“It’s all very Arsenal this. Neat and tidy around the box, dominant, but no goals.”
My antipodean commentator summed up the opening half very well. Just twice we worked Kean in the Blackburn goal, and both of those from corners. The only other incidents of note were a poor effort at a dive by Francis Coquelin, the BFG should be collecting a fine from him for that, and Gervinho missing the target when put clear one-on-one with the goalkeeper. The tie became a 45 minute affair, and all the more dangerous for that.
What followed I suspect most of you will have seen by now. For those who only listened on the radio I can tell you this was a match you have seen before. Opposition parked two rows of four and five in front of the goal, we played tippy-tappy and tried to find space in areas where it didn’t exist. Look at the stats and it will tell you we had twenty more shots than the visitors, and fourteen more corners. That is only to be expected against Championship opposition.
As against Brighton in the last round our starting eleven weren’t quite up to the task and we had to call up reinforcements from the bench in the shape of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, and Theo Walcott. Sadly before they had time to get into the game we fell behind to a rare Blackburn attack. It would be easy to allocate blame at an individual, but there was a collective lethargy in defending the breakout that cost us dear as Kazim-Richards stubbed effort bounced crazily in at the far post. If ever there was an indication that it wasn’t our day, that was it.
The triple substitution robbed us of our best player on the day. Tomas Rosicky looked lively and inventive all afternoon, and by the look of things was disappointed not to get the chance to finish what he had started. A frenzied finale brought with it near misses and growing frustration. At the final whistle that resulted in the inevitable chorus of boos. I know there are many here who are not happy when that happens, but I have to say it was perfectly understandable today.
When the game finished, a couple of hours ago now, I was inclined to the same dark thoughts that many rather hastily recorded on social media platforms. The immediate reaction is one of wondering how many more times do we have to put up with days like this. The answer, when you look back down the years, is it will happen again. For every heroic win there is a Walsall, a Peterborough, a York, a Wrexham. That is the nature of the beast.
So a tasty curry and a couple of pints later I have calmed down a little. By tomorrow I will be worrying more about the matches to come than this one. I cannot let that game pass though without wondering why, when we have money in the bank, we have a goalkeeper who is not under pressure for his place. I am wondering why, when we have money in the bank, we have a reserve team midfielder at right-back, and why, when we have money in the bank, do we have only one out and out centre forward? Broken record? Sure. But am I wrong?
Whilst understanding those who will consider today something of a freak result, I have to say there are three games coming up at the start of March which may swing hearts and minds. Losing a cup tie we should have won comfortably hurts. That will pale into insignificance if the season is lost with a couple of months to spare.
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