Blackburn 1-2 Arsenal: Walcott and Diaby drive terrific win

Blackburn 1-2 Arsenal: Walcott and Diaby drive terrific win

Arsenal were rewarded with all three points for a concentrated and energetic performance against Blackburn at Ewood Park.

The home side caused trouble for us throughout the match with their game plan to attack aerially via long balls but our boys stood up well, scoring two goals either side of Mame Biram Diouf’s equaliser to secure a 2-1 win.

Our two best attacking players, captain Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, returned to the starting team along with Laurent Koscielny, meaning Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Marouane Chamakh (rather harshly, in my opinion) were dropped to the bench. The changes meant that Rigobert Alex Song pushed further forward to join Fabregas and Abou Diaby in what I consider to be our first-choice midfield combination.

We knew what Blackburn would throw at us and the went for it right from the first whistle, launching long balls into the area through Paul Robinson and long throws through Morten Gamst Pedersen. It was a little worrying to see us allow the first two long balls bounce in the area but the defence adjusted quickly, lead by a determined Manuel Almunia who confidently claimed the first cross he went for and commanded his area well throughout.

While Blackburn enjoyed their fair share of attacking success early in the game, having a header cleared off the line by Fabregas and forcing Almunia into a superb fingertip save, it was us who scored first. Song, Arshavin and van Persie were all involved in a superb move that allowed Theo Walcott to race free on the right, take a touch and fire a well-struck shot across the goalkeeper that quite literally, broke the net.

It was a relief to take the lead after all of Blackburn’s pressure but they leveled the game just seven minutes later as Christopher Samba’s foray forward surprised our defence and eventually allowed El Hadji Diouf to set up his long-lost cousin to score. It has to be said it was quite poor defending by our boys, particularly Koscielny who misjudged his contact with El Hadji Diouf and was bodied off the ball.

The contest could be viewed by some to be evidence that Koscielny is too lightweight for the Premier League but I think this is incorrect: he won similar challenge with Fernando Torres at Liverpool on the opening day and my opinion of the incident was that Koscielny simple believed he would win the tackle more comfortably than he did. Indeed, given his tackling statistics over the 90 minutes, you can forgive him for thinking he would!

Soon after their goal van Persie was taken off after twisting his ankle, replaced by Chamakh. The Dutchman looked to be in quite a bit of pain but the good news is that it was not the same ankle he injured last season and he should be available again in around two weeks.

I have to admit feeling extremely frustrated with Arsene Wenger when van Persie went down: with Chamakh in good form I firmly believe the Dutchman should have been given another week of preparation before starting and I just hope he can shake off this new problem as soon as possible. The last thing we want is our number one forward having another injury-ravaged season which prevents him from making the impact that we all know he can.

At 1-1 at half-time I was a little worried: both sides had enjoyed good opportunities, it was a real end-to-end game and it could go either way. So what delight I felt when Arshavin tucked away his chance to make it 2-1!

Although the finish was a little scrappier, like the first goal, our second came about because of an excellent passing move. Just like van Persie for the opener, Chamakh dropped deep to receive from midfield, feeding a hungry Bacary Sagna down the set up Arshavin’s chance via a Fabregas shot blocked by Walcott’s arse. Arshavin’s finish to beat Robinson and three Blackburn players on the line was classy.

From this point on it always felt like our game to lose and while Blackburn still created some half-chances, the most notable one coming through serial goalscorer (and burger-eater) David Dunn, we looked more likely to score.

Fabregas had an inconsistent game but still managed to conjure up the most memorable moment of the game: an exquisite pass threaded through several Blackburn defenders to set up Chamakh with a shot on goal. It was the sort of pass that only the very best players in the world can see let alone execute and underlines one of the reasons why Wenger was so desperate to keep him in the squad. Just look at the images below.

The ebb and flow of the game was maintained right until the final moments when Jack Wilshere, on for Arshavin, did a John Terry after being put in the clear by Walcott and Chamakh. Diaby in particular will have been frustrated to see Wilshere waste the opportunity after doing his best Patrick Vieira impression earlier in the move, but 2-1 it ended as the Arsenal boys came away with a terrific win at Ewood Park.

It was great to see Walcott make his mark against a side that afforded him less space: he was a joy to watch throughout this match, causing Blackburn all sorts of problems with his movement on and off the ball and confidently finishing his only real chance. He’s started the season on fire and every Arsenal fan will be hoping he can maintain a level of consistency throughout the rest of the campaign.

