Preview: Arsenal vs Blackpool
Arsene Wenger’s men felt they were dealt some opener fixture at Anfield last weekend – hardly a comfortable task against a revitalized Liverpool.
Thus, any result on Sunday was going to be a ‘smash and grab’ and in the end, a desperate 1-1 draw proved just that.
Even so, had Wenger’s men been defeated, drawing any conclusions would have been harsh since any side could have faltered in such test. Add the absences of Fabregas and others into consideration and judgments made over the final score at Anfield might just have been unjust.
In truth, Arsenal’s squad was not at full strength on the day, and big trips to Merseyside do not come every weekend either.
Seldom do Wenger’s men face grand-slam matches like Sunday’s during the course of a season and indeed, scarcely do those games actually decide matters come May.
As much as we hype up implications of clashes with Chelsea, United, Liverpool and co, it is more often than not results against the rest of the league which truly determine the destination of the Premier League crown.
Arsenal’s poor shows in big games were atoned by ruthless form against lower opposition in somehow keeping a title fight last season and also during the campaign, a side like Manchester City could have easily been in the title mix had careless draws at home to the likes of Burnley and Hull been different.
So the theory that matches like Saturday’s are more significant than you think is no lie. Therefore, if you are going to assess Arsenal for the 2010/11 campaign, do so this weekend.
Never underestimate home form or these non grand-slam fixtures. They really do count. And in an opponent like Blackpool, underestimating would be perilous.
Indeed, Ian Holloway’s men have a striking resemblance to the Hull City of 2008/09. As Saturday’s 4-0 away thumping of Wigan showed, they may be strangers to the top flight, but you would not know by first glance.
Then again, that Hull side flattered to deceive, escaping relegation narrowly in the end, but who will forget their first visit to the Emirates Stadium? If the Tangerines are to emulate the Tigers’ audacity in that sensational 2-1 win, the Gunners better be warned.
If Wenger’s side felt Anfield’s circumstances were too unrelenting for their title credentials to be tested fairly, then Saturday’s return to home turf and familiar business should be the place for a good assessment of the boys.
And with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Johan Djourou joining Robin van Persie for a full return, there should be no excuses.