Reflections on Blackburn

Is he back?? Yes, he is!!!

Arsenal are beginning to hit full gear having outscored their opponents 7-nil in their last two matches following the 4-nil victory over Paul Ince’s Rovers on Saturday afternoon.  Arsenal had consistently struggled when going up north under Arsene Wenger but this young side seems to have gotten over the hump.  Arsenal haven’t lost at Blackburn since February 2006 and last season won at Bolton for the first time since April 2002.  Despite the fact that Blackburn hasn’t looked very impressive this season, especially defensively, putting four past them at Ewood Park is, if not impressive, very good for the side’s confidence.  That was, however, only the first of three tough away matches in 8 days as Arsenal now travel to Kiev for their Champions League Group Stage opener on Wednesday and then up to Bolton on Saturday.

The absence of Samir Nasri due to an ankle injury forced the Boss’s hand as he started Theo Walcott following his eye-opening hat-trick for England in Croatia a week ago.  Arsene Wenger has made a point of trying to manage the already high expectations placed on the youngster when he first transferred in from Southampton for £9.1m on 20 January 2006.  Walcott has very rarely started matches following some of his best performances as part of Wenger’s plan to bring the boy along slowly and keep the pressure on him as low as could be expected under the circumstances.  However, despite playing 2 international matches including the trip to Zagreb, Theo did not look fatigued in the least when he skipped past a few defenders and laid a ball perfectly to van Persie for the assist on a well-finished goal.

Wenger said after the England match that he was just as proud of Theo’s reaction after the game to the press as he was of his hat-trick.  Leave it to the British media to turn this into anti-Arsenal propaganda.  Arsene is trying not only to develop a player but also a man.  Theo is the culmination of Arsene’s grand plan.  He is a young English lad who came to the club when he was just 16 with great potential.  He has developed a love and appreciation for the club along with his game.  This is how Arsene plans on combating the takeover of the game by money and greed.  Theo’s maturity is well beyond his years and his potential at the moment is limitless and these are the two main reasons (besides being English) that Arsenal supporters have developed such a strong attachment to the 19 year old.

Emmanuel Adebayor finally broke his scoreless stretch from the start of the season and in some style.  A hat-trick which included a penalty drawn by an Eboue dive.  While a hat-trick is nothing to sniff at, it would be a dereliction of my duty as an Arsenal blogger to not mention the ridiculous amount of times he was called for offsides.  How hard is it to watch the line as you’re holding your run?  This has been a chronic problem for Adebayor and it is something he needs to address.  None of this takes away from the hat-trick of course but on a day when Arsenal need just that one goal from him he can’t be getting whistled 10+ times.  The thing that upsets most Arsenal fans about it is that it is such a fundamental skill – not something you should be needing to learn when you’re already starting for Arsenal in the Premier League.  For now, we can be gracious and put it down to his unending desire to score… for now.

It would also be a dereliction of my duty if I did not mention the defense.  Should I praise them for having conceded a league-low 1 goal in their opening four matches?  Of course.  There I did it.  Now, I wonder how we have done that.  There seems to be no improvement whatsoever from Toure and Gallas, either individually or as a partnership over the last 3 months of last season.  They still look clueless when balls come flying into the box and leave enough space between them for not only the striker but his Hummer as well.  We were lucky not to be punished at some point by Santa Cruz but how long can this charade go on?  How long until they are exposed for the defensive charlatans that they are?

I have been very critical of Gallas in the past but it must be said that Toure has looked equally bad.  Of course, I, along with most Gooners, are willing to give Kolo the benefit of the doubt considering his service to the club and the fact that we’ve seen how solid he can be when he has the right partner.  Gallas has not earned that benefit.  Toure just hasn’t looked the same player since he was injured at the African Cup of Nations back in January.  Alot of us hoped that Arsene would really strengthen the center of the defense (read: ship Gallas back to France) but lets’s be realistic… we couldn’t sell Gallas unless we were certain there was a replacement for him readily available on the transfer market.  I can’t think of any CB that transferred this summer that fits those criteria.  So we have to live with Gallas for another year and pray that he doesn’t self-implode and take the team with him… AGAIN!!

