The way I see it - Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal

Last updated : 17 August 2007 By Jason Hogan
I decided as a point of principle that I wasn't going to pay yet more money for the privilege of having Setanta. So, having believed Arsenal's official website which said that Wednesday night's game against Sparta was being broadcast on one of ITV's various channels, I was furious to then find out that it was indeed Setanta that were exclusively broadcasting the game.

Having to rely on good old Charlie Nicholas to effectively be my eyes and ears was far from ideal but although I only got the gist of what was going in snatches it was reasonable to say that the Arsenal were having a far from easy night of it in Prague.

The widely held perception that Arsenal don't like it up 'em and they can be kicked out of their stride clearly isn't a theory that is exclusively confined to these shores anymore. First, we saw Ajax employ some rather cynical tactics against us in pre-season over in Amsterdam and from the reports I read, Sparta went into Wednesday night's clearly hell bent on following suit.

But, as was the case in Amsterdam, the Arsenal lads stood up for themselves, wore the opposition down and ultimately beat Sparta in the end.

It was good night all round in the end, wasn't it? We came through another game which was a test as much of our temperament as our skill and ability and to have passed it the way we did will surely do a power of good for the mindsets of the Arsenal lads. And most important of all, we have one foot firmly in the Champions League which will please the bean counters at Arsenal if nothing else.

It really does encourage me to see the likes of Clichy and Fabregas coming out and saying that the Arsenal have adopted the attitude that they are not going to be pushed around anymore. It's music to ears almost and I'll tell you why.

Whenever we have got beat, it has been way too convenient for the press and the media to trot out the old chestnuts about Arsenal getting "out muscled" and "bullied" regardless of the fact that we actually played well a lot of the time.

I remember when we played Man City at Eastlands last season for example. We played them off their own park that day and should have scored an absolute hatful. Instead, we somehow ended up getting got beat courtesy of a penalty by Joey Barton.

I remember watching Goals On Sunday the following morning and one of the guests, Don Goodman, said that Arsenal lost because they couldn't handle the power of Manchester City!! No, I kid you not, my fellow Gooners that is exactly what he said. I couldn't believe what I heard then and I still don't to this very day.

The Sunday morning papers were very much written along the same lines and whenever we got beat after that you can bet that the words "out muscled" and "bullied" were never far behind.

We Gooners all know that objectivity and Arsenal go together like water and oil where the press and the media are concerned but wouldn't it be great to see Arsenal ram some of their lazy stereotypes back down their throats over the course of this season.

We certainly won't have to wait to long for another chance to test our new found resolve that's for sure as we go to Ewood Park on Sunday to play Blackburn for our second league outing.

Whilst a lot of Premier League clubs have been very active in the transfer market over the summer, Blackburn appear to have adopted a less is more approach so far. I believe they have made three signings so far though I think the signing of Roque Santa Cruz promises to be the most inspired one.

Santa Cruz spent a good five or six years at Bayern Munich. He lost his way over there in the last two seasons often playing second fiddle to the likes of Roy Makaay (who is now with Feyenoord) and Lucas Podolski amongst others.

Still, you don't last five or six years at a club like Bayern if you don't have something about you and even though things eventually went sour for him at the Allianz Arena, the fact is that he will have left there a far more streetwise character than when he arrived.

Maceo Rigters is another guy that was brought in during the summer. I was really impressed with him in the EURO Under 21 tournament Holland and I don't think he will let Rovers down as and when his chance presents itself.

However, Rigters has some pretty formidable competition in the striking department at Ewood. Benni McCarthy is the main man of course and he doesn't really need any real introduction. Jason Roberts is definitely McCarthy's running partner though with Santa Cruz now in the mix they might not get as many outings together up front as they did last year.

For me though the man to watch out for may be Matt Derbyshire. This lad has impressed me no end since he burst on the scene barely two years ago. He is a real rags-to-riches success story if ever there was one as he was plucked from local non-league football in the Lancashire area. The boy may be slight in frame but he can look after himself and he is a very good finisher. Arsenal will ignore this lad at their peril.

I feel that this is going to be a real test for us not in terms of the physicality of the game as such but in terms of how we deal with crosses and set pieces over the course of the game. In the likes of Samba, Nelsen, Santa Cruz and even Morten Gamst Pedersen they have plenty of aerial power. With Adebayor, Diaby and especially Gilberto missing from our ranks it doesn't make our job of dealing with set piece situations any easier.

Although we did the double over this lot in the league last year I do feel (quite strongly in fact) that we do owe them one after what happened up there in the cup last March.

Whilst we were guilty of missing some glaring opportunities that night, I felt that we were robbed blind that night. Having been denied a blatant penalty in the tie at The Grove, we were then denied at least one absolute stonewall penalty up there in the replay. And how Mark Hughes had the cheek to come out and say that Rovers deserved to win when Benni McCarthy scored with just about the only meaningful shot Rovers had in both of the cup ties I will never know.

Thinking about that game definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Let's hope the Arsenal can make things a little sweeter for me on Sunday.