Arsenal 0 - 1 Blackburn Rovers: FA Cup Match Report

Yep. - Shaun Botterill

Arsenal possession dominance not enough in what is familiar-feeling loss for the Gunners in the FA Cup fifth round.

0 - 1 Colin Kazim-Richards 72'

In what has become a familiar sort of match for Arsenal over the past few years, the Gunners dominated possession today, but a lack of incisive passing and finishing meant that one of three shots on target for Blackburn looped in past Wojciech Szczesny and put Blackburn Rovers into the FA Cup quarterfinals.

Arsenal, who had 12 shots on target from 26 total, spent most of their time passing back and forth in front of Blackburn's nine players standing inside their 18 yard area, and except for a couple of occasions, had trouble turning the Rovers defense and finding teammates with cutbacks or crosses. Arsenal also had 16 corner kicks, none of which really amounted to much.

The first big chance for Arsenal didn't really come until the 26th minute, when Abou Diaby's header from a corner (okay, that one amounted to something) found only the waiting arms of Jake Kean. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shot well wide and in general was trying to do too much, constantly dribbling inside into pressure and a mass of bodies, which sport his right back Francis Coqelin joined in heartily. Blackburn were offering basically zero threat at this point, and Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen were spending more time forward than in their own half, almost.

Arsenal's most dangerous player in the first half, and during his time on the pitch in full, was Tomas Rosicky. He was industrious and quick with his passing as usual, and in the 43rd minute, he threaded a pass through the Blackburn defense that was perfect. However, the man on the other end of it was Gervinho, and Gervinho did his Gervinho thing where he gets one-on-one with the keeper and shoots wide. It was a bad miss, especially coming off what was a good African Cup of Nations for the Ivorian. As halftime neared, Mikel Arteta drilled a free kick right at Kean.

The second half started with a Blackburn flurry, but then it quickly settled into its old pattern. Arsenal increasingly looked to get shots on target from anywhere, Diaby missing from range as well as Rosicky before the latter crushed a shot off the crossbar from 25 yards. It was as close as Arsenal would come. Arsene Wenger looked to his bench and brought on Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, and Jack Wilshere for Chamberlain, Rosicky, and Gervinho. It was puzzling that Rosicky was taken off, because he had continued to look Arsenal's most composed and dangerous player.

In one minute, it wouldn't matter.

Blackburn punted the ball forward, flicked it on, and Martin Olsson powered a half-volley towards Szczesny. The keeper parried it straight back into the middle and the path of Kazim-Richards, who scuffed a bouncing effort that did enough to carom in off the post. It was 1-0, out of absolutely nowhere, and now Arsenal's tempo that was lacking in the first 70 minutes would come to life.

Theo Walcott looked to have a penalty shout in the 82nd minute, as he was tripped while lining up a shot from 9 yards, but he was deemed offside. Replays showed that he was not, and that he should have had a penalty. He had another chance six minutes later, his header crashing straight into Kean. One final scramble in the last minute of injury time ended with Arteta smashing a shot into the side netting when there was a square for Olivier Giroud available. Blackburn took the goal kick, and that was it.

Arsenal were out of a cup to a lower-division side for the second time in three months. They had much more of the ball and much more of the attempts than Blackburn did on the day, but they didn't finish what they started, were too often lacking the final ball, and were found lacking on one crucial moment of defending.

Next up: Bayern. Ugh.

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