Blackburn vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 17, 2011

Last weekend we won our first league game of the season. A week later, that included travelling to Germany and back, we are here this Saturday away at Blackburn and considering the past games, Ewood Park is a very difficult to place to go and get results. Even without Sam Alardyce, we can be sure of one thing that it will be a tough game and entirely different from what we faced against Dortmund.

The timing of the game is, however, perfect. Blackburn, like us, is going through a very bad patch of results having won no game in the last four. They will be low on confidence but at the same time desperate to get points. We can exploit this to our advantage. While the past Blackburn sides have relied more heavily on long balls and the typical English football style, this side has added quick attacking football that relies more on technical skills to their game too. They still have a very strong defense and when the need arises can mount very fast counter attacks.

It won’t be an easy game, but I do expect us to get the maximum points. The timing of the game is also great as we have an opportunity to cut the gap at the top of the table with Liverpool playing against Spurs and Man United up against Chelsea. Wenger knows this as he spoke to the official Arsenal site that big games will have an impact on the title race.

“Of course, they will have an impact at the end of the season. Both teams are lucky because they play against someone who has also played in the Champions League. I believe Chelsea have a little advantage having 24 hours more rest but Manchester United have such a big squad now.”

These game will benefit those who take the initiative and today we have one such chance.

In terms of injuries, we have nothing new from the Dortmund game, if I am not wrong. Ramsey has a chance to return to the team but I am not holding my breath over it. Song and Gervinho will return to the Premier League after sitting out the last three games due to suspension. They were really missed in those games as it was evident from their performance during midweek. I am not sure what has happened to Rosicky’s knee injury though as he was supposed to be back by last game.

I don’t see many changes from the team that was out against Dortmund on Tuesday. The backline is most likely to remain same. This back line has given us a win, a draw and one clean sheet already and it does look good. We still have a few problems but I hope they will be solved in time. It would be a surprise for me if Wenger starts with Santos in place of Gibbs though.

In the middle too, I will put up the same trio because these are the games where we need the team to integrate both in attack and defense. I also won’t start with Frimpong because that will be too defensive and today is a game that we can only win by being on the attack. Also Benayoun will have his use while we go on the offensive.

Upfront, however, I will bring in Arshavin in place of Theo Walcott as he had a rest in midweek to partner Gervinho and van Persie. Arshavin had a great game last weekend and I am hoping for a similar performance from him. Walcott despite producing a good assist is not making full use of his pace while starting, and therefore, he will be more of an asset when brought late on today.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Benayoun, Arteta, Song, Gervinho, RVP, Arshavin

For me, today, one of the important players is Mertesacker for his height and positioning. If Blackburn decide to use the aerial route and set pieces, his height will come in handy. To counter the pace of Blackburn, we will have to use Koscielny’s ability to close down players. For this to work, communication among both the centre backs will be vital. Gibbs will have to make sure that he doesn’t leave his flank exposed. His decisions will have to be spot on as when to make a run forward and when to hold the line.

Alex Song as usual will be vital to our play. He will have to stay close to the defense when we are under attack. While moving forward, he has the ability to pick out a delightful pass and this can come in useful today in opening the Blackburn backline.

To win this game, goals will have to be scored. Last two games we have scored a goal each. Today we will need more than a goal. We will certainly get more time on the ball today and it will have to be properly utilized to create chances. Arteta, Benayoun and Arshavin will have to work out some creative moves to break down Blackburn as they have a very sound defense. They only need to land the ball at van Persie and Gervinho’s feet in scoring positions; the rest will be done by them.

As far as the result is concerned, I am looking forward to a win which is the only good result for today. A draw for me is not acceptable and I cannot take another loss to be frank. I know it will be a tough game, but we have the team that can get a win against them. Anything less will be disappointing for me. We need to build a momentum now and these games can be the springboard for us before we face Spurs and the men in blue.   

That is all for now, enjoy the game and keep your fingers crossed. Have a good day!


Wenger’s press conference: Consistency, Benayoun and Injury update | Marvin Martin to Arsenal? Lansbury’s contract and Cesc’s interview

September 16, 2011

The weekend is finally here with the new round of EPL games. This Saturday we are up against Blackburn but before that I have lots of catching up to do.

Dortmund game

To start off, my two cents on the positive result at Dortmund. I only saw the second half of the game and considering how the game played out, that was a very important point gained. I have to admit, I was really impressed by how Dortmund played. They really were very good with the ball and knew how to make things happen. They were also very strong at the back. They took the game to us and had it not been through some good defending and some great saves from Szczesny, it would have been a very different result. Also had they taken their chances, we would have come out with nothing. And that is why this was a very good point won against the opposition, who are surely the toughest in our group.

The whole team played their hearts out that night but the main performers for me (in the second half ) were, Koscielny, Song and Szczesny. In my preview, I mentioned how important both Koscielny and Song will be to our setup and they proved it with their play. I know Koscielny was not good in the first half but having not seen it, I cannot make comments on that. The second half was where he and Song really made some exceptional interceptions, blocks and clearances. Song alone got us out of three very tight positions if I remember correctly. Combined with Szczesny’s excellent keeping, we were able to keep the Germans from scoring goals. The goal that did come was a one-off and you won’t see any one saving a goal like that. It did, however, left me wondering as to why is it always against us the other teams find such goals?

