Horrible is the word to describe our last meeting against Blackburn Rovers. Steve Kean’s side only had two shots on goal and still managed to beat us 4-3. That was a dark day in our season but nothing compared to the run of form we are in now. The draw at Bolton was the first league point we picked up this season and we’re now facing an uphill battle to find our way back into Champions League spots.
Credit to Kean, who was wanted out by the Blackburn supporters all season long, has stuck to his guns and made a good fight out of it. There were wins like the one against us and the away victory at Old Trafford. Though, Sunderland’s recent revival has been even better than them and that’s probably another reason why Blackburn are now languishing in the relegation zone.
The fact that Yakubu will be missing this match as he serves his last match out on suspension can only mean good news for us. The Nigerian may be challenging Neil Ruddock on the weight scale but he can be deadly potent in front of goal. The next obvious dangerman is Junior Hoilett. The winger is fact and tricky but that won’t be the only attributes we have to be wary of. One can only hope that when/if Hoilett goes diving again, the referee won’t be fooled by it.
Arsene Wenger was saying that he could take this opportunity to rest Robin Van Persie. This itself contradicts what he said after the Bolton draw. That every game from now until the end of the season is a cup final. No team/manager in their right mind would rest their best striker and player for any cup final. Especially not when the other options are a Korean whom we know we have certainly signed but has been seen little of, a semi-retired loan player from Major League Soccer and a winger who thinks he can play centrally.
The cons of the options far outweighs any pros that can be found from giving RvP some rest. We can’t afford to drop silly points and one way to achieve that target is to simply play our best available eleven players. One possible change Wenger could make to the side is to bring in Kieran Gibbs at left back. The lack of confidence here defined by the fact that Gibbs himself is probably not too confident to start and finish the game. At the moment we could still cope because Bacary Sagna is available but the sooner that Thomas Vermaelen gets to play as a centre back, the better for us.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a doubt for today’s game but there was no indication that was suffering from anything from the Bolton game. Whether it’s psychological talk or he picked up something over the last few days of training, if he’s fit, I’d rather he start. Lots of pressure and responsibility riding on the shoulders of a very young man but at the moment, we are not left with much options. Either him or we start Andrey Arshavin. For me, sad as it is, it has very much come down to anyone but Arshavin.
We all know Aaron Ramsey is knackered and requires some rest. However, the manager seemed to have a preference over the choice in midfield and does not trust the experience of Yossi Benayoun or Tomas Rosicky over the young Welshman. If Ramsey is fully fit and not hitting the red zone, then I want him to start but it’s clear to everyone that he’s struggling once the game reaches the hour mark. Perhaps start him and then take him off around that time of the match.
Ramsey does not look like the only one who’s struggling, Alex Song is another candidate to be rested. A choice I personally would make with the availability of Francis Coquelin. The French midfielder will give us a little bit of energy and desire in the middle of the park. We’ve struggled in recent weeks in midfield. Bolton was the only game where we had more possession and that was telling.
There’s news of some idiots organising some sort of a protest for today’s game. The use of black bin or whatever it is. I don’t know much about it and frankly I don’t care. I understand the frustration relating to the performance of the team this season but I will never understand not supporting the team. It’s fine to show our disappointment through online forum or before/after games but never during a match. The relationship works both ways and you can’t seriously expect the team to rise up with the anger coming from the terraces, do you?
I’m sick of saying that the season starts now. There has been several times this season when we’ve said that. Yet, this feels again like those times. We are in a rut and we need a win. It would be a massive win, not based on scoreline but in terms of moral. The fans (minority as it is) are revolting and the players as well as the manager will have to bear some of the responsibilities.
No time like now to turn this ship around.
Whatever the case, this is not a game for us to be taking lightly. As was proved by their win at Manchester United, Blackburn can be a dangerous side. If any of our players turns up for this match expecting to have a stroll in the park, then sadly we are will be subjected to another 90 minutes of anguish.