Blackburn pulled off a massive upset in the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates. The last 16 clash against Bayern Munich in the Champions League seemed to have been playing at the back of Arsene Wenger’s mind as he named his starting XI for the match. There was speculation in the media about the inclusion of Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny. Both the defenders started for the Londoners while Wenger had Wilshere, Walcott, Podolski and Cazorla on the bench.
Arsenal dominated the first half but created only two clear chances. Diaby’s powerful header from a corner was heroicly saved by Kean before Gervinho missed hitting the target after being played 1-on-1 with the keeper, continuing his poor form in an Arsenal shirt. Arsenal had all the possession but they didn’t make the most of it as they failed to find a way through the Blackburn defense.
Tomas Rosicky, getting a rare start, hit the crossbar for Arsenal in the second half, before a triple substitution saw Arsenal throw on the cavalry for the last 20 minutes. Blackburn though scored straight from the restart, catching Arsenal cold as Kazim-Richards’ scuffed shot nestled into the net off the post in exceptionally fortuitous fashion after Szczesny had kept Olsson’s shot in play. Blackburn then went on to park the bus and deny the Gunners an equalizer. Kean’s heroics late in the second half helped Blackburn in advancing to the quarter-finals.
W Szczesny 4: He was a spectator for most of the match but was at fault for the Blackburn goal. He fumbled a shot straight into the path of Kazim-Richards and the Blackburn man did no mistake in putting the ball into the net.
F Coquelin 4: Was beaten in the air for the Blackburn goal, and was a little out of place as emergency right-back in his first game back from injury. He played a lot longer than he perhaps should have, and looked increasingly spent as the game progressed, getting beaten a couple of times before the goalas well as Blackburn won some corners down Arsenal’s right.
T Vermaelen 5: The Arsenal skipper made a comeback from injury and looked in shape during the fixture. He was vocal in defence and wasn’t afraid of putting his body on the line. He was hardly tested as Blackburn decided to defend in numbers.
L Koscielny 5: He was never threatened by any Blackburn attack. He was caught napping as Blackburn scored the all important goal in the second half. He was caught ball-watching and didn’t track the runner quickly enough.
N Monreal 6: The new signing seems to have fit in the Arsenal squad with another great display. He was solid defensively and looked determined in attack.
A Diaby 5: He looked a little rusty during the early period of play but settled well with time. He came close to scoring but his header was saved brilliantly by Kean. Needs more energy in his play, and needs to stretch his legs and run at the defence.
M Arteta 5: He stayed deep in the midfield during the first half as Rosicky and Diaby were dictating the terms upfront. He played the ball well and picked his passes well. He almost scored late on, but sadly from an Arsenal perspective lashed his shot into the side netting.
Gervinho 4: The Gunners fans had some high expectations from him especially after his stellar display at the African Cup of Nations. The winger disappointed as he missed a clear chance when he failed to find the target after going 1-on-1 with the keeper.
T Rosicky 7:His work-rate was commendable and he looked threatening throughout the match. He played some great through balls to the wingers as well. His vision and off the ball movement was superb. He hit the crossbar with a thunderous shot in the second half.
A Oxlade-Chamberlain 4: He used his pace well and dribbled past the Blackburn defence as if they weren’t there. His crossing though remains poor, and Giroud’s off the ball movement didn’t help the Englishman either. His corner kicks were disastrous.
O Giroud 4: He hardly made an impact on the match as the rest of team failed to deliver quality crosses in the box for the targetman. His off the ball movement was poor and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s 20 feet high crosses didn’t help him as well.
J Wilshere 5: He came on for Rosicky in the 70th minute to add some creativity to the Arsenal midfield. He added a little more intent to the Arsenal attack but still failed to deliver the “final ball”.
T Walcott 6: Replaced Gervinho for the last 20 minutes and did what he does best – made darting runs at the defenders. He haunted the full-backs with his pace but he couldn’t land his crosses. Produced a rare header, which was well held by Kean.
S Cazorla 4: He came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 70th minute but hardly made an impact on the match. He didn’t see much of the possession to pose any sort of solid threat.