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Michael Taylor 27th Aug 2010 - 14:21

Rovers could be a tough nut to crack for Arsene’s Gunners

Things are once again looking rosy for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal at the start of the season.

They followed up a lucky last gasp draw at Anfield with a 6-0 hammering of Blackpool - Theo Walcott leading the way - and now the rumblings around Emirates have turned to intrigue about how far they can go this year.

Well a lot of those questions can be partially answered this Saturday when Arsenal make their first unenviable trip of the season to Blackburn.

On paper it's nowhere near as tough as the Liverpool game, in reality though we all know it's these visits to the hostile north that have proven their downfall recently.

Sam Allardyce in particular has shown that he can make life tough having masterminded four home wins over the Gunners in his spell in charge of Bolton and a 2-1 win for Blackburn at the tail end of last season.

It's not hard to see why Arsenal have struggled against Big Sam in the past either with his sides adopting an in-your-face, direct style as opposed to the pass at all costs system Arsene Wenger has made his own.

Allardyce's style doesn't always pay off as their 6-2 battering at the Emirates last year suggested, however, when it does work, the games aren't just tight they tend to lead to positive results for the charismatic manager.

The truth is, if Blackburn get it right and stop the likes of Tomas Rosicky and Cesc Fabregas from controlling the middle then it not only spells bad news for Saturday's game, it'll also hint that Arsenal still haven't solved the problem of getting bullied.

Ian Holloway made the rookie error of giving his Blackpool team the freedom to play football last week, you can be sure Allardyce won't give his Rovers a similar chance to express themselves.

You can be sure the likes of Chris Samba, Ryan Nelsen and Steven N'Zonzi don't shirk any challenges while the defensive lapses made in last week's 2-1 loss against Birmingham should be avoided after a tough week on the training ground.

For me though Blackburn's big problem lies up front where the rumours are that Morten Gamst Pedersen is once again ready to step into the target man role after a great performance in midweek against Norwich.

The Norwegian may have combined well with Mame Biram Diouf as the latter notched his first hat-trick in English football but it's hard to see this working against Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen.

And if the ball doesn't stick up front then the likelihood of Rovers coming away with anything, no matter how well they battle away in midfield, is small - certainly not enough to make me think 9/2 is value.

The 3/1 about a draw looks a much better shout however I think the 6/10 about an away win is where the money will be heading and for good reason.

I don't expect a high scoring affair, I do believe Arsenal have improved enough both physically and mentally to see a task such as this through, especially with their heartbeat Fabregas back.

The 19/20 you can get on fewer than 2.5 total goals perhaps looks the most solid bet in this one while I could be tempted to go in on Theo Walcott after his hat-trick last weekend.

His England World Cup snub could have been the boost he needed with his career seemingly stagnating and if Arsenal are to shuffle past Blackburn it could take the type of spirit he's shown in rebounding from disappointment.

Walcott is 7/1 to score the first of the game and 2/1 to net anytime - both are sure to get attention this week.


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