Theo Walcott: A real netbusterA superb three points. That is no understatement as far as I'm concerned. Arsenal were not supposed to get a result today. They were expected to surrender to the horrible Northern long-ball merchants, in typical Northern weather, in a typical Northern town. If you've never been to Blackburn then let me describe it: It's very, very Northern - think Coronation Street and The Full Monty and you have the right idea. In the second-half the boys were really quite imperious and got the job done.
I thought that Arsenal quickly settled today and fully deserved to go 1-0 up. A nice through-ball from the otherwise anonymous (and quickly injured...again) Robin Van Persie, set Theo Walcott free in to the box and he, literally, broke the back of the net with a sublime finish past fatboy Robinson. Blackburn equalised soon afterwards with a nicely worked goal, but there were serious concerns for Arsenal. Koscielny was outmuscled and outpaced by El-Hadji Diouf in the build-up, while Gael Clichy played his usual game of statues in the six-yard box to watch Mame-Biram Diouf slot home. We should be worried about Koscielny. A centre-back in England needs pace and power to be a top player. These are things that you either have or you don't. If you're being done by the likes of Diouf then God help you when you meet Drogba and Rooney. I think Suillaci will play in our next outing. Blackburn produced their usual set-piece bombardment and caused Arsenal problems in the first-half with not one red-shirt attacking the ball and leaving Almunia to make at least one tremendous save (more on Manuel below). The injury to RVP was a blessing in this regard as we saw Chamakh enter the fray and mark Samba, very effectively, at every set-piece. Problem solved, pretty much. In the second-half Arsenal dominated and got their second goal (the fiftieth conceded by Paul Robinson against Arsenal in 21 games - STAT) early on following great work from Sagna, a lucky ricochet (lucky in the sense that it fell straight to Arshavin - unlucky in the sense that Fabregas would have scored but for Walcott's backside) and a cool finish from the little Russian. Arsenal then controlled the rest of the game and Jack Wilshere slipped when he seemed set to make the game safe late on.
There were a number of positives from the game today. I thought Vermaelen dominated things aerially in the second-half. Abou Diaby and Alex Song completely ran the midfield, with Diaby particularly impressive in all areas of the pitch. Theo Walcott had another fine game, capped by a super goal - I was pleased to see him have a go at Diaby when he didn't pass to him in the second-half, nice to see him stand up for himself. We repelled the aerial barrage, with a small measure of luck early on. My biggest plus though was the fact that Arsene Wenger made "proper" substitutions for the first time in a long time. Van Persie got injured, so obviously Chamakh replaced him - I begin to think that we should cut our losses with Robin - a great footballer, but a complete waste of space injury-wise. In the second-half Arsene would normally have taken off Theo and brought on Eboue, and probably made some other defensive change in the last five minutes. That he did not do this was great news from my point of view. I was extremely pleased to see Fabregas and Arshavin being replaced - they seemed to be competing to be the least interested player on the pitch. I was even more impressed that Jack Wilshere was one of the replacements. Jack's first involvement was to show the defence how to tackle Samba and get the play moving, even though he stands around 10 inches smaller than the Rovers captain. Great stuff.
And now the negatives. Arshavin got the winner, but was largely anonymous again. Every time he got the ball he ran straight in to the nearest defender with it. He came to life more once he had scored, but I expect so much more from a top player. Of most concern was the lack of application from Fabregas. Okay, it was his first start of the season, but his demeanour was not that which we became used to last season. I have seen reports tonight (don't know if they are true) that Ibrahimovic has agreed to join AC Milan - this could be bad news for Arsenal as Barcelona might just have the money now to force our hand in selling Cesc. LATE EDIT: Ibrahimovic will join on loan initially - for this season - and then sign next Summer for £23million. Watch this space. Koscielny, as I said above, looked weak and slow against Diouf - this is a worry if he is to be relied upon a lot during this season.
Manuel Almunia was apparently the last Arsenal player to leave the pitch and he threw his gloves and the captain's armband to the travelling Gooners. It sounds like this was his last game for the Club. If that is the case then I would like to say "Thanks Manuel." I would dearly like Almunia to stay at Arsenal as the second-choice goalkeeper if and when a new signing comes in before Tuesday, but I fully understand that he would not want to do this having been number one. If it is goodbye then we can be sure that Almunia always did his best for Arsenal, even if that was still not quite good enough.
Finally from today, you will rarely hear me slag the travelling Arsenal fans. Today I will make an exception. Why do Arsenal fans feel the need to start "ole"-ing every pass when we take the lead? How many times have we been made to look stupid? Stop doing it, for God's sake. It's embarrassing and it's arrogant. Not needed.
All in all, a satisfying day for the boys. Three points. Job done.
The Carling Cup draw has seen us paired with the weaker side of North London. Arsene Wenger confirmed after the game that he will continue to play the youngsters, regardless of the opposition. Big mistake. Sending kids in to that bear-pit for what will be an extra "cup-final" for the muppets will do them no good whatsoever. I can see the Arsenal team that lines up over there getting smashed by Tottenham again, and then we'll have to suffer all those mugs at work that follow them when they beat Arsenal (it was SO quiet for ten years!) They also cost me my accumulator today, useless twats.
Tony Pulis has apparently written to Arsenal, the Premier League, the FA, the Coalition Government and Barack Obama about Arsene's "rugby" comments. Amazing. I wouldn't have thought he knew how to write. I was having a row on Facebook last night with a Stoke City supporting friend (a genuine fan who goes week-in, week-out). He believes Wenger is obsessed with Stoke and couldn't see that Arsene was using Stoke as the example to smoke out today's referee. Stoke fans also believe that Ryan Shawcross was as much a victim as Aaron Ramsey. You couldn't make it up. Pulis should concentrate on his small club - three defeats in a row to start the season might see him on his way by Christmas. What a shame that would be (or not.)
I had to turn off the Man Utd game this evening. I can't stand Chris Waddle at the best of times (here is a man whose only trophies in football were literally paid for by the Marseille Chairman) but he was really getting on my tits tonight. We all know Paul Scholes is a fine player, really quite under-rated. You will recall last year that there was a clamour around this time for Ryan Giggs. This year it is Scholes. There is no doubt that Scholes is playing really well, but every time he made a ten-yard pass Waddle was going on about his quality. You'd swear that Scholes was the second-coming of Christ or something. Sky started this a fortnight ago and everyone else in the media is now running with it. Do not be surprised to see Scholes getting talked in to Footballer of the Year come April.
No blog tomorrow as it's my baby's Christening. There'll be more on Monday at some point. I think Jack Wilshere might yet get a place in the England squad with players dropping like flies. Apparently Fat Frank has to have an operation on a hernia. Hope it hurts. Really bad. For a long time.