Arsenal 0-1 Blackburn Rovers FA Cup 5th Round
Kazim-Richards – 71’
An aimless Arsenal with ample possession was not able to make any impression on Blackburn Rovers and a single shambolic counter-attack by the mid-table championship side allowed them 2 quick shots on target; the first hard and belly-height, spilled by Szczesny, and the 2nd scuffed downward by Colin Kazim-Richards bounced over the Pole and onto the far post where Vermaelen watched it in.
That was it. 0-1 at the Emirates on 71’.
But let’s go back to the beginning. Arsene Wenger’s selection was from get-go was an example of wishful thinking. Giroud, Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain led a hapless charge as Arsenal established unremitting control in the first half.
Gervinho, making his first start since Ivory Coast’s wreckage in the Africa Cup of Nations, made sure the bad luck continued. In truth, he looked like he was looking to convert. He’d run and weave into the box unmolested, and then look for somebody to pass it to, like Giroud. But often the Frenchman was hanging back in a muddle of Rovers and he either didn’t make, or couldn’t find, space to strike. And Gervinho was never accurate enough on the pass anyway.
Corner after corner revealed more of Arsenal’s ineptitude. Balls came in, balls were marshalled out. At no point was there any proof that set pieces had been practised on the training ground. Each time Mike Dean signalled for another set piece in our favour you’d have been hard pressed to identify any kind of Arsenal plan inside the box. So many corners came Arsenal’s way we ended up going round and round in square circles.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made some temperamental solo runs that drove the Rovers out of his way but his asteroid-like crosses whizzed overhead and out of bounds.
Diaby’s first half seemed diffident at best and at worst, indifferent. He had one shot which Kean, their keeper, stopped with a strong left arm.
In the last 5 minutes of the 1st half, Coquelin surged forward into the box – he’d been our most positive player up to that point – and tried to force a penalty by making a diagonal dive. He must not consider acting as a career.
After that, just before half time, a slide-rule pass from Rosicky put Gervinho clean through one on one with the keeper. But the goalkeeper was Kean and the striker pusillanimous. Gervinho missed.
No sooner had the 2nd half started than Vermaelen nearly scooped an own-goal as he tried to prevent a cross reaching Rhodes. Arteta then cleared some kind of Blackburn shot off the line… and one was tempted to think that might be the end of their luck and the start of ours.
But no. Ox continued to charge and hoof. He also tried an overhead bicycle kick, but the wheels came off. Diaby, perhaps thinking he’d better man up 2nd half, made a series of futile shots on goal, one from 35 yards, another headed over… and the Arsenal crowd was murmuring its discontent.
On 67’ Rosicky struck one, too mean for Kean, from just outside the box. The ball went pear-shaped as it hit the underside of the crossbar and came straight down without crossing the line.
And then – bang on Wenger’s regulatory 70’ – Arsenal made a 3-way substitution: Gervinho, Rosicky and Ox off for Wilshere, Cazorla and Walcott. The squeaky commentator shrieked: here comes the cavalry!
Our Calvary, more like.
The one good thing you can say about boring Arsenal up until that point was that we hogged possession. But in the vacuity of a triple by-pass, Blackburn went forth like anti-matter from a black hole. Olsson (Martin, I think) broke and shot. Szczesny spilled it. Colin Kazim-Richards legged the rebound down into the ground. It bounced twice – once beyond Szczesny and twice, as it materialised like Higg’s Boson, onto the far post where a bug-eyed TV watched protons colliding into the mysterious shape of a goal. Yup. 0-1.
Blackburn up. Black Hawk down. With 19 minutes only to get out of the mess…
It was too late for the class-A subs. Blackburn went on the backburner as Arsenal looked for a way back. Theo was taken down in the box by Hanley, but referee Mike Dean ruled wrongly that Wally was off sides.
It was not to be Arsenal’s day. Make no mistake, Blackburn Rovers were not the wily campaigners we’d been primed to think they might be. They were stiff as cold porridge. Morten Gamst Pedersen, Scott Dann, Rhodes and the Olsson Brothers looked like has-beens of the premier league. Just as we did: also-rans.
But it’s Blackburn Rovers who advance to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup while Arsenal goes Crash… Burn… Bayern….