Blackburn v Arsenal, Premier League, May 3, 2010
This Bank Holiday Monday sees Arsenal travel to north with nothing to play for but pride. The home team are still hopeful of a top ten finish but have already been a short holiday which makes it likely that both sides will cruise through this encounter.
Sam Allardyce took his players to Gleneagles for a golf holiday last week following a similar break last season when Blackburn were still battling relegation. The Ewood Park outfit have undoubtedly improved in 2009/2010, notably taking points off Manchester United and Chelsea in the run in, but like the visitors had a poor April, failing to win a Premier League game.
In four games over the last month Blackburn drew three (Portsmouth, Manchester United and Wolves) and lost their last home game to Everton. The Toffees emerged 3-2 winners thanks to a late goal from Tim Cahill on a day where Allardyceâ€™s side failed to show their usual defensive resilience. They should though be refreshed for the visit of the Gunners, a similar short break to Dubai earlier this season saw an improvement in results, before their final game at Aston Villa Sunday.
Chris Samba and Brett Emerton missed the Scotland break but are expected to be fit and the big central defender could be a threat from set pieces against a weak Arsenal backline. Allardyce is also expected to have El-Hadji-Diouf and Vince Grella available after they missed the draw at Wolves.
Nikola Kalinic and Jason Roberts will be looking to take advantage of the likely Arsenal central defensive pairing of Mikael Silvestre and Sol Campbell. Steven Nzonzi will also be eager to impress after he was linked with the Gunners last week and Arsene Wenger admitted that â€œHe is a good player, but we are linked with so many players that I canâ€™t deny every wrong rumour.â€
Emerging centre back Phil Jones was also rumoured to be of interest to Arsenal last week and he will face a stern test against Robin van Persie who should make his second successive start after missing the majority of the campaign with ankle ligament damage.
Arsene Wenger is missing a host of first team regulars including the likes of Manuel Almunia, William Gallas, Thomas Vermaelen, Cesc Fabregas and Aaron Ramsey. Brazilian midfielder Denilson has recently been added to this list and Russian playmaker Andrey Arshavin is another doubt for the trip north.
â€œThe Professorâ€ has urged his players “to be faithful to what we have done during the season” but after a chastening April it would be a surprise if the Arsenal players are totally switched on. Successive defeats to Spurs and Wigan ended the Gunners title campaign and the 0-0 home draw with Manchester City in their last game was one of the worst matches of the season.
With Wenger linked with a host of players in recent weeks, and looking likely to sign in the summer, some Gunners are fighting for their careers at the Emirates. The likes of Lukasz Fabianski, Sol Campbell, Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri should see this as an opportunity to impress. (1.80 to be over 2.5 goals, 1.90 to be under.)
These two teams managed one win between them in April. This fixture firmly looks like one with nothing riding on it, which should see both sides throw caution to the wind. Blackburn will be confident of claiming another scalp at home but should be wary of Robin van Persie who still has something to prove before he travels to South Africa with Holland in the summer.
101gg predicts: Blackburn 2 – Arsenal 2 (13.02)