So regulars would have seen me gushing about my first love on Soccer Without Limits earlier this week. How did we let such a talent go at the peak of his powers, I hear you ask. The answer my friends is topical. Joe Baker, scorer of 101 goals in 156 games for the Gunners, did fail to hit the target occasionally. The last time was on January 22nd, 1966.
Involved in a relegation battle, we travelled to fellow strugglers Blackburn in the third round of the FA Cup. A week earlier they had edged a league meeting at Ewood Park by the odd goal in three. It didn’t stop them ending the season rock bottom, below even Northampton Town (yes, you did read that right). We avoided the dreaded drop by four points, and seven places. We didn’t, however, avoid a 3-0 drubbing in that ill-fated cup tie. The season was over and a scapegoat was needed. Joe never made another competitive appearance in an Arsenal shirt. Shortly afterwards he was a Nottingham Forest player.
So you can see why I harbour an irrational hatred of the club that went on to give Sam Allardyce a job, and thereby offered contracts to a string of players who were truly the spawn of the devil. Only in recent years have they started to pay some degree of penance by regularly selecting Paul Robinson to keep goal against us. Unfortunately he is not in line to start this weekend, and as @LittleDutchVA pointed out on Twitter his absence, plus the appointment of Mike Dean as referee makes this a much more difficult task than it should be!
Reading between the lines as Arsene addressed the press ahead of the match I would think, as with Brighton in the last round, we will see a degree of rotation. At the Amex we needed to bring the big guns off the bench to secure the result. Blackburn have an experienced line-up but look as though our pace and movement may be an issue for them. With one eye on Bayern it is likely, for example, that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will start ahead of Theo Walcott. Perhaps one or indeed both of Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky will get a start in the midfield.
The pressure will be on us to impose ourselves on them, for certain. It may take an hour of moving them around the park before the gaps start to appear, but appear they will, surely? Blackburn are on a decent run, but a run built on performances against sides without the fight shown by Arsenal in the last couple of outings. The ‘holic pound is guided by a desire to see full repayment of that 3-0 beating in England’s World Cup winning year, and a belief in our desire to do just that.
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I would like to close by thanking you for your kind comments about the historical pieces that enabled me to fill an otherwise quiet week, plus of course the contribution of Bergkamp the Man for his excellent piece on the subject of the Arsenal brand. The coming week is likely to have more of a Germanic feel to it. Keep everything crossed as we go into two matches so crucial to keeping the season meaningful.
Have a good one ‘holics.
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