Arsenal ready to twist the knife for Blackburn Rovers and Steve Kean
Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal, Premier League, Saturday 17 September, 12.45pm (Sky)
Blackburn are no friends of Arsenal. In fact over the years the style of combative football employed by former Rovers managers Sam Allardyce and Mark Hughes, has proved to be an effective antidote to the Gunners’ slick passing game.
However, with Blackburn at the foot of the table, having picked up just a solitary point from their opening four games, they no longer carry the same menace.
And while both they and Arsenal will be anxious to earn a result so their points tally matches their expectations for the start of the season, it will be Steve Kean shifting more nervously in his seat ahead of kick-off at Ewood Park on Saturday.
The Blackburn manager was a surprise appointment after Allardyce’s departure last December and so far he has failed to ingratiate himself to the Rovers faithful.
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So much so that several supporters’ websites have written to the club questioning his position, with the season barely a month old.
Kean appears unruffled by the criticism, however, and remains confident that he’ll be allowed to execute his plans for the club.
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“It [the letter] doesn’t make me feel bad at all. I have a great relationship with the owners.
“I can understand the fans’ frustration” said the former Real Sociedad and Fulham assistant manager “but I think it’s a minority of the fans and we share that frustration.”
Rovers do have cause for optimism with a host of new signings arriving this month, as Blackburn begin to take shape in Keen’s image, with David Goodwillie being joined by deadline-day captures Yakubu, Scott Dann, Simon Vukcevic and former Sheffield United youngster Jordan Slew.
Following the departure of centre-back Phil Jones to Manchester United, the arrival of Dann from relegated Birmingham City is a vital one and his partnership with Christopher Samba will be imperative in plugging the gaps in their increasingly leaky defence.
Blackburn’s impotency in front of goal is perhaps of greater concern though, with the weight of expectation falling on the experienced striker Yakubu and Premier League newcomer Goodwillie.
The Scotland international has failed to hit the target in the league this season and so far it is former Barcelona B striker Ruben Rochina who leads the goalscoring table with three in all competitions.
The flow of goals could increase though if creative midfielder Vukcevic, signed from Sporting Lisbon, settles in the Premier League. The skilled Montenegro international has the potential to add a much needed delicate touch to Blackburn’s forceful style of play.
Equally the club could benefit from balancing this with elements of their much maligned confrontational approach to games, which has so successfully been implemented by Stoke City in recent seasons.
Whilst Kean has expressed a desire to play a more attractive brand of football, it will be the tried and tested long ball formula that is more likely to earn results in the short term, but whatever the solution is, it is results that will appease fans and his critics.
The Scot though might not be given too long to implement his ideas, as he’s a firm bookmaker’s favourite to be the first top-flight managerial casualty.
The club’s Indian owners are also unlikely to extend their patience too much further, as they seek a swift return on their investment, before they find themselves in another relegation battle.
Verdict: Despite propping up the table, Blackburn will be keen to recapture their form of old and stifle Arsenal’s post-Fabregras regeneration. However, it might be one step too soon for their host of new signings.
Prediction: Arsenal to win 2-0