Arsenal paid the price for failing to take their chances by crashing out of the FA Cup at home to Blackburn on Saturday. Arsene Wenger made seven changes to his squad, leaving many key players on the bench with Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich clearly on his mind.
Having said that, the side Wenger did put out should have had enough quality to see off Blackburn. The side had plenty of Premier League experience in it, but nobody wins games on paper.
Blackburn had the first chance of the game and went mighty close to taking an early lead. Morten Gamst Pedersen whipped in a free-kick and Marcus Olsson’s sliding effort went just wide.
That was the visitors best chance until the second half and they had to defend for much of the game as Arsenal tried to break the deadlock. Laurent Koscielny nodded wide before Arsenal appealed for a penalty when Tomas Rosicky’s cross appeared to strike Scott Dann on the arm. However, I feel it would have been a harsh one on Dann as there was very little he could do to stop it hitting his hand.
Arsenal had 12 corners in the first half, a statistic that would leave you to believe they created many chances. Unfortunately the didn’t. Blackburn were happy to concede corners all day long. Why?. Because most of the Arsenal corners failed to clear the first Blackburn defender!. 25 minutes in and Arsenal came close to finding the net. Rosicky’s delivered a rare good corner from Arsenal and Abou Diaby’s header was saved well by Jake Kean in the Blackburn goal.
A couple of minutes later and Rosicky delivered another good corner, this time it was Thomas Vermaelen who was left frustrated by Kean. Those were the two best chances of the half until just before half time, Rosicky sent Gervinho into the clear. The Ivorian, back from the Africa Cup of Nations, dragged his shot wide as the Arsenal crowd began to get frustrated.
It wasn’t a great first half. Blackburn did what they had to do. They nearly scored early on and defended well for the rest of the half.
Olivier Giroud, who had a very quiet game, was denied by Kean early in the second half, as Blackburn’s goalkeeper continued to frustrate Arsenal.
Despite having very little of the ball, Blackburn continued to warn Arsenal of what was to come. Scott Dann saw his header cleared off the line and Arsenal needed some inspiration.
Former Arsenal player David Bentley came on to a chorus of boos from the home fans. Bentley of course is still contracted to Tottenham, despite being out of favour at White Hart Lane.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had three subs stripped down and ready to go. Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere. Before they’d even got on the pitch, Arsenal had two good chances to take the lead. Tomas Rosicky’s long-range effort smashed against the crossbar and Abou Diaby was denied by Kean once again.
That proved crucial. Within a minute of the triple substitution, Blackburn took the lead. Martin Olsson’s shot was palmed away by Wojciech Szczesny but straight into the path of Colin Kazim-Richards, who scuffed his effort into the ground which went in off the post. Had he hit the ball cleanly, he may well have seen his effort cleared off the line or saved by the keeper. But it wasn’t and Blackburn had a lead to cling onto.
Arsenal fans suddenly began to panic. This wasn’t in the script. Arsenal had 2 good chances before the subs and the subs were brought on to win the game. Seconds after coming on, they had to find an equaliser, not a winner.
As you’d expect, Arsenal continued to push forward. Nacho Monreal was played in nicely by Jack Wilshere, but he wasn’t going to score from the angle it was it. Although early in Monreal’s Arsenal career, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of player that has goalscoring instincts, which you’d expect from most left-backs.
Diaby was denied by Kean once more late on and Theo Walcott’s header was saved by the Blackburn keeper in the dying minutes. Mikel Arteta then fired into the side netting and time was up for Arsenal. Out of the FA Cup for another year and looking more and more likely to finish trophyless again. The Champions League is Arsenal’s only chance of silverware, but in honesty, there’s very little chance of that happening. If you can’t beat Blackburn and Bradford, how do you expect to beat Bayern Munich or Barcelona?. It simply won’t happen.
The result did very little to appease the disgruntled fans who want Wenger out. To be honest, after a result like that, you can’t blame them. It appears to be the same story every year for Arsenal. Sell your best players every summer, fail to properly replace them and wonder why we can’t win anything. Not only that, prioritising the Champions League over the FA Cup when we will never win the Champions League with this team and even under Wenger. He had his best chances of that in 2004 and 2006. So why not prioritise the League Cup and FA Cup. Arsenal might not even qualify for the Champions League this season, something that has never happened under Wenger. It may be a case of win it or play in the Europa League next year. Arsenal may need Tottenham to blow it again to qualify. Whilst you wouldn’t say that’s impossible, you’d have thought they’d of learnt something from previous seasons. Arsenal and Wenger certainly have not, that’s one thing that is for sure.
I’m going to the Emirates next weekend for the game against Aston Villa. The atmosphere won’t be enjoyable if Arsenal lose against Bayern Munich before Villa and if they fail to win against Villa, it will be even worse!.