PGL: Welcome to another ‘Ask the Oppo’. The game after the Champions league is always difficult but we’ve done well this season post-Europe. I’ve been talking Mikey from http://www.blackburn.vitalfootball.co.uk/ to get the view from Ewood park…
PGL: So what’s been going on at Blackburn since we last met?
Mikey: How long have you got. I’ll give you a compact version.
We sacked our tactically naive manager (Paul Ince) for a run of poor results which were as a result of borderline useless defending from our previously stingy back four. Ince was removed as he had lost the dressing room and the more importantly the crowd as well.
In his place we have the universally un-liked, but super effective Sam Allardyce who has changed the team back into the “old” Rovers who are resilient and tough to beat.
We have moved from being 6 points adrift from safety to 15th in the table.
We have lost 2 of the 11 Premier League games we have played under him (to Aston Villa and Man United) and have tightened up the defence as well. We are by no means out of the woods yet but we are in a positon where we can at least get out of trouble that we wouldn’t have been had Mr.Ince still be here.
We have signed two very good additions in January in El-Hadji Diouf (yes I know you don’t like him but he is a good player) and the “find of January” Gael Givet, a French national left back.
So in short, since we last met, things have got a lot better.
PGL: Were you surprised to see Paul Ince sacked so quickly?
Mikey: Not really. I backed him like most Rovers fans did and I wanted to see him succeed but it got the point where a change was needed to safeguard the clubs future. It wasn’t nice and it certainly wasn’t pretty but it was the RIGHT decision.
He made the step up to early and did little to endear himself to the hardcore Rover fans. He signed Keith Andrews (who is about as unfashionable as they come but is suprisingly decent for my money) and bought in Robbie Fowler which got him off on the wrong foot with most.
He promised a lot but delivered very little.
I have no doubt he will make a good manager one day but it wasn’t to be.
PGL: How do Blackburn fans feel about having the former Bolton manager in charge at Ewood Park?
Mikey: I’ll hold my hands up here – in the summer when it was rumoured he might move here I didn’t want him. I thought he would be no good and would turn us into Bolton.
I now realise through the board making the wrong decision in the first place (appointing Ince) and through hindsight that I was wrong.
He has an infectious personality and he gets the best out of the players we have.
The fact he was a manager at Bolton makes no difference to me – if he was an ex-Burnley boss then I would have problems!
PGL: Is their belief in the stands that you’ll beat the drop?
Mikey: If you had asked me in November I would of been very down and pessimistic but since you are asking me today I have a different outlook.
I am now convinced we will stave off trouble. We have the right guy in charge and we have well driven players who want to break sweat for the boss.
The players are now organised properly and are tactically applied in the best way to get results.
I am absolutely sure we will be safe. Prbably not by a great deal of points but still the right side of the line.
PGL: Both sides played crucial fixtures midweek, do you think managers should rotate at this stage of the season or keep playing the strongest 11?
Mikey: I can’t really speak for Arsenal as your objectives are different to that of Blackburn but I believe with the smaller squad that we have that the strongest X1 is a must, especially when there is so much at stake.
Rotation is good if you need to rest but with ten games left and being in no other competitions we have a sole focus and that is to stay the right side of the red line.
We need our best 11 on the pitch at all times.
PGL: Sam Allardyce’s Bolton side used to get a lot of stick from the Arsenal manager because of the tactics they employed but they often took points off us. Will Sam be going for more of the same in this clash?
I must say, and I don’t mean this offensively to anyone at Arsenal but Wenger used to complain about Blackburn’s “rough” tactics a few years back as well and I felt he used those remarks as a sore loser mechanism as opposed to actually meaning it.
For example, he complained because Rovers were “nasty” during a 1-1 draw at Ewood two years back when exactly nobody got injured. I really praise him as a manager and he think he is the best in the league for what it is worth but I think he overdid it with those previous comments and that did not show him in a good light at all.
We will go defensive and you will have to work hard to break us down but we won’t be afraid to have a go – ask Man United from a few weeks back.
I have nothing but respect for Arsenal but this is a bit of a sore subject for me as Arsene was in the wrong saying what he said.
PGL: We’ve had some big attacking players come back into the squad over the last two weeks, how will Rovers try to stop our various attacking threats?
Mikey: With great difficulty. With Walcott, Fabregas etc coming back in Arsenal will have an extra dimension to their play and it is up to us to stop them causing damage. We will rely on a solid defensive basis. The two full backs we have (Givet and Ooijer) are experienced enough to deal with anyone but they will need to be on top of their game in terms of reading play as they are not the paciest.
Nelsen and Samba in the middle will need to get tight to the front players and play a deepish line – playing to a higher line will involve us getting absolutely mauled.
PGL: And finally, what’s your prediction for the game?
Mikey: I am an optimistic type of chap and I think we are on a good run whilst the Gunners have had an exhausting week so I think we can pinch a draw.
1-1 the score, Van Persie for Arsenal and Stephen Warnock for the Blue and White Army.
PGL: So that the view from Ewood. If it does end 1-1 it would be a disaster for us, we need to keep winning right now, but at least we wouldn’t have to endure the horror of penalties! AW must go for the throat and we need to take control early. If we get an early goal we could knock in a few if not this co uld be nail biting…