Preview: Arsenal vs Blackburn Rovers
The length of Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal has now reached its teens.
Sheer patience from both him and Arsenal’s board is what has spearheaded thirteen years of a transformation from mediocrity to some level of superiority in English football.
But as praises are sung, Wenger, as well as many of us, are aware of how those achievements could have been even greater.
Under Arsene, Arsenal have been close-comers on certain critical occasions, most notably European finals. With his high caliber as a football manager, you would not suggest there is room for improvement from Wenger but there definitely is room for more exploits to show on his CV.
That is why Wenger does not feel he has met all targets and will be yearning to make more progress rather than reflect on memories when he takes a seat on the sidelines on Sunday.
“I question myself every day,” the 59-year-old confessed.
“I have not come close to walking away but I am on the same trip as every single player so I try to assess my performance and what I do.
“I question myself every time and ask how I can be better, how can I improve and how can I get this team to achieve what I believe is in them.”
Considering how Arsenal drubbed Blackburn in all meetings last term, neutrals might insist it is a shame that Wenger’s 13th anniversary is not being celebrated with a big showdown at the Emirates Stadium but rather a fairly predictable affair in Rovers’ visit.
What they might not remember though, is that it is this same Arsenal vs Blackburn fixture that Wenger began his reign with. And if anything, this is the fitting match to a week when we remembered how it all began in 1996.
This weekend’s event has another reason to attract an inspired audience. Arsenal’s early Sunday contest is a curtain raiser to what should be another turning point in the title race as Chelsea and Liverpool settle matters at Stamford Bridge later on.
Last opponents at home – Wigan – came as a side with the worst record against the ‘big four’, but Sunday’s guests often show up much better against members of the top flight’s most feared quartet.
According to Opta stats, Rovers boast the best results of all-time in matches against a ‘big four’ side and after defeating top four wannabes Aston Villa last week, Allardyce’s men will come in giant-killing mood on Sunday.
With Chelsea’s shock stumble at Wigan as wise lesson and a battling Blackburn to deal with, the Gunners can underestimate this task at their own peril.
But Wenger’s men have all reasons to be assured of three points on Sunday and believe it or not, have signaled progress with their current winning streak – not just logically but statistically also.
Arsenal’s five wins on the trot is some level of consistency never seen from the Gunners since all the way back in 2007. After almost equaling a club record with a 12-game winning streak early in the 2007/08 campaign, Arsenal had never won more than four times in a row until the midweek dispatching of Olympiakos sparked a new run of five straight victories.
The boys are in rampant mood and no wonder the boss was very much in bullish mood at Friday’s press-conference.
“It is going very well,” said Wenger. “Our overall performance in the games has been quite good, very promising.
“Even when we had a little disappointment in those two games, the quality of the performance was still there. Since then we have transformed that disappointment into more desire and come back every time.
“Do not forget we lost at Man City, and straight after that we were 2-0 down at Standard Liege but came back to win. That is why I believe the spirit is there and the quality is there. We know it is a very big and important season for us but I am confident we will do well.”
Arsenal are gently firing on all cylinders and it will have to remain that way for very long if this campaign will bear any fruit.