Arsenal have now been knocked out of the FA and Capital One Cups when fielding relatively strong starting line-ups. What does this say about our first team squad? There were no positives that came out of this game and there are no excuses that we were only able to generate two to three decent scoring opportunities against a Championship side. Our creativity and tactics are incredibly stale and we have no answer to teams who efficiently “park the bus” in front of goal. After today’s performance, I can only envision the doom that awaits us on Tuesday vs. Bayern Munich.
Arsene decided to field a veteran starting line-up in what appeared to be Arsenal’s best opportunity at lifting silverware this year. However, in typical Arsenal fashion, we started off the match very sloppy with a few misplaced passes and searching long balls to absolutely no one. Eventually, an Arteta interception led to some good link up play between Rosicky and Ox that eventually settled us down. From there, we started establishing our presence as the better team and knocked the ball around quite well. The majority of our attacks came from the right side with Ox and Coquelin threatening with good runs and link up play, but much like our overall game, the delivery in the final third left much to be desired.
For the first half hour of the game, Blackburn exerted high pressure on our back four, which made it extremely difficult for us to move the ball into their half. As a result, we had very few scoring chances during this period, and our best ones came from corners, which were, however, executed horribly time and again. Our best opportunity to take the lead in the first half was created on a quick through ball by little Mozart, but was ultimately ruined by an awful shot wide of goal by Gervinho. The only other decent attempt on goal in the first half, came from a Diaby header off a corner that required a brilliant save from Kean to keep the game level.
At the end of the first half, Arsenal had 70% possession and 12 corners, yet had absolutely nothing to show for it as the game remained 0-0.
For some reason, Arsene decided to swap Gervinho and Ox on the wings in the second half and our offensive play seemed to suffer as a result. Gervinho had been much more effective down the left in the first half, and Ox had linked up well with Rosicky and Coquelin down the right. As usual, we lacked creativity and penetration in the final third and our whole team was too stationary in the build-up. Our defence remained as untested as it did in the first half, and Blackburn continuously turned over the ball on misplaced passes.
However, the opposition did play with more attacking intent after the restart. The closest we came to scoring in this half came from a Rosicky strike that beat Kean, but unfortunately struck the crossbar.
With the game seemingly at a stand still, Arsene opted for a triple substitution to bring on our best three attacking players in Jack, Theo and Santi in the 70th minute, to hopefully freshen our approach and have the same positive effect as they did vs. Brighton.
However, within two minutes of the triple substitution, Blackburn was able to capitalize on some questionable defending by Coquelin, and Kazim-Richards scored on a miskick.
The Blackburn goal finally inspired some urgency in Arsenal’s attacking play, but it was to no avail as Blackburn successfully defended their lead by parking the bus and clogging the box with 10 men (as they had all game). There’s no excuse for the horrible performance on our home turf and we never deserved to win that game, especially with such few scoring chances against a team like Blackburn.
Our tactics have been stale for quite some time, and our players constantly beat a dead horse with a stick by sending in crosses into the box clogged with opposition players, and standing and contemplating how to break down a “park the bus” defense.
Szczesny (7.0) – Szczes was not at fault for the goal today and made the initial save. However, with two shots on goal, typically I would hope that we would not concede. Not much else can be said.
Monreal (7.0) – He got involved a fair bit offensively and made some nice runs forward and found himself on the end of some nice, leading passes. However, his crossing and balls played in the final third need to be better. Good aggressive play when without possession of the ball, Nacho was one of the few bright spots in today’s performance.
Vermaelen (5.5) – Part of me still thinks that he could have tried to jump and clear Kazim-Richards’ fluke goal. It almost seemed as though he just stood on the goal line and watched the ball go in off the post (granted the shot bounced quite high). Still, I’m not sure what kind of coverage our back four were playing when the goal went in and Vermaelen was not marking anyone.
