After a good four days rest, Arsenal returns to action in the lunchtime kickoff on Sunday against Blackburn Rovers, the same opponent Arsene faced in his first game thirteen long years ago.
In the midweek Champions League game, Arsenal faced maybe the most negative team to ever visit the Grove. Only six minutes into the match, Olympiakos already had all eleven men defending deep in their own half. Arsenal eventually broke through, and that resilience will be good practice for the match tomorrow.
Since Chelsea and Liverpool play later on in the afternoon, there won’t be much hype around this match. So another, quiet, undramatic win for Arsenal will be fantastic way to go into the two-week international interlull.
Arsene has been quick to praise his attacking players this week. Here is what the Boss had to say about our little, Russian owl.
‘I believe he has a big challenge in front of him,” said the 59-year-old Frenchman. “He made his team in Russia win and if he manages to make Arsenal win he will become an all-time great. That is the real challenge he faces and I am convinced he has all the potential to do it.”
‘I just love Arshavin as a footballer because he has things that are just down to him. He is intelligent and he looks like he is a shrewd street-player because he creates something always in unexpected situations. He has a low centre of gravity, great pace and tricky dribble. He uses all that he has in the locker in an intelligent way and don’t forget he is a winner as well.’
Arsenal Team News:
Like usual, we have some players back from injury and some that have suffered new knocks. Bendtner, and his new found faith in a higher being, returns to the squad, but that is at the expense of Eduardo, who aggravated a muscular injury in his 15 minute cameo in midweek. Theo Walcott will make his long awaited season debut this weekend, but only expect him to come on with 10 to 15 minutes remaining.
Manuel Almunia is still out with a cough of pneumonia proportions. I still do some sarcastic coughing of my own, every time I read that diagnosis. Don Vito Mannone will retain his place between the posts. There is some better news for two of our long term absentees, as Samir Nasri and Lukasz Fabianski will return to training after the international break. Denilson and Djourou are still out.
Predicted Starting XI: Mannone, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Diaby, Fabregas, Bendtner, Arshavin, van Persie
Player to watch: Cesc Fabregas
5 games, 3 goals, and 4 assists. That is Fabregas’ Premier League statistics for this young season, and somehow he has come under some criticism for not being at his best. My word, if that is not his best, then I can’t wait to see the form he produces for the remainder of the season.
After once again denouncing the lustful temptations of Barca (I’m still laughing at Amos’ brilliantly, dirty article), I expect him to continue the commanding performance he displayed against Olympiakos.
Blackburn Team News:
Blackburn have some defensive worries for tomorrow’s clash. Both Ryan Nelson and big Christopher Samba will face late fitness tests, but Gael Givet and Steven Reid should be fit enough. Vince Grella is suspended.
From the little I’ve seen of Blackburn this season, they’ve been pretty unlucky and probably deserve more than the seven points they currently find themselves possessing. Like any Sam Allardyce managed team, they will try to frustrate us, but I believe this team has matured and we will be able to handle the visitors negative approach.
Player to watch: David Dunn
Dunn has racked up two goals in four domestic appearances this season, and if Rovers are to trouble Arsenal on the counterattack, then he will be key in getting Diouf and McCarthy involved. It will be an interesting physical battle between Dunn and Song.
Match Facts & Stats
Arsenal are unbeaten in the last six EPL games against Blackburn.
Arsenal have scored in all 11 competitive games this season, totaling 30 goals in the process.
Blackburn have only kept one clean sheet this season.
Robin van Persie has scored 6 goals in 6 games against Blackburn.
Peter Walton will be the head official for this one. In his eight EPL games this season, he has handed out 12 yellow cards. This gives him a low 1.5 yellow card per game average.
Arsenal beat Blackburn four to nil both times last season, and if we can get an early goal like we did in March, then I predict a similar scoreline. Bendtner to do something that seemed impossible in March, score.
After this one, most of our players will leave the isle to represent their respective countries.
17/10 (Sat) – Birmingham (h) – Premier League
20/10 (Tue) – AZ Alkmaar (a) – Champions League
25/10 (Sun) – West Ham (a) – Premier League
The match will be on Sky 1 in England, and Setanta in the States.