Another game at a random time on a Sunday not on TV. Blackburn played last night in the inter-twobob cup. The kick off time overlaps with the end of the Manchester derby, and the beginning of the Liverpool vs Chelsea match. Perfect.
The Fulham game has shown us a few things about the squad. Not much has changed since last season, we still create enough clear chances to win every game 5-0 yet end up scraping the home games we manage to not draw. The opposition will still usually score with their first shot on goal. Van Persie can’t play up top on his own, and really needs a striking partner to be as effective as we know he can be, he’s the least suited of our strikers to be playing up top on his own. Well, maybe Walcott is less suited. I originally thought that Hleb playing as an attacking central midfield player stifles Fabregas a bit, but they both scored against Prague so maybe I’ll hold off judgement on that.
This is a major test of this team. Our main problem last year was losing nearly half of our away games, and just not getting enough goals to win away matches, so one defensive mistake was usually enough to give the home side three points. Of course drawing half of our home games didn’t help either, but the home form will hopefully come with the players getting used to the new stadium. After his excellent pre-season, now would be a good time for van Persie to continue his good form against Blackburn since joining Arsenal, and get his first goals of the season from open play.
Blackburn were our whipping boys last season until a fateful night in Lancashire in February when we were knocked out of a third cup competition in ten days. Time for some revenge, one would hope. We’ll certainly be fielding a stronger team this time round.
They made a solid start to this season, with an away win at Middlesbrough, and when the opposition is playing their first home game of the season it’s always going to be tough.
In all competitions at Ewood Park since Arsene took over, we’ve won six times and lost three times, including the FA Cup defeat last season. We’ve lost two of our last three trips there, although the one that we didn’t was an enjoyable 2-0 victory with ten men.
Gilberto, Diaby and Adebayor are all out injured. Eboue has picked up a knock and may miss the game, Rosicky’s definitely out. Denilson may be fit, either to start in place of Flamini or to replace Song on the bench, and Eduardo should be fit enough to start if needed.
If Eboue is out, you’d think that Hleb will go to the left side of midfield with Walcott playing on the right, with Bendtner or Eduardo partnering van Persie upfront, or Eduardo plays on the left, Hleb on the right. Bendtner will be fresher, and having a huge lump upfront could offer us a different style of play with a target man if Blackburn decide to kick lumps out of us, or Wenger could choose to give Eduardo his first Premier League game. Really not sure on that one. Starting someone away to Blackburn who’s been injured for a couple of weeks and hasn’t played in this league before doesn’t seem like the best idea. However, Bendtner and van Persie probably won’t work as a partnership, they both like to drop deep and play passes, and both need someone like Eduardo running ahead of them.
Wenger has really taken a gamble going into this season with only Rosicky, Eboue, Walcott and Hleb as players capable of doing jobs on the wing. I say capable of doing jobs on the wing, because none of them are wide midfielders. Hopefully Rosicky and Eboue’s display of being as injury prone as ever will force Wenger’s hand in the transfer market, otherwise this could be a long season.
Subs: Almunia, Senderos, Denilson, Hoyte, Bendtner.
Blackburn are without Stephane Henchoz, so that’s their backup goalkeeper gone. They’re also without Sergio Peter, Steven Reid and Bruno Berner. McCarthy may recover from his concussion in time.
King Willy to lead us to a third successive victory.