Arsenal's Premier League Trip to Blackburn Rovers Previewed
The games keep coming for Arsenal as the new look squad attempts to find it's feet. After what will hopefully turn out to be an important Champions League point away to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night, it's back to Premier League action against Blackburn Rovers. At the moment Arsenal are 12th in the league with four points from four games, but this is a real opportunity for them to improve on that.
At the moment their opponents are propping up all other 19 Premier League clubs at the bottom of the table with only one point from their four games. They gave that point away to Fulham last Sunday after defeats in their first three games. That was a welcome challenge for Blackburn. It hasn't decreased the pressure on manager Steve Kean though, as some of their fans plan a protest against him before the game.
Blackburn had a good home record in recent seasons, but they have lost both of their home games this season. That's worrying for a team that depends on their home form to avoid relegation.
They will be looking to remedy that problem against Arsenal behind their deadline day signing of Scott Dann from Birmingham City. Dann could prove to be vital for them if he can form an effective central defensive partnership with Christopher Samba.Together, they may be able to build confidence in their team's play as well as make Arsenal pay for passing them up during the transfer window last year.
Both players were reported to have been targets for Arsenal during the transfer window, but they eventually signed German centre back Per Mertesacker instead.
Mertesacker is still finding his feet in the Arsenal team, but Laurent Koscielny is performing admirably alongside him. Koscielny's distribution has been suspect at times so far this season, but he has defended well when called upon and he was excellent against Dortmund on Tuesday night.
Arsene Wenger might keep the same starting lineup that played against Dortmund. The lineup builds a fairly strong looking Arsenal team. The only possible exceptions might be the inclusion of Andre Santos, Andrey Arshavin, Aaron Ramsey or Tomas Rosicky, but it's unlikely any of them will start.
Santos should get his full debut against Shrewsbury Town in the Carling Cup next Tuesday night and he should get plenty of first team chances after that game. Gervinho will keep his place in the team which should see Arshavin on the bench again, unless Theo Walcott drops out.
Both Ramsey and Rosicky have knocks and there are doubts that either of them will be risked even if they are fit to play.
Both Mikael Arteta and Yossi Benayoun should play in front of Alex Song again, continuing their promising play against Shrewsbury Town. Arteta showed what he is capable of against Swansea last weekend and Benayoun had a very good game against Dortmund on Tuesday night. Arsenal needs to start creating more chances, and both of them are more than capable of fulfilling those duties at this level.
I have been critical of Theo Walcott this season and in the past too like so many other Arsenal fans. He continues to frustrate me when I watch him play, but his goals have been very important so far this season. He has three goals in seven games from a wide role, and his assist for Robin Van Persie was crucial on Tuesday night.
I think Walcott would prefer to be deployed in a central role, but it doesn't look likely to happen in the near future. Until then, he is most likely to score when he is played behind the opposing defence and the fans will have to live with his apparent lack of success at taking opponents on.
It looks like he has earned himself a regular starting role for this season, and it's up to him now to ensure he keeps it.
Robin Van Persie hasn't been at his best so far this season, but he is gradually improving with each game. Hopefully he can reach last year's heights prior to injury. He has the ability to be the top scorer in the Premier League if he can stay fit and Arsenal's new and crafty players can provide him with the chances to score.
I think Blackburn will attempt to get into the Arsenal players' faces and put them under pressure. Arsenal's ability to soak up pressure and execute under duress will be critical. They will also have to take their chances to break quickly and punish all Blackburn mistakes. As nervous as Arsenal may appear at times, I think Blackburn will be even more nervous.
As long as Arsenal puts in the required effort and the players are brave enough to keep playing football no matter what happens, then they are good enough to get another three points.
With some of the title contenders playing each other on Sunday there's a good chance for Arsenal to make up some ground, but nothing less than a win will do in this game. I'm predicting a 2-1 victory for Arsenal with RVP hopefully discovering his scoring form away from home like last season.
The latest injury update from the club yesterday was promising, as Arsene Wenger said Thomas Vermaelen should be back from his injury after the next international break. I'll be at the first game after that break when Arsenal takes on Sunderland at the Emirates along with quite a few other Irish fans of Arsenal. I'm really looking forward to meeting some good people and watching Arsenal play live again.
It's not too late to join over 850 teams in my Fantasy League and there are prizes for the top three teams at the end of the season. Just go to the site and use the code 125540-42785 to join my league when your team is set up.
To join the predictions league just go to the site and set up your predictions. Then use the code F688F-JCO to join my league. I'll update the league table in my predictions every week.
I'm also a member of a very good and very active Arsenal group on Facebook which you can join here.
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