It was once said that Fat Sam had Arsenal’s number. That any Sam Allardyce led team knew exactly where and when to kick every one of Arsenal’s “princesses” and disrupt their game. There was a time when that was true but not any more.
Last season Arsenal dismantled Sam Allardyce’s “defensive” teams 4-0, twice. The year before that, when Allardyce was manager of relegation bound Newcastle, it was a 2-0 win. In fact, you have to go back to November 2006 to find the last time that any Sam Allardyce led team beat Arsenal, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of an Anelka brace. Look at that match report and you’ll see some strange names like “Lehmann” and “Ljungberg” and some cat named “Gilberto” but there’s one name who has been a constant for any Sam Allardyce led team and his name is there too: El Hadji Douche.
I wrote about this last season, after we beat them 4-0, and given his latest outrages it stands as much today as it ever has, how much longer must the EPL suffer this insufferable prick? If you remember, Diouf tried to break Almunia’s ankle (video link) last year and only gathered a yellow. The year before, Diouf tried to break Arbeloa’s leg, with the same result, a mere yellow card. And of course, Diouf is a convicted spitter and an admitted cheat in pretty much every aspect of the game. What does this guy have to do to get banned from the league?
Given his history with Arsenal, Diouf will get a lot of stick from the home supporters on Sunday and will almost certainly react in the way that he always has: by cheating. My hope is that Sunday’s referee, Peter Walton, who has doled out 12 yellows and no reds in his 4 matches so far, takes a grim view of Diouf and the rest of Blackburn’s antics and gets the cards out early and often. Lest we forget, Morten Gamst Pederson isn’t above an absolutely disgraceful dive (video) when playing against Arsenal either.
I am taking pains to highlight Blackburn’s disgraceful, cheating, conduct but only in hopes that the word gets back to Peter Walton and he does something about it. The reality is that Arsenal will need to rise above these antics and simply play their game. We all know that a Sam Allardyce led team means a team that will “park the bus.”
The bad news is that this will be the second time in a week that we get to watch a football match where as soon as the ball is kicked off, you can expect all 11 opponents to drop back into their half and start kicking at Arsenal’s ankles. The good news is that Blackburn tried that last year and lost 4-0 and that Arsenal just overcame Olympiacos 2-0 on Tuesday and they did pretty much the exact same thing.
Oddly, last season’s 4-0 win saw the return to Premier League action of young Theo Walcott after a 4 1/2 month absence and he was a terror on the Blackburn defense. The boss is reporting that Theo will be fit (along with Bendtner) for Sunday’s match though I would be very surprised if Theo starts. No, I suspect that we’ll see our “usual” lineup of Arshavin, van Persie, Bendtner up front — Diaby, Cesc, and Song in the middle — and Clichy, Vermaelen, Gallas, and Sagna at the back — with Mannone in goal because Manny Pickledickle is still infected with a chest or something. Maybe it’s the alien from Alien and they are trying to figure out whether to cut it out or let in incubate and turn into a truly terrifying Arsenal keeper.
Arshavin was the key last season and he will once again be the key this season, I suspect. The boss praised him after Tuesday’s win for his close control and thus ability to unlock defensive teams like Olympiacos and Rovers. Many of you similarly praised him after his “Goal of the Year” candidate last season unlocked Rovers (you’ll need to download the video from his file sharing service to watch it). I agree, Arshavin will be the key tomorrow.
As for the rest of the team Arsenal are on a mini streak of 5 wins with 4 consecutive clean sheets and I don’t think it’s uncalled for to expect that both streaks will continue. Blackburn’s leading scorer is David Dunn (another Pantomime villain) and he will need to be closely watched as he has a penchant for long shots. But with this team playing team football the way that they have been over the last two weeks, I expect them to work hard and give as much as they get.
As for viewing options, if you live in London the tickets actually went on general sale (no membership required) and the match is currently sold out. Elsewhere, the match is being carried by Sky Sports 1. Here on the West Coast of the United States, owing to the unusual 1:30 GMT kickoff, the match is being shown live on Setanta USA, but for us it’s a 5:30am kickoff and since bars don’t open that early, the only viewing we get is a replay. Locally, Doyle’s will be replaying the match at 10am (PST) which means no Sunday kickaround for me. Oh well, the things I sacrifice for my team.
Anyway, that’s about it for today. We’ll see you all tomorrow for, erm, well, I don’t actually know yet, but rest assured, there will be something! See you then.