9 more games. 9 more matches to decide the outcome of the league championship. 9 more games for Arsenal, from the management all the way to the players, to put in a concerted effort to bring a trophy to the Grove.
That begins tonight by defeating Blackburn Rovers. The former league champion visits us in a wretched patch of form, without a win in their last 7 matches. In that run of games, they have actually lost 5 and drawn 2. Surely not the type of results which their Indian owners are looking for.
Blackburn do not have major problems on the injury front. News here suggest that only Keith Andrews and Vince Grella are out for sure with Gael Givet suspended for this game. They have several good players but if you ask me to name one or two particular names that are going to be a big threat to us, then I have nothing for you.
What we do know for sure is the way Steve Kean will set his team up. To be robust, to stop us from playing and to make full use of any set pieces they can get. Chris Samba will be utterly important to them. His height is the very advantage that Kean will be looking out for. That is something for Arsene Wenger to consider.
When faced with such potential danger, it does not pleases any Gooner to see Manuel Almunia lining up in goal. But that is the way it’s going to be according to Wenger. No matter what happen in the previous match or in the past, this is the best and only option we have at the moment. To put Jens Lehmann in after only 1 reserves match would be a risk too big to take. Almunia would have to be positive and help his defence out. The chances of a goalkeeper claiming the ball from crosses is still better than expecting a defender to clear it.
In front of him, there’s the worst centreback combination in our season. Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny as a pair has not kept that many clean sheets but time is nigh for them to forget the past and start a new habit. Luckily for us, there’s the return of Alex Song to provide the shield in front of the defence. We’ve missed him the most out of the lot. In order to maximise his contribution, Song will have to curb his attacking instincts and concentrate on helping the defence.
On better news, we will have our best attacking line-up back since the Chelsea game. Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Robin Van Persie has been declared fit enough to start. Together with Samir Nasri, the group represents the best collection of varied attacking prowess that Arsenal can put on the field. Pace, guile and technique all rolled into 4 players.
Lest we forget, there’s another player to add to that equation. A player that is capable of the ridiculous, from wonderful to woeful within the space of minutes. Andrey Arshavin is the player I’m talking about and he talks about how the schedule favours Arsenal more than Manchester United. I’m sure we all remember the easy run-in that we had last season. The only advantage we have is that United have more games to play than us and that is it. That is not to say there are not capable of winning every one of those games. The same can be said about us. No matter who the opposition is, if Arsenal go out like every team is Chelsea, then we would have no problem.
The math is simple. Every point drop between now till the end of the season will make our hopes of winning the league harder. Just go for it boys. We want this. You want this. Let’s just do it.