Date: 12th September 2008 at 2:35pm
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Arsenal starts a trio of difficult away games on Saturday against Blackburn at Ewood park. A trip to the Ukraine awaits Arsenal after this fixture, followed by Bolton at the Reebok. These three games are made even more difficult because the majority of Arsenal’s key players have been away on National duty for over a week. Arsene will also be looking to have his squad regain the positive momentum that they had conjured up before the break. It was just perfect timing for that interruption, wasn’t it?

The Arsenal players coming back from International duty will be returning in good moods because, excluding Djourou, everybody had positives spells away from North London. Nobody has been reported to have sustained any sort of injury. Arsenal should have a team pretty close to their full strength side. Blackburn will of course play very tight defensively, but over the past couple of seasons they have becoming more of an attacking team and Arsenal will need to exploit the spaces in the Blackburn defense when they do push forward.

Vital Quotes:

Arsene was excited yet wary of the effects the internationals might have on his squad. ‘Many players had positive experiences on international duty,’ said Wenger.

‘We have spoken about Theo Walcott, and France won also, where we had three players [Clichy, William Gallas and Bacary Sagna]. Spain won also.

‘Overall the confidence our players got from international games will help, and also that we responded well to defeat at Fulham, with four goals against Twente and three against Newcastle.

‘We have a very good basis to think we can do well [at Blackburn].’

Wenger was very happy with Walcott’s preformance midweek. ‘I am delighted of course,’ said Wenger. ‘I am not surprised because he is a player who has good timing with his runs and is a clinical finisher who can score goals.

‘I always believed that he will be a fantastic player and I was never concerned – I know he can score goals and I know on the breaks he can be clinical. But for me, most of all is that he continues to develop as a team player.

‘What happened yesterday we have to consider to be an exception. Even for players of 25, 26 to score three goals in an international game is a one-off. What is very good is that he has the confidence of [Fabio] Capello in that he plays at that level at 19 years of age.

Arsene is concerned about the amount of games Arsenal has to play in the coming week. He said ‘I will have to rotate the squad now in the next three games because you cannot expect the players who have played in their national teams can play three times in a week.

‘We have a very compact squad and people are interchangeable.

‘The problem I have at the moment is to convince people that the players I have will develop and that every day we are a stronger team.’

Blackburn Team News:

The main injury worry for Blackburn is Andre Ooijer. The Dutchman limped off the field early into Holland’s match with Macedonia. Though good news for the Rovers is that Roque Santa Cruz is fit again, and Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler is also available.

Player to watch: Roque Santa Cruz

This man just knows how to score goals. He adapted lightning quick to the English game last year, and he is already off the mark this year. His poaching abilities will surely pose a threat to the Arsenal back line.

Arsenal Team News:

Arsenal have no new injuries to report this week. Nasri looks to have recovered from another suspicious ‘knock’ that kept him out of the France game, and there was a concern about Nicklas Bendtner’s ankle but he has recovered well and even catalyzed Denmark’s amazing comeback against Portugal on Wednesday. Mikael Silvestre’s debut for Arsenal has once again been delayed another game. He could feature against Kiev. Rosicky has suffered a setback in his fitness preparations and might not be ready till October or November. Eduardo, Diaby, and Bischoff are all also still out, and Carlos Vela will most likely not be available because he is just getting back from the Americas after playing in both of Mexico’s qualifiers.

Almunia will start in goal, with the Kolo Toure and the French trio of starters making up the back line. I believe Nasri, Cesc, Denilson, and Walcott will start in the midfield. I can’t see Theo not earning a place in the starting eleven after his England performance. A well rested Adebayor and a somewhat fit Van Persie will start up front.

Player to watch: Theo Walcott

Not much more can be said about young Theo’s performance against Croatia midweek that hasn’t already been stated. Simply put he was brilliant. It will be interesting to see if he can back that performance up with his first goal of the season for Arsenal. Who knows maybe even… three?

Match Facts & Stats

Kolo will be making his 200th Premier League appearance for the club.

If Theo Walcott plays a part then he will be making his 100th league appearance for Southampton and Arsenal.

Ref Watch:

The match will be officiated by Mike Dean. In three games this season, Dean has given out 1 red card and 10 yellow cards.

Match Prediction:

I see Arsenal continuing their good form against Blackburn with the Gunners winning 3-1 with Ade, Van Persie, Walcott, and Santa Cruz getting on the score sheet.

Next Fixtures:

Dynamo Kiev–Champions League–17/9

Bolton–Premier League–20/9

Sheffield United–Carling Cup–23/9