Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce was compared to Prime Minister Gordon Brown before the game and his beleaguered backline very much resembled the Labour party’s backbench. His patched-up defence were never going to have any chance against Arsenal when in this form and despite going behind twice, the Gunners in the end had too much attacking quality.
The protagonist-in-chief, Cesc Fabregas was in inspired mood and he was at the heart of every Arsenal move. The system clearly allows the skipper to play with greater freedom and this was highlighted by the fact he had a hand in five of the six goals, one of which he scored. Maybe in another season and with more quality, Blackburn may have been able to stifle Arsenal with their game plan but this year there is more variety from the Gunners and greater ability to change the point of attack.
Blackburn’s tactic was to defend deep and remain organised and compact, and when the opportunity arose, break on the counter attack of which they did relatively well. However the problem was that they were expecting Arsenal to play through them, as they would have done in previous seasons so they congested the centre in an attempt to deny them from playing. How wrong they were.
Arsene Wenger admits his greatest influence was the “Total Football” Ajax team of the late 60s and early 70s led by Rinus Michels. And in his book Teambuildingthe former Oranje coach suggests that the build-up to an attack “needs to create situations to be able to play the ball deep as quickly as possible.” With Arsenal deploying three forwards that is exactly what the system allows the side to do. And with the play already stretched such players could also drop into greater space and allow more angles in the pass. One of the hallmarks of English domination in the Champions League has been the ability to attack at all angles and against the Rovers, Arsenal totally dismantled the bus in front of them.
Arsene Wenger will have been particularly pleased with the way in which Arsenal were able to make angled passes behind the defence for three of the goals. Van Persie is key to that style and was once again allowed to drift around the pitch, creating space for others and he scored Arsenal’s second equaliser with a low shot into the far corner. This was after Thomas Vermaelen had leveled things first with a screamer from outside the box. The Belgian is clearly reveling in the added team responsibility of pitching in with goals as he was felled in the build-up yet was determined to stay in involved with play. Arshavin and Walcott scored similar arrowed finishes from quick breaks while long range efforts Bendtner and Fabregas capped off an emphatic win.
But while Arsenal were comfortable attacking, the same cannot be said when defending. The distances are still very much imbalanced as the gap between Song and the attack was too large. Maybe because of the nature of the Premiership which is more direct and counter-attacking, the flaws can be greater exposed. In the Champions League tie against Olympiakos, the Grecians had all men back behind the ball and despite sustaining a battering for 80 minutes couldn’t find an outlet to relieve the pressure. Blackburn on the other hand stationed Di Santo forward all game while Dunn and Diouf looked to provide quick support if the ball was won. They profited in this manner when scoring their second goal as Arsenal were too committed in attack while the defence and Song could have anticipated the threat and squeezed down the space quicker.
Wenger did concede that leaving space may be a consequence of their philosophy nevertheless improvements are needed to be made defensively. And in that case, the manager won’t go much wrong by instilling this quote by Chinese philosopher and reformer (551 BC – 479 BC) Confucius into his team’s mind: I hear I forget, I see I remember, I experience I understand.
Arsenal 6-2 Blackburn Rovers:
N’Zonzi 4, Vermaelen 17, Dunn 31, van Persie 33, Arshavin 37, Fabregas 57, Walcott 75, Bendtner 89.
Arsenal (4-3-3): V Mannone (6) – B Sagna (6), T Vermaelen (7), W Gallas (6), G Clichy (6) – A Diaby (6), A Song (6), F Fàbregas 9 (A Ramsey, 76mins) – T Rosicky (6) (T Walcott 69mins), A Arshavin (7) N Bendtner 76 mins), R van Persie (7).
Subs Not used:W Szczesny, K Gibbs, M Silvestre, E Eboué. Next: Birmingham City (h).
Blackburn (4-4-1-1):P Robinson 8 L Jacobsen 5 G Givet 6 P Chimbonda 5 M Olsson 6 B Emerton 5 K Andrews 5 S Nzonzi 6 E-H Diouf 5 D Dunn 6 F Di Santo 4.
Substitutes: M G Pedersen 5 (for Emerton, 56min), B McCarthy (for Dunn, 62), D Hoilett 6 (for McCarthy, 70). Not used:J Brown, N Kalinic, M Salgado, P Jones. Next: Burnley (h).
Referee: P Walton Attendance: 59,431
|Arsenal||Team Statistics||Blackburn Rovers|
|3||1st Half Goals||2|
|16||Shots on Target||5|
|5||Shots off Target||0|