Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Blackburn preview: Gotta be up for the cup

Morning all,

after a long week there’s football at last, and FA Cup action against Blackburn Rovers. The last time we met in the cup we went out at Ewood Park after a 0-0 draw at home. That was back in 2006/7. Last season against them in the league we had a great 7-1 win at home, but that came after a bonkers early season 4-3 defeat which saw us score two own goals.

The team news is mixed. As we mentioned yesterday there are doubts over Jack Wilshere and Laurent Koscielny and the manager saying he won’t take any risks with the rest of the season in mind. I think if both make the bench it’ll be a surprise, and although the cup does provide our best chance of winning something this season, this is a game in which he can make a few changes and expect his team to win. He says:

The players who will not start are the players who have played many games recently, especially with the internationals. We’ll play a team with experienced players which has a good chance to go through. We only have big names in our squad, so it will be a team of big names, for sure.

There’s talk of youngster Hector Bellerin starting today at right back, while Diaby, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho could all come into the side to change things around a little bit. It’s not as if he can make wholesale changes, we might see Podolski start as the central striker, but it wouldn’t surprise me greatly if he started left and Gervinho played down the middle. He had some success there in the early part of the season and although he doesn’t convince me greatly, it’d be to everyone’s benefit if he found some form again.

Bacary Sagna says the team need to take their chances to ensure a repeat of the Bradford cup tie does not happen:

I don’t think we deserved to go out when we played Bradford. They fought as much as we did. We created many chances but didn’t score and at the end of the game, we went out.

And while there was much to enjoy and admire about Arsenal’s sterling rearguard action last weekend against Sunderland, my nervousness was compounded by each chance we let slip. I kept thinking ‘that’s the one that’s going to prove costly’. In the end we battled it out well, but I’m not sure spurning so many opportunities to score is going to be something we’ll get away with too often. It’s certainly a good thing that we’re creating those chances, especially when you consider how we struggled in that department at times this season, but we can’t afford to be that wasteful.

I know little of how Blackburn play under whoever their manager is now, but they come to the Emirates today as full-on underdogs with absolutely nothing to lose. That can be dangerous in cup football. If we start well and score early, it could be enough to kill the game, but a slip or a mistake to give them some momentum could give them the confidence they need to pull off a shock. So while being more efficient up the other end is crucial, so too is the need to continue where we left off defensively against Sunderland.

Even if Wilshere is absent, and even if some players are given a rest, I still think this is a game we’re more than capable of winning with the players we have. The manager has to trust in his squad a little bit, and should it be required we can throw on bigger guns from the bench. Ideally, it’s one we’ll win without having to do that, meaning legs are fresher for Bayern and the Premier League fixtures ahead, but today is an important game and one we should be well and truly focused on. Whatever it takes.

If you can’t see the game later , we’ll have full live blog coverage of the game later on for you. Check back later for a post with all the info or you can bookmark the default live blog page.

We’ve also set up a Twitter account @arseblog_live which will provide important updates like goals, cards, substitutions, half-time and full time scores. If you follow that and enable SMS notifications via Twitter, you can get those updates sent directly to your phone.

And if you fancy a flutter, Paddy Power will give you a £20 free bet if you sign up and bet £10. Simply click here to register.

Other than that there’s not a lot going on to be honest. Let’s hope we’re up for the cup today, back here tomorrow. Until then, have a good Saturday.

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