Arsenal 4 – 0 Blackburn Rovers
1 – 0 Ooijer o.g. (2)
2 – 0 Arshavin (65)
3 – 0 Eboue (87)
4 – 0 Eboue (90)
The choice of music to leave the pitch may need altering following the drubbing of Rovers on Saturday. Whilst I would never argue with anyone spinning Move On Up, perhaps a tad of Jackie Wilson would have been more appropriate. Maybe that will be another day.
Rovers were the whipping boys; they got what they deserved for their lack of desire and one-dimensional style of play: if it moves, kick it. A typical Allardyce side, unloved by the masses beforehand, even more so after this game although if the Premier League want to break things up in the top four, perhaps they could make it a rule that Paul Robinson has to play in goal against Arsenal every week. He might have some good games but in general, we would be scoring three or four a game. So long as the chances do not fall to Nicklas Bendtner, who had an afternoon in front of goal to forget. Maybe it was as well he had left the pitch when penalties came about in Rome.
Arshavin meanwhile will want to remember this game for a long time. As will Alex Song for his performance, possibly the most complete his has put in during his stint in the midfield. The Russian may have garnered all of the headlines but Song has been rightly awarded Man of the Match by a number of papers this weekend. He had, in his own way, an energetic style, a gazelle loping across the breadth and length of the pitch outthinking, outpassing and outplaying his counterparts. It was a vindication of Wenger’s faith in the player and perhaps, following on from his performance against Cardiff, a sign that things are falling into place for him.
Crucially though, the return of Walcott gave the right hand side of the team a directness that had been missing in recent weeks. He took command of the first attack of note, ordering Song into the middle to join the incoming Arshavin. The cross found a melee of players, the Russian sending the ball wide before Ooijer decided to head it into his own net. Very nice of him, it was too and a sign of his tremendous technique to manage that with the ball one foot off the ground.
It wrecked Blackburn’s tactics. Defending high up the pitch rarely works against Arsenal due to the pace they have. With that out of the window, they reverted to typical Allardyce-style and kicked everything. It was not a difficult match to referee but Phil Dowd managed to get a number of key decisions wrong: Diouf warranted a straight red, the only difference between Taylor’s assault on Eduardo and Saturday was that Almunia walked away following treatment. Later in the game, Pedersen should have been given a yellow for the blatant dive since Greg Louganis entered the Olympic competition. Small things but they do little to restore any confidence in officials.
Once the goal had been scored, it was a procession aside from a brief interlude before half-time, Pedersen’s header well saved by Almunia. Bendtner and Walcott could have increased the half-time lead but were unable to. According to reports, in a ‘handbags’ incident, Almunia gave Diouf a ‘Kirkby Kiss’. If true, good on Manuel, it was the least that Diouf deserved.
The second forty-five was about Arshavin for the most part. A deluge of chances were created for Bendtner who spurned them all, denied by wayward shooting or one good save from Robinson. The Russian took matters into his own hands with twenty-five minutes remaining, dancing closely to the touchline, concentrating on following the line like a small child does when colouring. That image reinforced when having found the roof of the net with a ferocious drive, Arshavin celebrated with his tongue out. When you finish like that, you can celebrate however the hell you want, in my book anyway.
Once that went in, it was a question of how many. Eboue provided the answer, poking home following Robinson’s save from Arshavin and then converting a penalty so coolly that you had to do a double take to make sure that it was not a timewarp and Lauren stepping up to the spot.
It was a very solid performance all throughout the team. Everything that had been threatened in previous home games came together. With Adebayor and Fabregas expected back for Manchester City, the strength of the squad will be shown between now and the end of the season.
With Villa’s result yesterday, fourth place was achieved. Another crucial week ahead, Hull tomorrow to set up a potential semi-final with Chelsea, Newcastle on the same weekend Villa travel to Anfield and the draw for the route to the Champions League final, a suspicion that we will not be leaving these shores until the Final is nagging away in my mind. Which makes a change from Mrs YW, at least.