Paul Parker

Rovers can rough up Arsenal

Paul Parker

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Upset of the weekend: Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has been at it again, criticising Stoke for the rough treatment they dished out to Tottenham last week. He may have a point - especially considering what happened with Aaron Ramsey at the Britannia - but he is sounding like a broken record.

He can expect his players to be in for a similarly tough time at Ewood Park this weekend. Blackburn beat them there at the end of last season, and Sam Allardyce is not one to mess with a winning formula.

Wenger needs to understand that, for better or worse, football has changed. Both Chelsea and Manchester United have adapted to cope with the physical side that routinely set out to disrupt more talented opposition, and they have reaped the rewards by sharing the title between them over the past six years.

Marouane Chamakh has looked good since joining the club in the summer, but will he be any better equipped to deal with burly Premier League defenders than any of the forwards already there? And with question marks still hanging over the goalkeeping situation, sides who exploit set pieces effectively will still be confident of causing problems.

We may be hearing Wenger lamenting Rovers' rough-house play again this weekend.

Match of the weekend: Aston Villa v Everton

We may only be two matches into the season, but this is already a huge game for two clubs that will go some way to defining their respective campaigns.

Everton are a side I expect big things of this season. They have all of their key players fit, and as long as they still have them all when the transfer window closes next week I believe they can really make a push up the table despite their disappointing opening results.

Villa are another team always looking to break through the glass ceiling and into the top bracket, but the way they fell apart against Newcastle shows how desperately they need a manager. No disrespect to Kevin MacDonald, but Villa need someone who could have regrouped the players at half-time and avoided that 6-0 drubbing.

Their early elimination from Europe for the second season in a row could be a blessing in disguise as they will look to rebuild with whoever eventually takes over full-time, and a win against a side like Everton will provide a huge morale boost for them.

Player to watch: Andy Carroll - Wolverhampton Wanderers v Newcastle United

Following his hat-trick against Aston Villa, there are plenty of calls for Carroll to be called up for England's upcoming Euro 2012 qualifying matches, but I think it is too soon for him. All too often a young player shows some good form and is fast-tracked into the international set-up before they are ready.

However, he is a player I have always liked the look of, and his high-scoring season in the Championship has seen him come on in leaps and bounds.

Even though he didn't score in the opener against Manchester United, I would put that down to the lack of service he got in that Old Trafford opener. With an abject Aston Villa unable to block the supply line, his skills were there for all to see.

Seeing whether or not he can sustain that form on the road against a resilient Wolves this weekend could prove a real indication of just how much he has progressed.

Under pressure: Avram Grant - Manchester United v West Ham United

This spot could easily have been filled by Roberto Martinez this week, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because Wigan have come up against a buoyant, newly-promoted side and then the defending champions at their most ruthless.

Instead, you have to look at the Hammers and wonder just how much work needs to be done to see them start to climb up the table.

Grant was brought in to try and foster the sort of team spirit that saw him lead Portsmouth to the FA Cup final last season, but there has been precious little of that on show so far this term. Losing to Villa away on the opening day is one thing, but the lack of morale in the defeat against Bolton - the sort of team they need to be beating if they want to avoid the drop - was all too clear.

Hammers fans were delighted when Gold and Sullivan came in to rescue the club, but the pair have already given plenty of reasons for the club's loyal support to worry about the way they do business. If Grant is unable to turn things around soon, then even they may start to drift away, seeing the club lose one of its most valuable assets.

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