However, despite the positive result, we are far from a finished product. Nearly improvement in every area is required. I know the team needs time to integrate but we will have to do it quickly as the games will be coming in thick and fast. Of all the things, one that really leaves me wanting is our lack of creating chances recently. Arteta, Benayoun Arshavin, Walcott, Gervinho and Van Persie all have to step up and find the right rhythm among them if we want to get back to creating aand scoring goals freely.

Marvin Martin to Arsenal?

Moving on, reports have come up related to France’s next big star, Marvin Martin that he might after all end up at our club next year. Despite signing a contract extension, the French star was quoted by L’Equipe saying this:

We had good talk and we found an agreement. The officials made a promise. Indeed, an agreement to let me leave. I will remain at Sochaux until the end of the season.

It is still too early to say anything because a year is too long a time. And it is not even sure if he will leave Sochaux to come here.  His performances for Sochaux have earned him a call to the French national team where he is set to become a regular. At only 23 he has lots of years ahead of him and if he keeps progressing, he will surely be on the radar of many top clubs. Now, how much are we interested in him will be answered either during the January window or at the end of this season. As far as I am concerned, he certainly has enough quality to add something extra to our midfield. And if we really are in to him, we would need to get him to agree a pre-contract during January before other clubs hijack the move.

Henri Lansbury extends contract!

I was glad to hear the news that Henri Lansbury has signed a contract extension with us.  After seeing him go on a season long loan, I had partly made up my mind that we had seen the last of him at Arsenal. Now, however, after having him signed that extension, I hope that one day he will be a regular player for us. He sure is one of the bright talents to look out for among the upcoming English players.

Arsene Wenger’s press conference

Moving further on, Arsene Wenger had his usual pre-match press conference ahead of the Blackburn game on Thursday. He talked about the Dortmund game, Consistency being the key and Benayoun’s permanent signing among other things.

Talking about consistency, the manager said that only getting good results is going to help the uncertainty and skepticism out of the club.

“We must win. We live in an environment that questions us when we don’t win. We do not criticise that and have to live with that. But we have to show performances, consistency, attitude and quality. That makes us respected. It’s as simple as that. That’s why it is as important that we don’t talk too much and play as well as we can. We feel we have turned the corner but we will be judged by the consistency of our results. We want to change the skepticism around us but that will only [happen] if we are consistent with our results.”

Can’t agree more on this! We don’t have to look too much ahead. One game, one positive result at a time and hopefully we can then manage to get the belief and positive vibe back into the club. We have started the process at Swansea and let’s hope that it continues for a long time.

Wenger also didn’t rule out signing Benayoun permanently; however, he did make it clear that it’s too early to decide that.

“It’s too early to say at the moment [whether we will sign him]. I want him to contribute as much as he can to the rest of the squad like every other player – not more, not less. He gives his best every time he plays and we think he can integrate well – he can play on both flanks. He can play in the middle, although I think he prefers to play on the wing. Overall he has shown on Tuesday night that he is completely physically fit again.”

In my opinion, we must wait it out till January before making any move. Benayoun is good a player but his only concern is injuries. If he can maintain his fitness throughout the season and perform consistently, I won’t mind a permanent deal. At 31 he is not likely to be made an offer for more than a year though. Still looking at Arteta’s deal, anything is possible.

Injury Update

Arsene Wenger also gave the latest injury update. Of the injured, only Aaron Ramsey seems to have a chance to be back by next game if not tomorrow. He has a slight possibility to be available against Blackburn but I won’t bet anything on it.

As for Vermaelen and Diaby, they will be back after the international break if there are no setbacks for either of them. Both the players are doing well in their recovery from their respective problems.

Regarding Jack Wilshere, the manager had nothing new to give. Wilshere is in the boot for six weeks after which the tests will decide when he will be back.

“[Abou Diaby] should be available after the international break. He is doing well now. He is just starting at the level that we are in in pre-season. He has three weeks planned now, from this Friday. So if he has no set-back after the international break, he will be available.

[Aaron] Ramsey had a little test today [Thursday] and will practice tomorrow, he has a little chance to be available.  [Thomas] Vermaelen is progressing very well and will be available after the next international break. I cannot give you any news because [Jack Wilshere] is in a boot for [six weeks in total]. The test will come after that.”

Cesc Fabregas’ latest interview

Before I conclude, Fabregas’ interview to Sport Magazine, whether true or not, have caused quite a stirring. Cesc was quick to deny whatever was said in the interview but as far as I am concerned, it doesn’t matter what he says any more about Arsenal. He is gone and not part of this club so it doesn’t matter what he says, or does. I still wish him the best of luck and will always admire his talent, but when it comes to Arsenal, I am over him.

I will come up with the preview of the Blackburn game later.