By 1970's Gooner
This away fixture at Blackburn is the equivalent of a real fitness test for this young but maturing Arsenal side.
All the football pundits are expecting Arsenal to return to their old ways. Their first away fixture in the North with rain gushing down, a partisan crowd and an opponent prepared to stick it up your nose. This is where titles are won or lost.
And there is some merit in this logic.
Yes they battled hard against a physical Ajax in the Amsterdam tournament but that was a friendly after all;
Yes they came back to beat Fulham at the death; but Fulham surprisingly didn’t park the Fulham Broadway bus in front of them and it was a home game after all, in nice London summerish weather.
Yes they had to man the barricades against an intimidating Sparta and Tomas Repka in Prague which indicated that they are up for the physical type of games; but having watched the game live, Sparta did not produce the quality of football as say Blackburn could pose on Sunday.
So if Wenger’s babes can also pass this test then the football world will really sit up and take notice.
Hell, the players themselves will sit up and take notice!
So if you are Mr Wenger and you realise the enormous up side potential that an away win at Blackburn at this juncture will give to this side how should you approach this game?
I say this because injuries to Eboue, Rosicky, Diaby and Eduardo are likely to deprive the team of key players especially its wings. Without wings no one can fly. And fly is what Arsenal need to do if they are to have a chance of winning this game.
How Wenger decides to replace the loss of Eboue and Rosicky will, more than any other decision he makes for this game, go a long way in deciding its outcome. And there are two reasons for this.
The first is the need to have penetrating wide midfielders as this will be the only way to bypass what is likely to be a congested midfield; made even more congested by Hleb’s insistence to drop deeper than he should. May be on Wenger’s orders.
The second reason is that Blackburn themselves look likely to play with two wingers who like to go forward. The dangerous Pedersen and old boy Bentley. Exploitation of the spaces left behind them may prove their Achilles heel.
One way to (partly) solve the winger’s crisis is to change the formation and play 4 4 2 by bringing Bendtner or Eduardo in to partner RVP. The result will be that Hleb will move to one of the wide midfield positions.
But I don’t think that Wenger will want to change a winning team’s formation. And as he has said, Eduardo will probably be deployed from the bench. Bendtner he considers not yet ready to start.
The only viable solutions available to my mind are to play Clichy as a left sided midfielder with Hoyte brought in at left or right back.
Clichy impressed during pre season when he was tried in this position and also showed, during these first two competitive games, how dangerous he is going forward.
For the other wide midfield position the choice is between Denilson, who is now fit, and Walcott.
Walcott impressed when he came on against Fulham and he will be adding real penetration, an ingredient necessary if Arsenal are to exploit the wide areas.
The rest of the team picks itself.
Hleb is top scorer, Robin needs a Batman and Fabregas is the real captain
Fabregas has added a “Peter Storey” attitude to his vast arsenal of talents