Koscielny (6.0) – On the Blackburn goal, he ran over to try and compensate for Coquelin’s awful coverage and unfortunately Vermaelen did not run across the pitch to cover for Kos. Aside from that, he made a nice surging run in the first half to keep the play alive and was aggressive in pressuring Blackburn for turnovers.
Coquelin (6.0) – His awful defensive coverage on the Blackburn goal spoiled an otherwise good performance. His crossing was also very poor, but aside from that Coquelin was aggressive in his challenges and won the ball back cleanly on numerous occasions. He ran forward to join the attack and was composed when carrying the ball up the pitch.
Arteta (5.5) – He had a few nice interceptions that prevented Blackburn from setting up in our zone, but was largely invisible today. He was nowhere to be seen in coverage on the Blackburn goal and misplaced some passes late in the game, which is very unusual for the Spaniard. He also should have done much better with his shot on goal that hit the side netting in extra time. I’ve come to expect a lot more from Arteta and he never really seemed to settle into the game and lead the play from the back.
Diaby (5.0) – Lots of misplaced passes today and several turnovers from holding the ball for too long at the edge of the opponent’s box at a crucial point in the game. He’s supposed to be a great box-to-box presence that can run with the ball up and down the pitch but not once did we see that ability today. Diaby did have a quality header on goal that was turned away by a great diving save, along with stripping the ball off a Blackburn player on one counter attack and a good link-up play with Rosicky in the first half.
Rosicky (7.5) – Little Mozart was our best starter on the pitch today and every time he touched the ball, he tried to make something happen. Too often, Arsenal fall victim to sideways and backwards passing, but Rosicky made sure that we pushed forward as often as possible. Rosicky was unlucky to not have anything to show for his hard work, as Gervinho wasted his perfect break away pass and his own shot struck the crossbar.
Gervinho (5.0) – His brutal shot wide of goal after Rosicky played a perfect ball to him in stride highlighted Gervinho’s afternoon. Gervinho often found himself overwhelmed in the opponent’s box and never took on defenders effectively. His passing was also a little off and most of our attacking play from the left side came from Nacho in the first half. Gerv did make a couple nice plays in the first half by dribbling the ball past defenders into empty space, but never really threatened the opposition. His form dipped even further after AW’s decision to play him on the right in the second half.
Giroud (6.0) – Our big CF was also invisible today and was not making his typical good movements to get into scoring opportunities. The center of the pitch was so clogged that we tried to focus our attack down the wings, but we really could have used a more mobile striker to make some runs behind their defense. Giroud also did not really find himself on the end of any headers, though he did work hard to try and get involved in the game chasing down balls out wide on the pitch.
Oxlade-Chamberlain (6.5) – Ox made several nice runs with the ball today and drove our team forward down the right flank, but his corners and crossing left much to be desired. His general play in the final third was wanting and he took some questionable shots on goal that were well wide of the mark. Just like Gervinho, when he switched to the left side in the second half, he became invisible and ineffective.
Wilshere, Walcott and Cazorla (Incomplete) – Jack and Theo each found a way to get through the stubborn Blackburn defensive shell, yet both were unsuccessful in scoring or creating a goal. If Theo’s header had gone anywhere but right at the keeper, he likely would have scored and Nacho should have taken Jack’s over the top pass first time in the air. In the end, all three had a minimal effect on the game and we were unable to solve Blackburn’s “park the bus” defense. If all three were afforded more time, they may have been able to get Arsenal on the board, but it’s tough to make a significant impact down 1-0 with only twenty minutes of playing time.
Whether you want to blame today’s performance on players who were rusty and did not have a sufficient run of games to find form or on a bad bounce that led to Blackburn’s goal, one thing is clear: there is no excuse to only be creating so few quality scoring opportunities against a lower division team. Losses in cup matches are always possible, but to lose in the manner we did today was a disgrace. Any momentum we may have had from the previous two league games has now vanished and squad morale will be low going into our David vs. Goliath match this coming Tuesday.
Another season goes by and likely another year without silverware. How much further will the once mighty Arsenal fall?
Written by: Highbury Harmony