Walcott 20, Arshavin 51
Arsenal battled to a 2-1 victory over a tough Blackburn side at Ewood Park on Saturday.
Manager Arsene Wenger tweaked to a 4-1-2-3 formation. Playing one out and out defensive midfielder and a front three full of pace and imagination. The system set the Gunners up perfectly for the counter attack by allowing Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin to use their speed to push Blackburn back.
Captain Cesc Fabregas, Robin van persie and Laurent Koscielny were restored to the line-up with Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Marouane Chamakh dropping to the bench. Alex Song was pushed forward into his favoured defensive midfield role.
3 Sagna – 5 Vermaelen – 6 Koscielny – 22 Clichy
2 Diaby – 17 Song – 4 Fabregas
14 Walcott – 10 van persie – 23 Arshavin
34 – 29 Chamakh on for 10 van persie
68 – 7 Rosicky on for 4 Fabregas
83 – 19 Wilshere on for 23 Arshavin
Koscielny slotted back in alongside Thomas Vermaelen at the heart of the defence and these two along with Alex Song gave the Gunners the platform to win the match. All three players gave Arsenal an aerial ability and steel which they have missed against physical sides in the past few seasons. Admittedly at the start of the game they looked shaky but they didn’t buckle under the pressure with the two centre halves relishing the match up.
Koscielny was at fault for the goal being out-muscled by El- Hadji Diouf but that apart he looked composed and most importantly hungry for a battle, someone that will put their body on the line for the team. Not since the invincibles side of 2004 have Arsenal seen such determination in their backline.
Song, just like last season was impressive. The Cameroon international doesn’t shy away from a challenge and is also a great passer of the ball which is very rare in a player of his position. He picked up the ball when Arsenal were under pressure and quickly turned defence into attack with one ball. This allowed Arsenal to catch the Blackburn defence cold at times and create opportunities.
Fabregas and Abou Diaby played just in front of Song. Diaby again looked to get forward but his casual nature let him down in the passing department as he was often to slow in releasing his team mates.
Fabregas looked as though he had just returned from injury. In the first half the star uncharacteristically gave the ball away on numerous occasions and looked well off the pace. The Spaniard did have a hand in the second goal with his shot being deflected into the path of Arshavin. However this was his only real contribution and was substituted mid-way through the second half.
The front three were impressive. Van persie looked sharp and played the perfect pass to Walcott for the opening goal before unfortunately limping off. His replacement Chamakh didn’t let the side down, dropping off the Blackburn defence to allow space for Walcott and Arshavin to run in too.
Arshavin is improving week on week. His dribbling and close control was a threat all afternoon. The Russian showed great instinct to pounce on a loose ball to grab the second goal.
Walcott was once again the difference. His pace and movement was something Blackburn were unable to cope with. His end product has often been criticised, but Walcott looks to be putting that right. He opened the scoring with a fine driven strike across Robinson.
This was a different Arsenal, one with more grit and determination to stand up and out fight for three points. With the silky football going the other way things are looking bright for the Gunners, especially with England’s young talent in such fine form.