Arsenal FC: 4 Keys to Victory Versus Blackburn Rovers
The pressure is on Arsene Wenger's new-look squad to prove they have enough quality to win a difficult away game.
After two spirited but technically poor performances against Swansea and Dortmund, a small measure of confidence seems to have returned to Arsenal.
The Gunners will need to be at their resolute best to see off a Blackburn squad themselves mired in poor form and supporter unrest.
Here are four things Arsenal must get right to beat Blackburn and put their season firmly back on track.
4. Reduce the Space Between Defense, Midfield and Attack
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In recent games there has simply been too much space between defense, midfield and attack when Arsenal are in possession.
The sight of players looking around for a passing option then throwing their hands up in despair after being forced into an aimless clearance is becoming too familiar.
When the ball is being played out of defense, midfielders are running forward with their backs to the player in possession.
Midfielders with the ball at their feet are not being presented with willing runs or players eager to come and show for a pass.
As a result, Arsenal's play has lacked any connection and their usually intricate passing style has floundered and become pedestrian.
More confidence and speed is needed in Arsenal's passing if they are to regain their previous attacking flair and prowess.
3. Exploit Blackburn's Full Backs
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Arsenal must find ways to consistently isolate Theo Walcott and Gervinho one on one with Blackburn full backs Gael Givet and Michel Salgado.
Both Givet and Salgado lack pace and can be rash in the tackle. Walcott shouldn't view this as an excuse to cosign himself strictly to the touchline.
The wide forward must vary his runs inside, outside and straight at the Rovers full backs. Gervinho needs to demonstrate the variety and timing of his runs that have made him look so impressive at the start of his Arsenal career.
Robin van Persie and Mikel Arteta must provide good delivery to match these runs. If smart movement from the wide positions can be matched with creative intent, Arsenal will certainly find the net.
2. A Commanding Performance in Central Defense to Repel the Aerial Onslaught
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The long goal kicks of Paul Robinson and Christopher Samba's power in the air means that Arsenal are sure to face an aerial bombardment at some point.
Arsenal need a decisive and assured performance from central defensive pairing Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.
So far Mertesacker has displayed good anticipation and timing in one-on-one situations and has also marshaled the defense well. But resisting aerial assaults is the number one reason Arsenal fans wanted to see defensive reinforcements added. Mertesacker must prove that he knows how to use his 6-foot-6 frame in the rugged and combative environment of the Premier League.
Laurent Koscielny will need to be much more decisive. His decision making almost cost Arsenal on more than one occasion against Dortmund on Tuesday.
The pace of tomorrow's game is likely to be even more frantic, so there will be no time for uncertainty at the back.
1. Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs Need to Be at Their Best
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Blacburn's biggest threat could well come from wide forward David Hoilett. The fleet-footed youngster is a very underrated prospect and Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs will need to work hard to subdue the talented 21-year-old.
Hoilett utilises tremendous pace and plenty of tricks to get behind a defense, and he possesses a dangerous final delivery. The Canadian prospect will be key to Blackburn's attempts to expose the Gunners in the air, but he also has the speed and instincts to catch out Arsenal's ponderous back line. Hoilett will switch wings and it will be up to Gibbs and Sagna to corral him and prevent him from challenging the middle of Arsenal's back four with numerous accurate crosses.
Blackburn possess an able deputy in speedy and skillful young Swede Martin Olsson who could also be pressed into action down either flank.
Tomorrow's game presents Arsene Wenger's side with the ideal opportunity to put their poor early season form behind them. A victory would provide a good platform as they enter a favourable run of fixtures.
But Blackburn cannot be easily overlooked. They are a defensively solid team who have given Arsenal plenty of problems in the past.
Given Arsenal's fragile nature so far this season, a strong performance is needed to help win back the trust of the fans.