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Arsenal break 'Big Sam' jinx

Arsene Wenger and Arsenal had always found Sam Allardyce to be an irritating opposing manager when it comes to getting important wins against the sides managed by ‘Big Sam’ in the English Premier League. The current Blackburn manager and the former Bolton Wanderers boss had, on many occasions, punctured Arsenal’s hopes of winning the Premier League. Mr. Allardyce’s direct football approach has always been a thorn in the Gunners defence for the past decade yet on Saturday the North London side managed to break the jinx by edging a physical Blackburn Rovers side 2-1 at Ewood Park in an entertaining match that underlined the genuineness of Arsenal’s title aspirations this season. Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin scored the goals for the Gunners on either side of Mame Biram Doiuf’s well deserved equalizer for the home side.

After the match Arsene Wenger rightly pointed out the importance of gaining all three points in places as tough as Ewood Park. The Frenchman was quoted as saying, “It is always difficult to win here [at Ewood Park] but I felt that we had a good start, scored a great goal and after that, in my opinion, were a bit too nervous dealing with Blackburn’s game. In the second half I felt we were calmer, put the ball on the ground well and controlled the game much better and it was just a question of time. Of course, in the last 15 or 20 minutes you can always be tested and need a bit of luck but we had the right resilience and commitment and as long as you cannot score the third goal you are always under threat with a team like Blackburn.”

Arsenal’s title challenge last season was knocked off by a 2-1 loss away to Blackburn and the Gunners supporters have bad memories of playing away to teams managed by Sam Allardyce. Yesterday’s 2-1 win was the first away victory against a side managed by Sam Allardyce since 2002 and this speaks volumes of the upperhand the former Bolton boss enjoys over Arsene Wenger. It is imperative nowadays that to win the Premier League, one of the ‘Big Four’ teams has to get results away to sides like Blackburn, Stoke City, Fulham and Bolton Wanderers. One of the reasons why Arsenal had been so unsuccessful in winning titles is the fact that their record against these physically strong sides is poor to say the least and this is where Chelsea and Manchester United were so good compared to the side from the Emirates stadium over the past five or six years.

As far as the match was concerned, Rovers applied the same formula of putting long balls into the Arsenal defence and to be fair to the away side, the likes of Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Manuel Almunia adjusted well to the massive physical tests applied by the mountain like Blackburn captain Christopher Samba, New Zealander Ryan Nielsen, El Hadji Diouf and Mame Biram Diouf. For the first time in the season Arsene Wenger gave starts to World Cup stars Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie but overall both looked a bit behind on match fitness and sharpness. As the match progressed, captain Cesc Fabregas put his mark on the game yet not at his best by any means and was rightly replaced by Thomas Rosicky in the second half while Van Persie had to be taken off after just thirty five minutes of the match with a calf injury after having played a part in setting up Theo Walcott for the opening goal of the match.

Twenty one year old Walcott was coming back from a hat-trick against Premier League newboys Blackpool last week but showed immense quality and strength to score his fourth goal of the season in front of the watching England manager Fabio Capello. According to his club manager this could really be Theo Walcott’s season and last evening the England international showed what separates the good from the best. Mr. Wenger compared his performances against both Blackpool and Blackburn and admitted that the young forward has much more to give to this club for many years to come. He said, “Well last week he was on the ball much more and, of course, much more dominant today. But what you want from a striker is that sometimes you have games where you have less opportunities but you are still dangerous, you are still sharp and [against Blackburn, Walcott] had a clinical finish. You judge a player by the numbers; the goals he scores, the assists when he is a striker and his numbers are already very, very good. It looks like he is more confident and has moved forward.”

New signing Laurent Koscielny might be faulted in allowing El Hadji Diouf to muscle him out in defence leading to Mame Biram Diouf’s equaliser but the Frenchman of Polish roots showed great mental strength to keep the Arsenal defence in shape along with the brilliant Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy. Another new arrival to N5, Marouane Chamakh lost his place to Robin van Persie but the Moroccan came in very early in place of the injured Dutchman and impressed again in attack although a long way to go for the former Bordeaux man but the signs are good as the Premier League takes a break due to international engagements next week.

A lot of speculations still surround the goalkeeping position at Arsenal but honestly Manuel Almunia was impressive between the sticks thwarting the long aerial bombardment that came courtesy of Morten Gamst Pedersen’s huge throw ins. Still one wonders whether the Spaniard can maintain this performance throughout the season but experience is certainly playing a part in Almunia’s good performance against the dreaded direct football. With three days to go before the transfer window closes, Manuel Almunia could again be the unexpected no.1 Arsenal keeper for the rest of the season after a summer of massive speculations regarding the arrival of a last man in defence at the Emirates stadium. The point is will this fiesty never-say-die attitude performance against Blackburn turn the tide in the red half of North London! 

