A Look At The Positives and The Negatives

For my first Sunday lunchtime blog, I thought I’d look at some of the positives and negatives from yesterdays northern clash at Blackburn.
The Positives
The Win
The ‘simple’ task of securing all three points at Ewood Park yesterday was undoubtedly the most important facet of Arsenal’s weekend. Blackburn may be a mid-table team who are easily swept aside when away from home, but when they turn hosts, it becomes a very different matter. Any team has to buckle down to grind out a victory at Ewood but, nonetheless, maximum haul must be taken from places like this if a team wants to push for the Championship. If you don’t agree, just ask how Alex Ferguson felt after his team visited there last season! I don’t care how early in the campaign it may be, this was a ‘must win’ match for Arsenal. And however edgy it may have been at times, they managed to pull it off.
Theo Walcott
Theo will always have his doubters, people like Alan Hansen and Chris Waddle are too stubborn to even admit there’s glowing potential there, but his criticism is irrelevant. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I wasn’t overly enthused about Theo’s hatrick last week, and was more concerned with how he’d follow up the feat. But follow it up he did! Opening the scoring, dancing through Blackburn’s defence and turning in a second ‘Man of the Match’ performance. He was easily our best player on Saturday, and long may this run of form continue.
The Atmosphere at Ewood
Ewood Park was buzzing on Saturday, and it was good to hear both sets of fans getting behind their teams and at each other. I’m sure the support of the travelling Gunners that day helped the team deal with the threat of Blackburn, however rare that threat was! When we went there last season, with five or six first-team regulars missing, there was a strange sense of foreboding – not this time however. Both sets of fans were riled up and, whether that was because the managers had been taking a pops at one another or not, the atmosphere was palpable.
The Negatives
Our Failure to Break
Okay, I agree that the only thing that really mattered on Saturday was the win, and I’m delighted we got that. But when taking a slightly more critical look, the final score should have been 4-1. In the closing 20 minutes of the match we twice broke clear of Blackburn and clearly should have put away both chances. The second break in question began with a three on one! Yes, Wilshire lost his footing at the end, but the whole breakaway should have been a lot quicker and more decisive. Issues like this aren’t generally mentioned if a team has won anyway, but imagine if after missing those chances, Blackburn had scored a 92nd minute equaliser. We still need to be more penetrative when given the chance to finish off teams for good.
Van Persie’s Injury
There’s not really much to be said here that hasn’t been said before. It’s the same old story of Robin producing glittering displays that are then suddenly halted by some form of injury. Van Persie looked great for the half hour he played, even setting up the first goal, but was then frustratingly (and somewhat expectedly) substituted because of an ankle problem. All we can do is cross our fingers that he’s not gone for too long.
Pre-match Manager Baiting
I said earlier that one of the best aspects of this weekends match was the atmosphere. That was partly due to the managers having a bit of a ‘handbags at dawn’ style duel through the press, prior to the game. But although I liked the resulting mood, it didn’t mean I liked the cause of it. Wenger making tongue-in-cheek comments about rugby and Fat Sam getting out the history books on our disciplinary record was just plain pointless. Wenger’s experienced enough to know that making comments like that is unlikely to influence the referee. Fatty’s been around long enough to know that his team can’t handle us without pushing the rules to their limit. So why not just leave those comments at home and not give the press something to distort and turn against you?
The Neutrals
Koscielny
I like Laurent Koscielny. The few times I’ve seen him he’s looked swift and well able to judge the flight of a ball. But something about the way he plays strikes me as nervous, and I can’t escape the feeling that there’s a clanger waiting to be dropped somewhere. Laurent was skinned alive by El-Hadji Diouf for the first goal and I hope not to see such worrying events repeat themselves. Issues like this are avoidable though, and with the experience of Squillaci in the squad, I’m sure these fears will quickly be abated – hence Laurent’s inclusion as a ‘Neutral’.
Almunia in Goal
Though many of you will think this should be in ‘Negatives’, I believe that the time for complaining about our goalkeeper is nearing an end. I would still love to see a new ‘keeper arrive, make no mistake, but I just don’t see it happening. In our up-coming Carling Cup and FA Cup matches, we’ll have a chance (hopefully!) to see how Mannone and Szczesny are developing. You never know, one of them may make it into the first-team before the season’s up. Before you all leave me comments saying that we need experience, and we should sell Almunia and Fabianski, remember that the transfer window is almost closed. Once it has, there will be no more use in complaining about our Number 1, whoever that may be!
Song Goes Blonde
Those of you that saw the game against Blackburn will no doubt have noticed that Alex Song has had a trim and gone blonde. So, unless the poor chap’s become very ill, it would look like he’s up for making a bit of a statement. Personally I like it; football needs more quirky characters like blonde Song and wise-cracking Eboue to lighten up what can otherwise be a culture of pretentious, gel-haired prima donnas. Now, let’s just hope Thomas Vermaelen takes to the pitch next week sporting a mighty handle-bar moustache…

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