Sir Alex Ferguson is having a go at us, again. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? This time he is doing so indirectly, ‘protecting’ Paul Scholes from the slight afforded to him by Arsene Wenger. Supposedly Arsene Wenger should pay more attention to his own players mischievous tendencies. In the same week Sam Allardyce chose to remind Arsene Wenger of just how physical and dirty some of the recent Arsenal team’s have been. In the times ala Petit and Viera, we did indeed have some bite. Big Sam wasn’t paying us a compliment, mind, he was merely trying to legitimise his own team’s aggressive style and remind our players of their own supposed frailties. Shame on him.
Finally, Stoke City, the most pugnacious of modern clubs, and their manager Tony Pulis, have taken us to task too. Wenger’s obvious psychological ploy that he employed last weekend, publicly protesting on behalf of Tottenham against Stoke in order to advance his, and therefore our, own agenda of ensuring minimal physical contact in football matches, did not go down to well with Stoke. It appears an official complaint has been made to the authorities that be the English Premiership. So, everybody is moaning about Arsene Wenger and Arsenal again. I have a sneaking suspicion this is the start of something good. We have for so often been off the radar of so many managers and teams that we almost became insignificant. Nobody cared any more.
Once upon a time it was different. Sam Allardyce didn’t so much create a good reputation for himself out of the performances of Jay Jay Okocha and Kevin Davies as he did by frightening the Arsenal players, almost to death, and defeating us, thanks to, usually, a Stelios goal from a corner. Our seasons almost used to boil down to how we fared at the Reebok Stadium. If we won, we knew it would be good. When we lost, we knew it wouldn’t. Bolton aren’t quite what they were since Big Sam left but Blackburn almost are. The fixture doesn’t quite have as much significance for us as the Bolton one once did but winning at Ewood Park is a good sign. Especially if it happens in the same week as Sir Alex Ferguson starts moaning about us again. Many Manchester United fans will argue that they lost the league at Ewood Park last season. Not many Arsenal fans will argue that we won the league there this. At least not yet. But if we are still close to the top (perhaps even leading) by the time the April sunshine springs around we will look back at the Blackburn result and know it truly began there. The signs all first started to appear this week.