Likewise, Diaby was absolutely sensational today. I have said time and time again that Diaby becomes a different player when he has Song and Fabregas around him. He is not and will never be a leader, it’s just not his nature, so he usually tends to flourish when less responsibility is placed on his shoulders and he can play his natural game. On days like this decision-making is sharp, his unique attacking style causes defenders all sorts of problems and it is for this reason why I would always play him if Fabregas and Song are also available.

It should also be noted that Diaby did an important defensive job on Samba: maintaining body contact with the Blackburn man and preventing him from having any real impact on set pieces. The one time Samba made real contact on the ball he headed over, a direct result of Diaby’s physical pressure. Well done, Abou!

In conclusion, I want to reiterate how good I feel this result was for Arsenal.

Blackburn’s record at home last season was formidable and if you had said we would have taken 7 points from our opening three games of the season, including two away trips to Blackburn and Liverpool, I would certainly have taken them. There is obviously still some concerns with our defending but you could see that every single one of the fourteen players who entered the pitch were ready for the contest, ready to fight for the red and white and were duly rewarded.

Fantastic stuff.

Have your say on Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Blackburn by leaving a comment.

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21 Responses to “Blackburn 1-2 Arsenal: Walcott and Diaby drive terrific win”

  1. Potter
    August 29, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    Watch the build up for their goal , It is Diaby that doesn’t chase down Samba when we lost the ball and was sauntering back as they scored. Until he sorts out the defending bit of playing midfield he will not deserve the praise you heap on him.

  2. Andrew Weber
    August 29, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    @ Potter – It’s a fair point, but I think it’s VERY harsh. Diaby had made a run forward and after Walcott, was the most advanced Arsenal player. Yes, he could have worked a little bit harder to get back but both van Persie and Song were covering for him with the way the team had restructured I don’t think it was particularly his job to deal with the problem. I realise you could counter this by saying that the whole team should defend, but Blackburn scored because Samba managed to weave past RVP and Song and feed Diouf, not because of Diaby’s effort.

  3. Gunner Young
    August 29, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    Like your blog.

    Apart from his one mistake which lead to the goal I thought Kos played well. He won numerous headers and is obviously a ball playing centre half.

    What arose my interest yesterday was Song. He is really calm with his short passing and possess superb technique.

    Arshavin is slowly getting back to form. We will be an awesome attacking threat on both wings when he and Theo is on fire.

    Clichy is a worry. He’s a good player, but we need a player with more defensive nous.

  4. Geoff
    August 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    I thought the quality, accuracy and speed of passing was excellent, especially in the second half. I also liked the pressing game they played ‘al a Barcelona’ and I could see the first glimmers of new confidence in the side. With a new a goalkeeper we could have squad that has a wonderful potental to win a trophy at last.

  5. Mallugooner
    August 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Thought it was Chamakh who started hanging on(literally) to Samba for set pieces, from the moment he came on. I particularly remember one nice foul on Samba where he hugged him cosily, possibly with a nice foot stamp. Love to see some aggression and intent and dirty play from the gunners, esp. considering how the unlucky we are with refs. Only way to even it out is with a little nastiness. 🙂
    Case in point: The powerless Diaby shot in the 2nd half, resulting from a lunge by Pederson just at the moment of shooting. There was no intent of playing the ball, just to destabilise, and it wasn’t called by the ref.!

  6. Andrew Weber
    August 29, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    @ Mallugooner – Yeh, Chamakh got Samba a couple of times. It was generally between the two of them.

  7. Sobin4u@ymail.com
    August 29, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    Fantastic victory for our gunners,we show great character . Almunia was fantastic,sagna was fabulous,vermi was good,koscielny and clichy needs to work hard,song was good but not at his best.diaby was fantastic .fabregas was not at his best ,may be he is not match fit.I wish RVP to come back soon.chamakh,andrei and theo was excellent.rosicky and jack has not much impact in the game.Anyway fabulous 3 point to win.Come on gunners IN ARSENE WE TRUST.

  8. hkm
    August 29, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    Good, thoughtful blog.

    One frustration yesterday was how often we were passing it back to Almunia to hoof it up field. Against Blackburn that simply set them up again and again for another Robinson box launch, their most dangerous weapon. Given that we are a possession team, and possession was clearly our best defense, I have trouble understanding why they do that.

  9. potter
    August 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    Andrew : I was always taught that the first rule of midfield play is : lose the ball and get back goal side.Diaby doesn’t do this , he didn’t do it in the Camp Nou when he let Messi run and score and he doesn’t seem to have learned. He looks to be coming to his potential going forward but his concentration lapses defensively are often missed by people that are not watching the whole picture. I have nothing against him other than I wish that he would address this problem.

