3 May 2010, Blackburn Rovers versus Arsenal at Ewood Park. Robin van Persie gives Arsenal an early lead, only for Blackburn to score from two set pieces to win the game 2-1, with some very suspect keeping from Lukasz Fabianski gifting David Dunn and Chris Samba two easy goals. Fastforward to 28 August 2010, and the scoreline is reversed, with Arsenal winning a tough game 2-1 with goals from Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin. If Arsenal want to seriously challenge for the title, these are the games that they need to be winning. In previous seasons, the Gunners have often struggled at places like Blackburn, where a physical approach and a bombardment of long balls and crosses have resulted negative outcomes. But with the win against Blackburn, have Arsenal finally turned a corner in these kind of games that will allow them to mount a title challenge?
Similarly to last seasons corresponding fixture, Arsenal got an early lead on the weekend when Van Persie set up the in-form Walcott who finished with great aplomb. Sighs of ‘here we go again’ would have been made by thousands of Arsenal fans seven minutes later however, when El-Hadji Diouf outmuscled Laurent Koscielny and set up Mame Biram Diouf for a tap in. Arsenal fans are all too used to seeing this kind of game slip away from their team, and for a while it looked like it might happen again before Andrey Arshavin scored the winner in the 51st minute. Arsenal closed out the game and Gunners fans were delighted with what was a good victory in which their team showed a great deal more steel than they have done in previous encounters with Blackburn. In an interview with the BBC, Arsene Wenger stated,
“If you have ambition in this league you have got to win at Blackburn. If you fail to win at Blackburn – if you go to clubs like that and don’t win – your ambition will not be respected by the other teams. In that regard, it was an important test for us.”
After the win, not only the supporters but the players will be far more confident about going to places like Ewood Park and getting a positive result. In the past, the players seem to have been phased by a physical approach which often led to draws or defeats. Promisingly for Arsenal, the team appeared to have that little bit more experience that enabled them to win the game.
The formation Arsenal have used this season has shown potential, they have lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and so far it has yielded good results. It is a formation that is growing in popularity as it provides defensive strength but also gives attacking players free license in the opponents half. Holland used it to great success in the World Cup, and Arsenal will hope to mirror that this season, albeit without the final heartache.
Wenger, the players and the fans will be very satisfied with the win over Blackburn on the weekend. The team showed resilience, commitment and an ability to deal with a physical game which has been lacking in past seasons. Arsenal will have to maintain this resilience throughout the season though, and they will have to show this in the next Premier League game when they welcome Bolton to the Emirates. If Arsenal can replicate the quality and character that was required to beat Blackburn, the Gunners could end up having a very good season.