Saturday, February 04, 2012
I'd 7-1 to be a Blackburn fan? Ten Thoughts on Arsenal vs. Blackburn
I'd 7-1 to be a Blackburn fan? No, it doesn't quite work, does it. One day we'll get to the promised land of an 8 goal victory, and all the wonderful pun-based jokes this allows. For today, I think 7 will do. My thoughts as follows:
* We started brightly, and scored after only 2 minutes. It was a lovely team goal with passing across the midfield, leading to link-up play between Coquelin and Walcott, who supplied the assist for Robin. We don't score enough early goals as a rule, although they can sometimes be a bit of a hindrance to a team such as ours, which has such fragile confidence. We can sometimes panic if we don't score another relatively quickly after our first - memories of Wolves at home during December came to mind, or our narrow win over Swansea in September.
* So, despite being on top for most of the opening sections of play, it didn't really come as too great a surprise to me when we conceded. We haven't become confident enough as a team to merely cruise through to the end of the game when we've taken a lead. Indeed, it's worth remembering that we threw our lead away in several games in late December and January. As for the goal itself, if I was being hyper-critical, it's another free-kick that SZCZ has let in this year. Possibly a worrying aspect of his game - or possibly just bad luck to have faced several superb free-kicks this year.
* Yet, importantly, we didn't let our heads drop. Song played a superb through ball to Theo who squared to RvP who was, yet again, in the right place at the right time. Then, RvP set up the Ox for our third. I encourage you to go to Arsenalist and watch our 3rd goal again. RvP's pass was one of the best I've seen in a long time. It completely took our 3 Blackburn players. The Ox's finish was equally superb. He didn't panic, he took a touch, pushed it past the keeper and rolled it in.
* The reason why I've focused on the last two goals is this - we were already winning when Givet made his ill-advised lunge and was sent off. We had already made the comeback and we were in control of the game. There will be a lot of negative Gooners out there who'll say we only hammered Blackburn today because of the sending off. Well, 1) it was a justifiable red-card, so we weren't exactly lucky on that count (indeed, Givet even apologized to Arsene on the way off), and 2) the sending off merely ensured that our victory was to be a rout. I'm confident we would have hammered Blackburn even if they had 11 men for 90 minutes, because we were comfortably beating them at the moment of the sending off.
* Part of the reason I'm confident of this is two players - the Ox and RvP. Robin scored a hat-trick which showed what an all-round goal-scorer he's become. His first two looked easy, but only because he read the game so well, and positioned himself so adroitly for the tap-in. Great goalscorers may tap-ins look much easier than they actually are. Chamakh probably would have been on the other side of the area. As for the Ox - I admit it, I am more and more excited every time I see him play. For me, he has the most potential of any young player I've seen since Fabregas. Indeed, and perhaps because of his range of passing, his goal-scoring prowess, and his general attacking threat, he actually reminds me a lot of a young Wayne Rooney. This kid is going to be massive, absolutely massive. We need to hold onto him.
* Yet while those two got the goals, the strong performance of Arteta and Song were also vital to our victory. Song for example, completed 62 of 70 passes today,compared to 53 out of 68 against Bolton. Moreover, as this chalkboard shows, more of his passes today were forward-looking and penetrative, compared to the largely sideways passes he made against Bolton. Indeed, it was his 'pre-assist' that was the vital part of our second goal. Arteta also increased his pass completion by from 87% to 94% today, and completed all 14 of his long-balls, compared to only 7 out of 9 against Bolton. In short, he passed the ball a lot better today, helping us control possession. Coming up with a great goal also helped - this was his third league game against Blackburn this year, and he's scored in all three! I wonder how many other players have achieved this feat.
* Alternatively, I would say that Rosicky coming in for Aaron Ramsey didn't make too big of a difference, especially if we only compare the last two matches. Despite playing for ten more minutes today than Ramsey did against Bolton, Rosicky only attempted one more pass, and actually completed a lower amount of passes, both numerically and proportionally. Ramsey attempted and succesfully made more tackles. The only statistic that Rosicky bested him on was interceptions. See the numbers as follows: Ramsey (v Bolton) vs. Rosicky (v Blackburn): Passes 58-59; successful passes: 49 vs. 47. Tackles attempted: 9 vs. 4. Succ Tackles: 3 vs. 0. Intereceptions 0 vs. 1. Key pass: 1 each, and 0 through balls for either. And as this chalkboard shows, Aaron's passsing was much more adventurous against Bolton. Having looked through the rest of Aaron's stats, I would say he has come in for a lot of undue criticism this season - something I'll expand on later this week. But, at least it shows that Rosicky can be relied upon when it comes to rotation. Even if he's not physically tired, a week out of the firing line for Ramsey will surely do him the world of good.
* As for Theo - anyone who gets three assists has had a good game. If he can produce performances of this calibre on a more consistent basis, I will re-find my faith in him, but I still think he has a propensity to run with his head down, and waste potential goal-scoring opportunities. 7 assists this season can't be argued with, however.
* If the last few weeks have all been about the emergence of the Ox, spare a though for Coquelin. This has been his first season as a member of the first-team squad and he has, by and large, produced the goods. He grabbed an assist today and generally made a nuisance of himself bombing up and down the flank. He has proved himself to be versatile, and has a great attitude. Unlike Flamini, he has said that he will play wherever the manger wants him to on the pitch. I predict that he will become a big part of the squad in years to come, even if he struggles to impose himself as a member of the starting XI in the short-term.
* Paul Robinson has now conceded 60 goals against Arsenal during his career. That is quite funny. Looking back, Arsene was probably right to not sign him up in 2004.
* PARK-WATCH: on the bench, didn't come on. At the time, I was flabbergasted by this. If Park couldn't get onto the pitch during the last half-hour of this game, precisely when is he ever going to get on? Arsene said after the game that today will be the last time Thierry plays at home during his loan, so bringing him on makes more sense in retrospect. Still, Park's premier league match-minutes during this campaign currently remains at 10. And it still seems odd to me that RvP played the full 90 minutes of a game that was basically dead for the last 40. Why risk it? And if Arsene isn't going to play Park, why did he not try and get another attacker during the window?
* Finally, while most people on the internet today seemed happy, there were, amazingly, still a few who were not. The blog 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' posted this on their Facebook page about half-an-hour ago.
I'm going to be clear on this - if you can't just sit back and enjoy watching your team beat another team 7-1, then I don't think football is why you are unhappy. For all my attempts at analysis in this column, I'm gonna say straight out - the match today was ace. Yes, it was only Blackburn; yes, it was only Steve Kean's Blackburn; yes, they had a player sent off. But, so what. Today the Arsenal scored 7 goals in 90 minutes. If you are an Arsenal fan, bloody well enjoy it.
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