Arsenal Keep Going From Strength To Strength…
I pointed out yesterday that today’s game against Blackburn Rovers would be a real test for Arsenal and the fixture didn’t disappoint. The Gunners had most things go agains them this afternoon but they responded in fantastic fashion.
Only 12 minutes into the game the villian of Premiership football that is Robbie Savage clattered Gilberto hard from behind in a well over the top challenge which he had absolutely no intention of getting the ball.
The usually ice-cool Gilberto surprisingly reacted but kicking out at Savage with a little kick which resulted in Savage collapsing as if he had been shot. The Blackburn midfielder got what he wanted and the Brazilian was sent off.
Now you might think I’m biased (obviously) and it’s probably in the rules that if you retaliate you will be sent off. But the fact is the initial challenge was much worse and I can bet you that most referees would have given both players bookings.
Would Frank Lampard or Alan Shearer be sent off in the same situation?
Anyway, the fact was Gilberto was off and Arsenal were down to 10 men. Arsene decided to keep 2 men upfront in Van Persie and Henry, and having 3 in midfield with Hleb and Rosicky supporting Fabregas in the middle.
Arsenal were passing the ball nicely and it didn’t seem to bother the players on the pitch that we were playing with a man down. Chances for both teams were few and far between in the first half with Arsenal defending well against an in-form Blackburn side. But on 37 minutes that all changed.
Van Persie was played through and taken down by Lucas Neill who appeared to be the last man, but only received a booking when he was lucky not to receive a red! But Henry stepped up, clipped the free kick into the area and the only Arsenal player in the area - Kolo Toure - headed the ball into the net off the post.
Arsenal were leading with 10 men at Ewood Park!
Arsenal kept the same team and formation in the second half, with Henry and Van Persie rotating their responsibilities by dropping back to help the midfield.
The Gunners despite being a man down kept the ball fantastically well at times and in particular Hleb was brilliant - hardly losing the ball and creating space with some excellent skill. This guy has really settled into the team this season and is getting better and better. His ball retention is one of the best I have seen in the league.
Fabregas was running the midfield even though he didn’t have Gilberto in support Mokoena and Savage looked pedestrian in comparison. He played some great forward passes, made some great tackles and kept the ball moving in the middle. His fantastic interplay with Henry for the second goal was outstanding.
Toure did well at the back while Senderos made one or two mistakes from a lack of concentration but luckily didn’t pay the price - with Derbyshire and Nondo having great chances in the 6 yard area. Clichy was impressive, making some great runs down the left and showed his growing confidence by easily beating players and passing the ball well. Hoyte looked good as well never afraid to run forward and coped reasonably well against Pedersen.
Van Persie and Henry were always on the periphery of the match but on 71 minutes Henry turned it on like he can and got the ball deep in the Arsenal half. With 5 men around him the Frenchman drove down the line and evaded any tackles before clipping the ball to Cesc who made the supporting run. He darted to the edge of the area to receive the pass back and coolly stroking the ball into the top corner.
A simply outstanding goal from Henry!
Arsenal were 2-0 up and cruising with a man down and against a phyiscal Blackburn side.
Henry had a great opportunity to really pile on the misery for Blackburn 8 minutes later when Rosicky played a smart cross into Henry but the captain scruffed his shot over.
But the damage had been done and not even a dirty challenge from Tugay on Cesc in the closing minutes could ruin the day for us.
Arsenal might have lost the games at Anfield and Ewood Park in previous seasons buy they have passed the North West test with flying colours.
It’s amazing what a bit of confidence can do for you isn’t it?
The great thing I’ve noticed about Arsenal recently is that they have been so clinical it is scary. In the past Arsenal would create chance after chance and missed most of them but in recent weeks Arsenal’s finishing has been phenomenal - and that for me can only mean great things.
Next weeks game at the Emirates is going to be a belter!