Arsene Wenger and Arsenal had always found Sam Allardyce to be an irritating opposing manager when it comes to getting important wins against the sides managed by ‘Big Sam’ in the English Premier League. The current Blackburn manager and the former Bolton Wanderers boss had, on many occasions, punctured Arsenal’s hopes of winning the Premier League. Mr. Allardyce’s direct football approach has always been a thorn in the Gunners defence for the past decade yet on Saturday the North London side managed to break the jinx by edging a physical Blackburn Rovers side 2-1 at Ewood Park in an entertaining match that underlined the genuineness of Arsenal’s title aspirations this season. Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin scored the goals for the Gunners on either side of Mame Biram Doiuf’s well deserved equalizer for the home side.

After the match Arsene Wenger rightly pointed out the importance of gaining all three points in places as tough as Ewood Park. The Frenchman was quoted as saying, It is always difficult to win here [at Ewood Park] but I felt that we had a good start, scored a great goal and after that, in my opinion, were a bit too nervous dealing with Blackburn’s game. In the second half I felt we were calmer, put the ball on the ground well and controlled the game much better and it was just a question of time. Of course, in the last 15 or 20 minutes you can always be tested and need a bit of luck but we had the right resilience and commitment and as long as you cannot score the third goal you are always under threat with a team like Blackburn.”

Arsenal’s title challenge last season was knocked off by a 2-1 loss away to Blackburn and the Gunners supporters have bad memories of playing away to teams managed by Sam Allardyce. Yesterday’s 2-1 win was the first away victory against a side managed by Sam Allardyce since 2002 and this speaks volumes of the upperhand the former Bolton boss enjoys over Arsene Wenger. It is imperative nowadays that to win the Premier League, one of the ‘Big Four’ teams has to get results away to sides like Blackburn, Stoke City, Fulham and Bolton Wanderers. One of the reasons why Arsenal had been so unsuccessful in winning titles is the fact that their record against these physically strong sides is poor to say the least and this is where Chelsea and Manchester United were so good compared to the side from the Emirates stadium over the past five or six years.

 

As far as the match was concerned, Rovers applied the same formula of putting long balls into the Arsenal defence and to be fair to the away side, the likes of Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Manuel Almunia adjusted well to the massive physical tests applied by the mountain like Blackburn captain Christopher Samba, New Zealander Ryan Nielsen, El Hadji Diouf and Mame Biram Diouf. For the first time in the season Arsene Wenger gave starts to World Cup stars Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie but overall both looked a bit behind on match fitness and sharpness. As the match progressed, captain Cesc Fabregas put his mark on the game yet not at his best by any means and was rightly replaced by Thomas Rosicky in the second half while Van Persie had to be taken off after just thirty five minutes of the match with a calf injury after having played a part in setting up Theo Walcott for the opening goal of the match.

Twenty one year old Walcott was coming back from a hat-trick against Premier League newboys Blackpool last week but showed immense quality and strength to score his fourth goal of the season in front of the watching England manager Fabio Capello. According to his club manager this could really be Theo Walcott’s season and last evening the England international showed what separates the good from the best. Mr. Wenger compared his performances against both Blackpool and Blackburn and admitted that the young forward has much more to give to this club for many years to come. He said, “Well last week he was on the ball much more and, of course, much more dominant today. But what you want from a striker is that sometimes you have games where you have less opportunities but you are still dangerous, you are still sharp and [against Blackburn, Walcott] had a clinical finish. You judge a player by the numbers; the goals he scores, the assists when he is a striker and his numbers are already very, very good. It looks like he is more confident and has moved forward.”

New signing Laurent Koscielny might be faulted for allowing El Hadji Diouf to muscle him out in defence leading to Mame Biram Diouf’s equaliser but the Frenchman of Polish roots showed great mental strength to keep the Arsenal defence in shape along with the brilliant Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy. Another new arrival to N5, Marouane Chamakh lost his place to Robin van Persie but the Moroccan came in very early in place of the injured Dutchman and impressed again in attack although a long way to go for the former Bordeaux man but the signs are good as the Premier League takes a break due to international engagements next week.

A lot of speculations still surround the goalkeeping position at Arsenal but honestly Manuel Almunia was impressive between the sticks thwarting the long aerial bombardment that came courtesy of Morten Gamst Pedersen’s huge throw ins. Still one wonders whether the Spaniard can maintain this performance throughout the season but experience is certainly playing a part in Almunia’s good performance against the dreaded direct football. With three days to go before the transfer window closes, Manuel Almunia could again be the unexpected no.1 Arsenal keeper for the rest of the season after a summer of massive speculations regarding the arrival of a last man in defence at the Emirates stadium. The point is will this fiesty never-say-die attitude performance against Blackburn turn the tide in the red half of North London!

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