Arsenal v Blackburn, Premier League, October 4, 2009
The back to back defeats in Manchester are now fading into a distant memory as the Gunners have seen off five inferior teams and are slowly beginning to look like potential challengers again.
The midweek defeat of Olympiakos may have come late but saw Arsene Wengerâ€™s side almost totally dominate the match and although Andrey Arshavinâ€™s (7/1 to score a brace) second was marginally offside, Arsenal deserved to win by a decent margin.
The victory over the Greek side was in stark contrast to the slim victory at Craven Cottage last Saturday. Arsenal were indebted to rookie keeper Vito Mannone who made a succession of good saves against Fulham and the young Italian could provide a reassuring presence in goal if he is as talented as that performance suggested. (Arsenal are 1/2 to keep a clean sheet.)
On paper you would have to back Arsenal to produce another dominant display against Blackburn more similar to the win over Olympiakos than the victory over Fulham. The Gunners have won this fixture for the last six consecutive seasons and those matches have yielded a goal difference of 19 goals for, compared to two against, for the Gunners.
It has been a mixed start for Sam Allardyce in his first full season at Ewood Park. The wins against Wolves and Aston Villa have steadied the ship but from all indications so far we can expect Blackburn to comfortably avoid relegation but struggle to break into the top half of the table. (Blackburn are 10/1 to be relegated.)
As one would expect from an Allardyce side there are plenty of battlers and tigerish players who will look to get amongst the Gunners and disrupt their flow. Chief amongst those will be El Hadji-Diouf (20/1 to score last) but the likes of Vince Grella, Ryan Nelsen and Pascal Chimbonda will also need to be in good form to stop the free flowing football that has come to be a staple under Arsene Wenger.
â€œThe Professorâ€ will likely receive much press attention before this match as on Thursday he became Arsenalâ€™s longest ever serving manager after completing 4,749 days at the club. The fact that will no doubt be cited in the lead up to this game numerous times, is that Wengerâ€™s first game in charge at Arsenal was against Blackburn in October 1996. Two goals from Ian Wright proved the difference in a 2-0 win that did little to suggest the type of football and success to come in the following 13 years.
With Theo Walcott (10/3 to score) back in the first team squad and Robin van Persie (3/1 to score first) on good goal scoring form (two in the last two) Arsenal should have way too much going forward against Blackburn. In addition, Tomas Rosicky (11/4 to score) has been impressive since returning from injury and Andrey Arshavin will have fond memories of this fixture after scoring a cracker in this game last season.
Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson wonâ€™t be looking forward to this one, the former Spurs custodian conceded eight goals in two games against the Gunners last season and was often on the receiving end in the North London derby. And all signs point to Robinson picking the ball out his net quite a few times on Sunday.
101gg predicts: Arsenal 4 â€“ Blackburn 0 (10/1)
Full match odds here.