Blackburn vs Arsenal Player Ratings

Throw Your Hats in the Air!

Throw your hats in the air!

The Gunners secured a 4-nil victory at Ewood Park this afternoon in what eventually became a game of utter lawlessness as the referee failed to get a handle on the physical match.  But Arsenal was up for the challenge and goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin Van Persie helped ensure the Gunners took away  all three points.

Almunia: 6.5 Nothing really much for Manny to do.  He came out and controlled his area well enough, made some routine saves and had good distribution on the counter.  He did however find himself out in “no-man’s-land” in the first half in a decision that had many Gooners wondering what he was up to.

Sagna: 7 Solid as usual.  Good going forward and good in the recovery.  Marked very well and didn’t allow much to go down the right hand side.

Toure: 6.5 An OK performance from the fan favorite today.  He made some good clearances, most notably the header which saved what surely would have been a Rovers equalizer.  He also had some solid work when he got forward but, just like his central defensive partner, got caught napping on more then a few occasions this afternoon.

Gallas: 6 Nothing special from our captain.  He and Toure fell asleep at the back and failed to instill any confidence on crosses, especially in the first half, but it was Gallas who was in trouble more often than not when it came to marking his man.

Clichy: 7 Another solid game for, arguably, Arsenal’s most consistent player.  He was great going forward and solid again at the back.  He was the victim of a poor challenge at the end which now sees him listed as doubtful for Arsenal’s Champions League Group Stage opener on Wednesday.

Eboue: 6.5  Not great, but not bad either.  He did win the penalty, even if it was a dive.

Fabregas: 7 Solid as per usual.  Great distributing the ball and fantastic in picking out the pass.  Combined well with Denilson and on his way to truly being back and intergraded with the new look side.

Denilson: 7.5 Fantastic performance.  Solid in defense and good going forward.  He had better-than-average distribution and set up a nice first goal for Adebayor.  If he can continue these sorts of performances it may take Arsene out of the market for a defensive midfielder in January.

Walcott: 8 Great game from Theo.  He troubled the defense all day long, set up a fantastic first goal and was great in possession and distribution as well as taking on defenders.  Had a few nice attempts on goal and really seems to be growing into his spot on the wings.

van Persie: 7.5 Great game from van Persie.  Solid finish, solid passing and solid link up.  Van Persie looks to be well on his way to being at full match sharpness and hopefully with some luck he can stay injury free and continue to build on the last two games.

Adebayor: 8 Nothing really to say here.  Three goals: one header, one right foot and one left foot.  He was troubling to the defense and very unselfish at times too.  Linked up very well with the rest of the squad.  The one complaint though is that someone really ought to let Ade in on the offside rule.

SUBS:

Song: 7 Song had a solid game and added nicely to the midfield.  Arsenal seemed to maintain possession better with Song in the match and he was good in defense as well as in his distribution of the ball.  With three games coming up in 7 days Song seems like a player who is likely to see even more time on the pitch.

Ramsey: 7 Ramsey played well.  Made some good runs and some good passes and all around looks a fantastic prospect.  His chances in the league will surely be limited but I am certainly excited to see what he can do in the cups.

Wilshere: 7 It was great to see Jack get in the game.  As young as he is it is blowouts like this that will be vital to his early learning.  Jack looked calm on the ball and good in the pass.  He covered the right side well both offensively and defensively and expectations are understandably high for the now youngest player to ever play in the Premiership.

Man Of The Match: Emmanuel Adebayor notched a fantastic hat trick today.  In addition he linked up nicely with the rest of the squad and showed how he can be a team player.  All that seems left for him to do is learn the offside rule and then he an truly become a force to terrorize opposition defenses

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