  10. Fredo
    August 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    Outstanding professional performance from tha lads. Diaby song and Walcott were top drawer to me. Kosser was sloppy in just that one instant otherwise I think him n verminator were excellent in dealing with the bombardment that came from the skies. I actually take my hat off to bburn cos they are also very good at what they do and you can see they pose a real threat everytime they launch it long. I remember Chelsea losing there last season so very well done to the gunners who defended with grit and determination and attacked with maturiy and flair. We couldve won 4-1 if the capt was firing but I’m sure his passing accuracy will be there for all to behold soon enough. Well done the gunners

  11. Fredo
    August 29, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    Very good post. Outstanding professional performance from tha lads. Diaby song and Walcott were top drawer to me. Kosser was sloppy in just that one instant otherwise I think him n verminator were excellent in dealing with the bombardment that came from the skies. I actually take my hat off to bburn cos they are also very good at what they do and you can see they pose a real threat everytime they launch it long. I remember Chelsea losing there last season so very well done to the gunners who defended with grit and determination and attacked with maturiy and flair. We couldve won 4-1 if the capt was firing but I’m sure his passing accuracy will be there for all to behold soon enough. Well done the gunners

  12. voley_gun
    August 29, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    I am happy to see walcott more sharper than ever.Hope that he will maintain the consistency this season without any injuries.I personally would have liked our previous match combination of Diaby,Wilshere,Rosicky and Chamakh to start the game than Fab,Persie.Arsene should have this two lads in high precaution as they two are the key for our success.Also i wish to see chamakh more in the front role so that he can score and boost his confidence.For me he looks more like VanPersie and has the capability to do damage as well.Arsene should bring a world class goal keeper and i hope this team has all the potential to go for the title.Recently i don’t see much of Eboue.Hope to see him in the future.

  13. JAGENDA
    August 29, 2010 at 8:28 pm #

    THIS KIND OF FOOTBALL WERE YOU FEEL LIKE THE HEART INSIDE YOU IS STANDING..WE NEED MORE POWER,,WE LOOKED SMALLER IN SIZE..BUT AWIN IS AWIN…

  14. Darragh
    August 30, 2010 at 2:30 am #

    Good analysis Andy. Though I feel inclined to disagree with you over Diaby. I found him a bit anonymous during the game but I must admit I wasn’t really paying attention to him though – I guess he just frustrates me! Thought that Sagna had a blinder though.

  15. Ianinja
    August 30, 2010 at 4:54 am #

    Oh yeah Jagenda, typing in CAPS is going to magically transform our midfield into giants.

  16. radads rsa
    August 30, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Well done Gunners!!!! As Ive always said: Walcott’s still my favrite, Diaby, Song, Fab, RVP,Arsha and Clichy are next.I love the way we play, it looks like we re back in season with more maturity and class. I also like our new CB: LK. Everything looks good so far.

  17. radads rsa
    August 30, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    @Darragh, I think Diaby did well, defensively ofcourse he is still lacks something but to me the most important thing is that he has gained his maturity which really favours him with his slalom style offensive consistency.Im confident that there will be a lot more that we re gonna see from Diaby as time goes.Well done Diaby, spot on!!

  18. dele
    August 30, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    very nice game, I thing we are in good shape to win the league. With more wins in places like sunderland, Birmingham and stoke, and at least draws at chelsea, united and City, I am sure we will go all the way… lets hope our key players stay injury free.

  19. iloveverminator
    August 30, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    wilshere missed a golden opportunity. had he scored the scoreline would have been a true reflection of the game. but these are the games that we need to scrap thru at any cost to be able to push Chelsea and Man U to the limits.
    cesc looked out of shorts. he is still not match fit. i still feel we are short of one world class midfielder. AW plays wake up and get one good midfielder.

  20. Steve
    August 30, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    A very good analysis, Andrew. Agree, it was a great game and a great team effort. Koscielny will get better the more he plays, and as you said, he’ll realise what he has to do, physically, as he gains confidence. Cesc will have more influence as he regains match fitness, although, with him just being on the pitch, guys like Diaby, Arshavin and Theo, had more freedom to play the way they play best.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Short Corner: Walcott as a defensive player - August 31, 2010

    […] As Andy pointed out in his match report (and linked to Zonal Marking), Koscielny was impeccable at the back.  He was totally comfortable with Blackburn’s aerial threat and was flawless apart from the goal (which he’ll learn from). […]

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