Blackburn Rovers Preview: Back On Track Or Derailed?
Blackburn arrive at The Emirates for the early kick-off, both sides in desperate need of a win for entirely different reasons. It seems barely credible that Steve Kean is still in charge of the Lancastrians given the criticism of his tenure by supporters; perhaps it is because the Rovers fans have not used the tried and tested method of black bin bags to signal their discontent? Arsène believes that this sideshow must not distract the players; that will test their professionalism if the negativity pervades the atmosphere. He summed it all up rather succinctly, particularly the joyless nature of the modern game,
It is not easy anywhere nowadays, but with the media and the opinions of everybody we live in a constant drama. But it is not like that. Football is a happy moment where people come together to watch the team they love. We have to stop making a drama of everything. There are much more dreadful things in life than that. We have to keep focused on the fact that we have a fantastic opportunity to play football and we want to focus on that with happy minds, not always to be in a drama
Whilst there is a right of protest, you question the intelligence of those who would do so whilst a match is in progress where surely the objective ought to be supporting the XI on the pitch at the time? Mr Dylan, you were obviously right.
So to matters on the pitch. Reaction to the point at The Reebok sums up the depths to which morale has sunk. A clean sheet and point which ends a run of defeats is on paper a positive result, particularly by comparison. Instead it is derided with more focus on an incident toward the end of the match with barely any reflection on chances created. There is no celebration as such – especially when overall the performance indicates that fundamental flaws remain – but surely a realisation that the corner is being turned must surface somewhere?
From that match, few injury worries emerge. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has a late fitness test on a jarred knee but other than that, the manager’s main concern is fatigue. Speculation earlier in the week over Robin van Persie being rested is not wide of the mark. Admitting that he is building the side around the Dutchman – essentially exacerbating his current problem – Wenger identified his alternatives, none of which fills me with confidence.
When you list them out, the flaws in the plan spring out more readily than the benefits. For all of the hype surrounding his return, Thierry Henry is no more than a short-term solution and his fitness remains a source of concern. The African Cup of Nations has hardly been the confidence booster for Marouane Chamakh that we almost begged for whilst Theo Walcott is no more a central striker at the moment than Andrey Arshavin – woefully out of form and love, according to his manager. Ju Young Park is well, Ju Young Park. It is not that they are bad players, simply not replacements for a goalscoring centre forward. The dependency on van Persie is a continuance of recent seasons; the move to The Emirates highlighted the reliance upon Thierry Henry in his prime. He passed the reliance baton onto Cesc…
It is interesting to see the change of positions, the shuffling of feet. Emmanuel Adebayor was widely derided for his spectacular ability in the offside game with many volunteering to drive him to whichever destination, anything to get him out of the club. Now he is the stick with which the manager is beaten, no-one has replaced the player that was no longer welcome at the club and who is now a great player apparently. In hindsight, revisionism is brilliant.
So to this afternoon. I don’t think Arsène will rest RvP; he will be hoping to give his captain a rest though and that will require a substantial lead to be in hand before such a switch can be made. There is little room for manoeuvre in terms of changes throughout the team. Kieran Gibbs is training again but surely not for long enough to warrant a start? That would leave Wednesday’s back four unchanged. In midfield, there is scope with Aaron Ramsey’s touch not at its best and probably leading candidate for a rest today with Tomas Rosicky slotting in alongside Arteta and Song.
I would expect the line-up to be:
Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Rosicky, Song, Arteta; Walcott, van Persie, Arshavin
A win puts pressure on Chelsea ahead of their clash with Manchester United tomorrow; that is the only target at the moment. Closing that gap, overhauling it and taking the season from there. Small steps and until a winning run is put together, nothing else can be expected.
Today’s Arsenal On This Day, the only time an Arsenal player has scored a hat-trick and ended on the losing side.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.