Arsenal 0-1 Blackburn
So I voiced my inner fears in yesterdayâ€™s preview with these words:
â€œThe effects of a disjointed performance and a cup exit on the players, the fans, on pretty much everyone, do not bear thinking about.â€
Well weâ€™re now having to bear thinking about it, because a disjointed performance is exactly what we got, utterly blunt and operating at about 60% of the required urgency until it was too late. Letâ€™s file this away with the rest of the season-definers: Bradford, Norwich, Swansea, Schalke â€“ there are more besides, all hewn from the same rock. This tweet from Orbinho sums the situation up, really:
This season, worst points haul in Wenger era, loss to 2 lower division sides in cups (one in 4th tier). Things aren’t getting better.
— Orbinho (@Orbinho) February 16, 2013
And thatâ€™s just it: Itâ€™s the same mistakes happening again and again and again. For every cautious step forward we take (Stoke, Sunderland), we then proceed to fizzle out. You got the feeling after about ten minutes yesterday that the players thought it would be easy to win it.
We had a dozen corners in the first half, only one of which was dangerous. As Tim at Arse2Mouse pointed out, Blackburn soon twigged that conceding a corner was the safest option because we wouldnâ€™t do much with them, and so it proved. The other chance we had fell to Gervinho, who predictably scuffed it wide. He often gets into decent, advanced positions on the wing but he canâ€™t cross and he canâ€™t shoot. As Adam Ant once said: â€˜What do you do?â€™
Rosicky had a cracking effort that came back off the bar moments before he was subbed off, but then came Blackburnâ€™s only shot on goal, from which they scored. A bit jammy, but Szczesny should have done better. After that there were a couple of point-blank saves thanks to a belated cranking up of the tempo but it was too late, and we spent far too much time in our favourite desperation zone, just in front of the D, passing left and right across the goal like a caged animal pacing round its enclosure. Only, this animal had no bite.
Fair play to Blackburn and all that, because riding your luck a bit is what makes cup football the unpredictable beast that it is. But the last five or ten minutes aside, itâ€™s not like they were throwing bodies across the line.
When Arsenal have a day like this â€“ ponderous, lacking ideas, lacking forward motion â€“ they are terrible to watch. When the crowd is flat, it is flat because there is nothing to feed off from the pitch. Yes, it goes both ways, but this in the Mirror rings true:
The energy and the drive has to be generated by the players and what this occasion proved was that too many players are lacking those qualities.
If there were a smattering of boos at half-time, they had turned into a cascade at full-time. The feeling of gloom was capped off by a rousing rendition of â€˜We want our Arsenal backâ€™ outside the tube station.
Iâ€™m not sure that this was the straw that broke the camelâ€™s back. The camel’s got several bales of the stuff in its saddle-bag already.
Making so many changes backfired. Leaving it until the 70th minute to inject something into the side was too late.
We are back to square one. The knives are out – rightly, though I don’t approve of the malice or the spite – for Wenger. Something has to change. But will it?
Somewhere in Bavaria, there will be chuckling.