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Reflections on Blackburn
Arsenal are beginning to hit full gear having outscored their opponents 7-nil in their last two matches following the 4-nil victory over Paul Ince’s Rovers on Saturday afternoon. Arsenal had consistently struggled when going up north under Arsene Wenger but this young side seems to have gotten over the hump. Arsenal haven’t lost at Blackburn since February 2006 and last season won at Bolton for the first time since April 2002. Despite the fact that Blackburn hasn’t looked very impressive this season, especially defensively, putting four past them at Ewood Park is, if not impressive, very good for the side’s confidence. That was, however, only the first of three tough away matches in 8 days as Arsenal now travel to Kiev for their Champions League Group Stage opener on Wednesday and then up to Bolton on Saturday.
The absence of Samir Nasri due to an ankle injury forced the Boss’s hand as he started Theo Walcott following his eye-opening hat-trick for England in Croatia a week ago. Arsene Wenger has made a point of trying to manage the already high expectations placed on the youngster when he first transferred in from Southampton for £9.1m on 20 January 2006. Walcott has very rarely started matches following some of his best performances as part of Wenger’s plan to bring the boy along slowly and keep the pressure on him as low as could be expected under the circumstances. However, despite playing 2 international matches including the trip to Zagreb, Theo did not look fatigued in the least when he skipped past a few defenders and laid a ball perfectly to van Persie for the assist on a well-finished goal.
Wenger said after the England match that he was just as proud of Theo’s reaction after the game to the press as he was of his hat-trick. Leave it to the British media to turn this into anti-Arsenal propaganda. Arsene is trying not only to develop a player but also a man. Theo is the culmination of Arsene’s grand plan. He is a young English lad who came to the club when he was just 16 with great potential. He has developed a love and appreciation for the club along with his game. This is how Arsene plans on combating the takeover of the game by money and greed. Theo’s maturity is well beyond his years and his potential at the moment is limitless and these are the two main reasons (besides being English) that Arsenal supporters have developed such a strong attachment to the 19 year old.
Emmanuel Adebayor finally broke his scoreless stretch from the start of the season and in some style. A hat-trick which included a penalty drawn by an Eboue dive. While a hat-trick is nothing to sniff at, it would be a dereliction of my duty as an Arsenal blogger to not mention the ridiculous amount of times he was called for offsides. How hard is it to watch the line as you’re holding your run? This has been a chronic problem for Adebayor and it is something he needs to address. None of this takes away from the hat-trick of course but on a day when Arsenal need just that one goal from him he can’t be getting whistled 10+ times. The thing that upsets most Arsenal fans about it is that it is such a fundamental skill – not something you should be needing to learn when you’re already starting for Arsenal in the Premier League. For now, we can be gracious and put it down to his unending desire to score… for now.
It would also be a dereliction of my duty if I did not mention the defense. Should I praise them for having conceded a league-low 1 goal in their opening four matches? Of course. There I did it. Now, I wonder how we have done that. There seems to be no improvement whatsoever from Toure and Gallas, either individually or as a partnership over the last 3 months of last season. They still look clueless when balls come flying into the box and leave enough space between them for not only the striker but his Hummer as well. We were lucky not to be punished at some point by Santa Cruz but how long can this charade go on? How long until they are exposed for the defensive charlatans that they are?
I have been very critical of Gallas in the past but it must be said that Toure has looked equally bad. Of course, I, along with most Gooners, are willing to give Kolo the benefit of the doubt considering his service to the club and the fact that we’ve seen how solid he can be when he has the right partner. Gallas has not earned that benefit. Toure just hasn’t looked the same player since he was injured at the African Cup of Nations back in January. Alot of us hoped that Arsene would really strengthen the center of the defense (read: ship Gallas back to France) but lets’s be realistic… we couldn’t sell Gallas unless we were certain there was a replacement for him readily available on the transfer market. I can’t think of any CB that transferred this summer that fits those criteria. So we have to live with Gallas for another year and pray that he doesn’t self-implode and take the team with him… AGAIN!!