Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Saturday August 18 2007
Despite facing Czech champions Sparta Prague during the week, Blackburn away will be Arsenal's biggest test of the season so far.
Insane you may think considering the thuggish attitude with which Sparta approached the match. Well, seeing Arsenal refuse to be bullied so far this season will serve only to inspire the likes of Savage to 'get stuck in' even more.
Arsene is likely to stick as closely as he can to the team that has served him so well in Arsenal last two games. Two players that wont play are Manu Eboue and Tomas Rosicky, more on them later.
Wenger has already told the press that his team will not allow Blackburn to kick his team out of the game, let's hope he's right.
Wenger insisted that he would be prepared to start Eduardo if he was fit enough, which could mean a left wing start for the new boy after Tommy's injury.
As with most games, the midfield will be key in deciding who emerges with the points on Sunday. If Arsenal can once again stand up to the bullying tactics that Savage and Dunn are sure to employ, then they could well win. If, on the other hand, Savage gets the better of Fabregas via his studs, Arsenal will struggle.
Rovers boss Mark Hughes spoke about the post-Henry era at Arsenal: 'Thierry Henry was an outstanding player for them for many, many years and you always feared an Arsenal side with him in the line-up. But they have got other young players that can come to the fore and start to flourish and be the main guys for Arsenal for many years.
'If you look at the likes of van Persie who has been a thorn in our side in recent years, he is an outstanding talent and maybe it's time for him to step up to the mark and be the main man.'
Arsene Wenger stressed that it is important for Arsenal to build some momentum after a promising start to the season: 'We have had a good start and it is a big relief to have got the result in the Champions League.
'But I don't think you can read much into the results that have happened already, Manchester United had a difficult start against Reading, but 1-1 at Portsmouth is not a bad performance. Everybody can drop points at Portsmouth.
'Also we will have to play Chelsea and Liverpool as well at some stage. At the moment all we want to do is have a good run and get good momentum.'
Question marks remain over the fitness of Benni McCarthy after he suffered concussion against 'Boro last week.
The former Gunner will, as usual, want to show Arsene Wenger what could have been had he stayed at Arsenal.
Clichy and Flamini will have to work together to keep him quiet as he's sure to want to cut inside and hit those lethal long-range efforts.
Tomas Rosicky and Manu Eboue have joined Diaby, Gilberto and Adebayor on the sidelines.
Denilson and Eduardo Da Silva both return for Arsenal though, and one or both could start on Sunday.
The striker could start on the left wing tomorrow. Not his favoured posistion but it'll be all eyes on him none the less. His pace, movement, finishing and upper body strength will cause the blackburn defence a lot of trouble if he does indeed start.
Neither team has lost a single game this season. (Ok, so that's not such a big deal 2 games into the season)
Blackburn might not be noted for their attacking style of football, but the two teams produced 11 goals in 3 games against eachother last season.
since being promoted in 2001 Blackburn have managed to make Europe on four occasions.
Arsenal gained 22 points after going behind in the league last season, a premiership record. They have 3 points from a losing posistion already this season.
Arsenal have lost 3 times at Ewood during Arsene's reign, including the 1-0 defeat in the FA Cup quater final last season.
Arsenal have emerged winners on 6 occasions from Blackburn during Wenger's time at Arsenal.
As I've already mentioned, this is going to a very tough game. It'll be no walkover, but I think Arsenal have it in them to win it. I'll have to go with a 2-1 win. Blackburn wont roll over, but Arsenal will just about come out on top. Goals from Da Silva and Gallas for Arsenal, Pederson for Blackburn.
Vital Arsenal member Super_Gooner had his say on the fixture: 'With The Mighty Gunners in a good early spell of form, I think we could scrape a 1-0 win, with Gallas to score.
But Blackburn shouldn't be underrated by any means though; Pedersen, Bentley, Santa Cruz and McCarthy if he plays tomorrow could all give us a scare.
I think, especially with the injuries, Wenger will stick with the successful 4-4-1-1 formation, keeping van Persie up front and Hleb as the second striker. I hope to see Eduardo coming off the bench, too.'
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Date:Saturday August 18 2007
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The State Of Play (Sunday October 19 2014)
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