Champions League now Arsenal’s only hope for silverware

Arsenal’s one and only chance to break their long trophy drought this season is to become the champions of Europe by capturing the European Champions League. Everything else has flown out the window now with the club being eliminated from the FA Cup in the fifth round on Sat. Feb. 16 with a less than impressive 1-0 home loss to Championship League side Blackburn.
Arsenal wasn’t outplayed in any way, shape or form, but they simply didn’t play well enough to advance to the next round of the famous competition. The team was knocked out of the League Cup earlier in the season by fourth-tier Bradford and their chances of winning the Premier League are slim and none and of course, slim has left town.
Some supporters will be cursing manager Arsene Wenger for not fielding his strongest lineup, and while that may be true, the 11 players that started the game, all internationals, should have been able to handle a non-adventurous Blackburn side. Wenger should take his share of the blame for the club’s failures this season, but the players need to stand up and be counted too. They created enough chances during the match, but like so many times in the past, couldn’t cash in on them. With Bayern Munich up next in Tuesday in the Champions League, it looks like an eighth year without any silverware is beckoning.
Wenger started the match with his top players Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski, and Santi Cazorla on the bench and those who started the match failed to pounce on their opportunity to impress management and the fans by grabbing the bull by the horns and showing what they could do. Gervinho started up front and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was also on the pitch, but both of them failed to deliver the goods as did the rest of their teammates even though they had more than two dozen attempts at goal as well as about 70 per cent of ball possession.
Wenger is starting to sound like a broken record after his team loses, but there’s not really much else he can say and he was straight and to the point. At least he wasn’t blaming the defeat on the officials or anybody else when he stated, “Of course it is disappointing. It is very difficult to accept but it happened. We had enough chances to win but we didn’t. Offensively we lacked ruthlessness and calm in front of goal. We didn’t make enough of our corners. We were not good enough to win the game. It is as simple as that. Not one defeat is acceptable. You are in this job to win every single game.”
Arsenal hasn’t won anything since back in 2005 when the team took the FA Cup, but this was the first time the club had been beaten in the FA Cup by a side in a lower division since Wenger took over as manager. The game’s only goal came in the 72nd minute when Colin Kazim-Richards bundled in Martin Olsson’s rebound after keeper Szczesny saved his shot, but parried the rebound back into the box. The goal actually came about a minute after Wenger made a triple substitution by taking off Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky, and Gervinho while replacing them with Walcott, Wilshere, and Cazorla.
Arsenal Player Ratings Feb. 16 vs Blackburn
Wojciech Szczesny 5
He didn’t have a lot of work at all, but when he was needed the most he made a fine save on Martin Olsson’s shot, but parried the rebound right back into play to the feet of Kazim-Richards who deposited it slowly and painfully into the back of the net. It was a basic goalkeeping mistake and a fatal one.
Francis Coquelin 5.5
Laurent Koscielny 5.5
Thomas Vermaelen 5.5
Nacho Monreal 5.5
I’m going to grade the four defenders as a unit here as there really wasn’t much between them. Arsenal didn’t really have a lot of defending to do since they had the ball 70 per cent of the time. The back four weren’t great and they weren’t bad, but allowed Olsson and Kazim Richards to combine for the goal. They were average without the ball as well as average with it. Vermaelen may take some extra heat by fans for not getting back to the goal line quick enough to stop the goal.
Mikel Arteta 6
Arteta had some good moments as well as some bad ones. He was steady, but didn’t really push the attack. He almost scored the equalizer in injury time, but slammed the ball into the side netting from close range.
Abou Diaby 5.5
Diaby didn’t carry the ball as much as he should have, especially against a lower division side. He needs to play the ball quicker, but overall he was decent.
Tomas Rosicky 6
Rosicky almost opened the scoring with a screamer that rang off of the crossbar. He had a pretty good game, but not a great one and set up Gervinho with a nice pass. Was taken off for in the 70th minute for Wilshere.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 5.5
Oxlade-Chamberlain seems to have stagnated a little and isn’t showing signs of improvement and development. He just didn’t appear to know what the best option was when he had the ball. Was taken off in the 70th minute for Cazorla.
Olivier Giroud 5.5
Giroud suffered from lack of service, but he didn’t help out his own cause either by backtracking to pick up the ball. He seemed to be non-existent for much of the match.
Gervinho 5.5
Gervinho tried his best, but his passing and finishing were basically second rate. Had a glorious opportunity to score at the end of the first half. Needless to say, he didn’t. Came off after 70 minutes for Walcott.
Jack Wilshere 6
Came on for Rosicky in the 70th minute. Did as much as possible in his time on the pitch, but a cameo appearance doesn’t suit him. He needs to play 90 minutes to be at his best.
Santi Cazorla 5.5
Came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 70th minute. He didn’t really make much of a difference when coming on, not for lack of effort though.
Theo Walcott 6
Came on for Gervinho in the 70th minute. Tried his best and almost leveled the score with a close-range header in the 88th minute, but it went straight to keeper Jake Kean.

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