Emphatic Arsenal Destroy Blackburn
Now that’s the kind of beating big Sam’s thugs deserve. It could have been worse. It should have been worse. But it was thoroughly entertaining. Granted, until the second goal went in, there was always going to be some nail-biting, but we always looked like scoring and Almunia was hardly threatened. Overall, it was fantastic day of football for the Gunners and it was prbably Arsenal’s most convincing performance in the league this season.
In yesterday’s blog I discussed the players that I thought would be rested. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to see Nasri in the starting XI and I thought for certain that Clichy and Sagna would get a break. Sagna in particular has played so often this season, but apparently the manager has faith in is endurance. As expected, Djourou came in to central defence and we had the midfield pairing of Denilson and Song. Walcott got his first league start and Arshavin played right behind Bendtner as a lone striker. As I said yesterday, I have never looked forward to the midfield pairing of Denilson and Song, but today their play was undeniably inspired.
This was a game to sit back and enjoy. The passing was brisk and accurate, the defending rarely looked shaky and the enthusiasm from obvious from the first moment of the game. It undoubtedly helped the team psychologically that the first goal was in the back of the next before most of the fans had reached their seats. That probably lifted the pressure and there were no signs of a Roman hangover in Arsenal’s play today.
The transformation of Alex Song over the past few games has been eye opening. His help in front of the back four has been solid and his creative play going forward has been hugely influential. I wrote recently that the return of injured players might mean the end of Alex Song’s starting opportunities, but if he continues in this form, he will have earned the right to continue in the center of midfield. A Bendtner miss denied Song an assist after a wonderful combination move started by an excellent Toure run. (I still think Toure would be a fantastic holding midfielder but Wenger has emphatically quashed any thoughts of playing him there.)
Denilson was equally impressive today. While I’m not his biggest fan, he has been asked to do the impossible and fill in for Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield. He’s too young and inexperienced for such an undertaking and he has stuggled but today he showed a glimps of the talent that is there.
Arsene Wenger took some flak for signing Andrei Arshavin. Critics pointed out that it was foolish to sign a player in January that couldn’t help with our European campaign. But I think it’s even sillier to base a €15M transfer on what the player will bring to the team over four months. Wenger realized that the most important thing for Arsenal is to qualify for the Champions League next season. If Arshavin helps accomplish that feat, then he will have repaid his entire transfer fee in European earnings alone.
Today he showed once again that Wenger has an eye for exceptional talent. (Although Arshavin was far from a hidden gem.) He was so fun to watch today because he sees the pitch in much the same way that Cesc does. If there is any reason to be excited for Cesc’s return, it is merely to watch the chances they can create when both are in midfield. Not to pick on Bendtner, but his misses really denied Arshavin the chance at one of the truly spectacular performances of the season. In particular, Arshavins’ cross field pass to Nik on the counter attack was magnificent. He threaded it through the defense right onto Bendtner’s foot in perfect scoring position. Eduardo, Van Persie, Adebayor all probably finish that off. On another day, Nik probably does too.
It was a great Arsenal performance, and it was only fitting that the best moment of the day was a display of individual brilliance by Arshavin. The first goal of the game was rightly ruled an own goal, but there was no denying who scored the second. Arshavin took the ball on the left wing, made Oojier look foolish, and blasted the ball into the roof of the net from the most acute angle. It was his first goal for the team and more than worth the wait. If you add that to the Vela and Eduardo goals last weekend, we’re putting together quite a highlight reel.
Just before Walcott came back from injury I discussed how hugely influential his return would be. He’s the kind of player that destroy’s opposition game plans. While his technique in the final third isn’t always perfect, he control has improved and his pace is frightening. As improved as Eboue has been, (And his improvement deserves attention), it was clear today that Walcott could be a threat down the right on almost every possession. He chased two Blackburn left backs from the game. He probably deserved a goal for his hard work and creativity but it just wasn’t going to happen today. It’s so nice to see him back in the starting XI and it also gave us a glimps of how effective Eboue can be as a substitute. (I was stunned when I saw him step up to take the penalty. Good for him for putting it in the back of the net.)
It’s pretty amazing that there can be a negative talking point from such a positive match, but unfortunately you can’t break down this game without mentioning Bendtner’s performance. A good striker must do two things; get into dangerous positions and finish his chances. Bendtner should be credited for a very active match. He ran hard, moved the ball around and found himself in goal scoring position on too many occasions to remember. Unfortunately for him, he just didn’t convert. Not one single chance. Many of the chances game while the outcome was still in the balance and that lead the fans to get on his back a little bit. It was nice to see that they had forgiven him by the time he was taken off.
Wenger had this to say about Bendtner’s day:
“I am pleased with his overall contribution. He didn’t finish well but he played well. I think after he missed the first chance he took too long on the second one. Then it becomes a problem for you. What is most important is that he creates the chances because once he scores one he will score three or four. He is always in the situation and his first touch was much better today and his movement was good. The rest will come along.”
True, this is reminiscent of Wenger’s previous comments about Bendtner, but I have a feeling he may might right. Certainly, Bendtner has good awareness of where to be on the pitch. If he can get some confidence in his finishing, he could be very dangerous indeed. Some of his teammates were probably getting a little frustrated with him today. Many of them missed out on assists thanks to his profligacy, but overall it was a game to enjoy and I’m sure the players left the pitch contented.
The final thoughts on this game are reserved for El Hadji-Diouf. He is a miserable bastard and should be dragged through the streets of London regularly. Today he showed once again why he is so utterly disliked. Since he was having no luck playing football, he dove in for a reckless challenge on Almunia that very easily could have broken the ‘keeper’s ankle. Any other referee probably issues a red card for the challenge, but Phil Dowd has only given out two of them all year and he chose to show only yellow. Regardless, it’s nothing more than what you expect from the player and from a Sam Allardyce team. They should wash the Emirates pitch thoroughly tonight to expell Blackburn’s hideous stench.
Tomorrow Arsenal fans will be cheering on Sp*rs. You may want to keep a garbage bag handy as you will be undoubtedly be overwhelmed by nausea just at the thought. But if Sp*rs can do the job tomorrow, we will end the weekend back in the top four thanks to our suddenly growing goal differential.
Tonight, all is well in gunnerland.