Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Blackburn preview – defend first, then the rest

Morning all,

the last time Arsenal went this far north for a game it ended up quite badly. The circumstances that day were very different though. It was a team, and possibly a manager, overwhelmed by quality opposition after the most trying of summers. Since then we’ve added to the squad, restored a bit of pride and got ourselves somewhat back on track.

Three points at home to Swansea last Saturday need to be followed up with three points today. Blackburn’s position at the bottom of the table is not really relevant this early in the season. Anyone underestimating them because of that is being a bit foolish. How we perceive them should be based on the games we’ve played against them and at Ewood Park it’s always a test.

The fight and commitment we showed in midweek against Dortmund must be on display again and the manager says it’s like a new beginning:

It starts again, because we have taken five players. It is difficult but we want our fans to be happy, we want to win trophies and we will give absolutely everything to do it. That’s all I can say.

He spoke at his press conference on Thursday about adding some consistency, thus building confidence, and there’s an admission that he’s had to change his own ways to turn things around:

I am highly determined to show that I can do things differently. I can talk and talk and talk, but at the end of the season you will say, ‘Where did you finish?’ So let’s win the next game.

Can’t really argue with that, to be honest. In terms of today’s team, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the same eleven that started in midweek started today, but with Ramsey likely to be fit again, and Arshavin available, he might make one or two little tweaks in the forward areas.

It’s at the back that we need to show real consistency, however, and Bacary Sagna reckons that a more collective approach to defending and better communication is beginning paying off:

No, I think we are just doing the job more professionally. From Robin to the defence, everybody is giving a bit more for his team-mates and we can see the results straight away. We are a bit sharper at the back, we know we have to be a bit more consistent and talk a bit more to each other. It makes things easier.

I’ve long said that defending is not the sole domain of the back four. A team that works hard from front to back will be a much more difficult team to break down. You only need to look at the defensive work Rooney does for United to see how it should be. And there was a moment on Tuesday night, late on, when Robin van Perise hared back to our left back position to offer cover and to do the work that needed to be done.

That’s the way it should be and no player is above having to track back and at least trying to make things tough for the attacking team. Often just the presence of another player is enough to stop forward momentum and that’s something that needs to be drummed into all our players over and over again until it becomes second nature.

And on a solid defensive platform you can build a much more potent attacking unit. It’s there’s a reassurance that a team can defend well then you’re far more likely to be a threat going forward. It would be nice to see a fresh goalscorer today, to spread the goals around the team a bit. Only van Persie, Walcott and Arshavin have scored for us so far this season. I know it’s still early but if we can start to provide a goalscoring threat from other areas of the pitch and from other players it gives opponents much more to think about.

Blackburn’s Chris Samba says they want to make today a ‘living hell’ and ‘horrible’ for Arsenal. He knows Blackburn well then. But that’s the kind of attitude we’re going to face today. A team under real pressure looking to haul themselves off the bottom of the table. Regardless what’s going on with their manager professional pride will ensure they’ll give 100% until the final whistle and we need to be ready for that.

We know they’re a threat from set-pieces and long balls into the box. They may have changed their style somewhat under this current manager but when it comes right down to it I suspect they’ll go back to what they know best. We certainly look better able to cope with that kind of thing but we can’t take anything for granted.

I think, if we put the effort in, if nobody’s found wanting and if we do the simple things right, we’ll take three points today. Robin van Persie has a great scoring record against Blackburn, Walcott got a great goal here last season too, so fingers crossed we can continue to build and gain some momentum.

Kick off is 12.45, there’ll be full live blog coverage as usual. Remember, it is 100% free to follow the live blog on your computer, iPad, phone etc, but if you want to join in with the live chat you need an Arseblog premium account. Register here and you’ll see the option to upgrade.

12 months access is a mere £10 and it’s a decent place to chat about the game without the messing and hysteria you see elsewhere.

In other news, Wenger on Stan Kroenke:

I feel the owner leaves us to do the job. He listens to financial fair play, which you have to accept. But he will certainly speak out at some stage.

Surely it must be feeding back to Kroenke that the longer he goes without saying something about his plans for the club the more anxious people become. I’m very much of the opinion that sometimes it’s better not to say anything, that there’s no point talking just for the sake of it, but at this point I think it’s really important that Kroenke makes some effort at communication.

It’s beginning to feel a bit like when you have a row with someone and the longer you don’t speak the more difficult it becomes to break down that barrier. And you know that if you’d just said something the next day it’d all have been ok. Come on, Stan, we can be friends again.

Gervinho says he’s not a diver and says the 14 penalties he ‘won’ in two seasons in France were all genuine. That seems like a lot of penalties! He’s right about the Newcastle one though, for me that was a penalty, and it’s a shame he got suckered into the nasty, scrappy world of Joey Deacon Barton.

Right, that’s yer lot. Live blog coverage coming, as I said, check back about an hour before kick off for details of that. If you fancy a flutter, Paddy Power have some specials and a £50 free bet if you sign up with them – check the betting page for more.

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