Anger, ashamed and bitter disappointment. Those were my feelings immediately after the match. While I was preoccupied yesterday that didn’t allow me to write the review earlier, in a way, I was giving myself time to see if I can muster any sort of positivity. I can tell you that more than 36 hours since the match, I’ve got nothing positive to say. I’m still angry over the result and the fact that we once again threw away another perfectly good opportunity to end our trophy drought.
Our second cup exit of the season and again, it was to a lower league opposition. We may not end up winning the cup even if we progressed to the quarter final stage but it was unacceptable to be losing to a team in a lower division, when we are playing at home. Even if we put out a mixture of the first team (and we did), we should have sufficient quality in the team to beat Blackburn. Rosicky v Lowe, Diaby v Williamson, Oxlade-Chamberlain v Olsson, Giroud v Dann ; how many would have predicted the opponent to come out triumphant in those match-ups?
Even with 71% ball possession, we could do nothing against Michael Appleton’s side. 28 shots were fired at them but only 7 finding the target (stats via Orbinho). Even those 7 on target ones, I think only Abou Diaby’s header troubled Jake Kean in Blackburn’s goal. In a match of total dominance, we still conspired to lose and go out of the competition. Not the first time that we learn that we have put away the chances we created or risk losing the match. Sunderland away we did, Blackburn at home, we didn’t.
In a match where it is mainly one-way traffic, it is vital that we retain our concentration and remained vigilant in defence. That is the hallmark of a good side – one that knows they have the upper hand in the match but doesn’t neglect the defensive shape. Trophy-winning-Wenger-sides have almost 90% possession but they also know how to keep clean sheets in those games. Wojciech Szczesny might be at fault for the goal but where was the covering midfielders? When Laurent Koscielny got pulled wide, one of Mikel Arteta or Abou Diaby should have dropped in to cover, thus ensuring that Thomas Vermaelen doesn’t have to go over to cover.
In the end, even though the referee was Mike Dean, there was nothing to complain about him. He had no impact on the match. Sian Massey might have called one offside decision wrongly but after her near perfect calls, she is allowed a mistake or two here and there. In any case, it wasn’t the easiest offside decision in the history of the game either. Nor can we say that Appleton asked his men to come out and be extra robust on us or put in heavy challenges against us. There’s only one reason why we failed to win and that is because what was produced wasn’t good enough.
It’s about the players not producing what was required of them. There’s a touch of complacency in there and that is hard to deny. Even Wenger admitted as much in his post match conference/interview. Why does this always happen to us and what is it not rectified? These kind of attitude is appalling and has no place at Arsenal Football Club. If need be, rid the club of such players who produces different levels of performance against a Barcelona or a Bayern Munich but thinks that they can take it easy against the likes of Bradford and/or Blackburn.
Or maybe in the broader scheme of things, we’ve turned out to be an Everton. Capable of beating the best when everyone is fit and ready but doesn’t have a squad deep enough to be consistently achieving those targets. The big difference with Everton is that we have deep pockets. Pockets that could fund an overhaul of the squad and that is what is needed for us to climb out and away from this mess of a hole. Whoever that decided against more purchases in the January transfer window, needs to pick up the bulk of the responsibility for whatever failings. Chances are, the fingers are pointing at Wenger.
Today’s news says that the manager unleashed his wrath onto the players after the match on Saturday. It also says that the manager has had enough with some of the players and will be looking to bring in new players in the summer. Question is, why realise now? The architect of his rise at Arsenal, his strong unrelenting belief in his players that has led us to glory in the past, has now come back to haunt him. These players are not good enough and year on year, there’s a big discrepancy with what has gone out to what has come in. It’s moving towards one direction and the ship has to be halted before it reaches the edge.
Something has got to give, this summer. Regardless of where we end up in May. Even if the team do go on a long winning run from now and even end up winning the Champions League, it should not hide away from the fact that major alterations to the team is needed. Enough is enough, if Wenger doesn’t change his method, then the alternative option has to come into motion. Something which deep down, I still hope we can avoid.