Rovers 1 Arsenal 2: Trouble at mill.By: Dave | August 28th, 2010
Thereâ€™s a scene in the mid-90â€™s Battersea-based BBC sitcom â€˜Game Onâ€™ where the main protagonist is asked to recall the name of a colleague. He doesnâ€™t remember precisely, but confirms that â€˜itâ€™s summink Norvern, like Arthur Whippetâ€™, thus revealing the traditional views of the Londoner on their friends in the North. Similar scenes were played out on the 1100 from Manchester Victoria today, hurtling both sets of fans toward Ewood at a breakneck 30mph. As I sat polishing my clogs and smoking coal, a panicked gentleman Arsenal fan (letâ€™s call him, say, â€˜Nathan Barleyâ€™) was heard to exclaim: â€˜I know Baz, one fackinâ€™ train an hour â€“ how the hell are we gonna get back?!?â€™.
I got the impression that for Nathan, his day trip outside the reassuring confines of the M25 was akin to David Cameronâ€™s recent trip to Helmand Province â€“ get in quickly, have your photo taken, clap a bit and then get the hell out of there before the locals find out who you are. If you really must stick around for a few hours then, for Godâ€™s sake, travel round in groups and donâ€™t drink the water. You can guarantee that Nathanâ€™s hero, the artisan Wenger, feels similarly ill at ease as he heads to the wild country, Arsenalâ€™s fragility against the preponderance of physical teams in the dirty north being well documented. Itâ€™s not too hard to imagine Le Professeur in his bunker, deep within the bowels of The Emirates, consulting the Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice website prior to embarking on his latest trip. The lights are dimmed, a half-smoked Gauloise sits smouldering in the ashtray, the smell of garlic and ripe camembert are inescapable, and Pat Rice writhes around the floor dressed as a Moulin Rouge can-can girl:
‘Zut alors Patrice! It says â€˜ere zat zere is a dangerous level of long ball activity by numerous bodies of ze Ewood militia. Zere are regular and sporadic outbreaks of forty-yard throw-ins into ze box, and a high likelihood of Van Persie being injured again by ze rebel forces of ze General AllardycÃ©. Sacre bleu!â€™
On this occasion, he neednâ€™t have worried. Arsenal started at a pace, attacking quickly through Walcott and Fabregas. The Spanish reserve midfielder faded quickly however, his only remaining contribution to the game being a wry grin as the Blackburn Enders informed him that he was supposed to be in Spain. Conversely, Walcott looked dangerous throughout, and capitalised on some lax defending by Givet to fire past Robinson into the far corner of the goal. To their credit, Rovers fought back strongly and were soon level. Samba showed his comfort on the ball by threading a clever pass to Diouf (the spitting, horrible one) who showed a rare desire to take on the full back and crossed low for his namesake to tap into an empty net. It was a deserved equaliser, and it was pleasing to see Rovers score through incisive passing and instinctive movement rather than the usual aerobatics.
The second half started slowly, but badly for the blue and white halves. There was brief chaos in the home teamâ€™s box before the ball found Arshavin, who picked his spot through a shambles of desperate defenders. Arsenalâ€™s possession football began to dominate as their opponents were forced to chase the game, and neither team looked like adding to their tally. Van Persie was tackled and so was forced to halt play until he was taken off, his legs being frightfully delicate. Nonetheless, the white flag was hoisted as Diouf (not the one who racially abuses Scouse ball boys) was substituted for Stephen Nzonzi and Samba was forced up front to frighten Vermaelen. Many Rovers fans had spent pre-season fretting that we had no strikers â€“ now that horror was made reality as the game ended with Blackburn fielding 1 goalkeeper, 6 defenders and 4 midfielders (essentially 3, as Dunn appeared to be as fit as a butchered dog).
So hopefully Nathan and Arsene managed to make it back to London without being kidnapped by the River Darwen branch of the Somalian pirates. Maybe the early kick-off and subsequent victory gave them the time and confidence to explore the local area. I like to think of them enjoying some brass band marches at King Georgeâ€™s Hall, munching on tripe butties at the market, supping Thwaites at The Acqueduct, and ordering tailor-made flat caps and britches at Greenwoodâ€™s. I suspect that they failed to indulge in such treats though, preferring the skinny-lattes and tamarind-scented emporia of Islington to the offal-based cookhouses of East Lancs. As for me, Iâ€™ll just trundle â€˜ome onâ€™t push iron, inâ€™t pouring rain, ready for another day at workâ€™ouse come Monday. â€˜Appen mamâ€™ll get some butter pie onâ€™t stove forâ€™t tea and itâ€™ll be reetâ€™o. As forâ€™t Gooners, just wait till they goâ€™t Blackpool, them sandy groundersâ€™ll see em home wiâ€™ a thick ear. Tarra!