers make fewer than those who are simply good or average. This is the key developmental step for the younger goalkeepers.
The future may be bright for them but they need to develop away from the first team. Wenger hinted that the situation is not settled:
Let people think and let me do. But it isn’t an area that I necessarily want to strengthen. I don’t want to come out before the season is finished and say what areas we want to strengthen.
An open statement if ever there was one, the interpretations of which are the basis of the monomania of some. Wenger was hardly likely to admit to coveting a new custodian, such admissions are destructive psychologically for players thus to the team with third place not yet secure. It would be something of a surprise though, if a new custodian were not in place next season.
Fabiański was urged to tread in the path trodden by Emmanuel Eboué, turning around supporters views of his abilities. In the Ivorian’s case, it was mental strength that enabled him to do so, alongside his physical effort. Wenger observed that English fans love the club more than in other countries. A sweeping generalisation which would raise eyebrows around the globe. However, English supporters have a propensity toward appreciating effort; technical and temperamental deficiencies are frequently forgiven if the player is seen to be giving his all. That Eboué should never have been subjected to the abuse he was identifies the lack of patience in some as well as a morality that leaves a lot to be desired but seems to be the perfect epitaph for the Premier League.
Back to this afternoon. With the performance last week giving some confidence, OK the clean sheet part of it at least, the question for Wenger is whether to be attacking or to sit back. In reality, he needs the side to replicate the first 75 minutes at Wigan and then mix in the draw against Manchester City to close out the game. The starting line-up which may be able to achieve this is:
Fabiański; Sagna, Campbell, Silvestre, Clichy; Song, Diaby, Nasri; Walcott, van Persie, Rosicky
A point is necessary for third, a win better for confidence ahead of the end of the season. Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.
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