What do you expect when your star players are out for a crucial FA Cup game just after you’re lost in a gut-wrenching Carling Cup final? You would think Wenger would covet some silverware after the Chelsea Carling Cup loss but no such luck. I was shocked to see Henry out of the lineup despite his minor foot injury while Fabregas also sat. Adebayor was also out of the lineup (suspension) against Blackburn so misfiring Julio Baptista and flash-in-the-pan Jeremie Aliadiere got the call. It’s a little sickening to lose to Blackburn with the same pathetic excuse that we didn’t have our best side.
Henry’s been resting since last Tuesday, how much rest does a man need before he can play about 30 minutes. Even a little appearance by him would’ve given us a spark, after all only a touch of his skill was required to finish off one of the many chances the Gunners had. This side featured the likes of Gallas, Ljunberg, Traore, Denilson, Aliadiere, Baptista and that f***ing fool Senderos who keeps screwing up in the clutch. The Arsenal back four looked disjointed and even the midfield was coughing up possession through poor passing. Early on Traore nervously headed out a Pederson pass from the left even though nobody was within 10 yards of him. I’m not sure if this kid really needed to be playing in this game, maybe Clichy (who came in much later for him) was the better option as a forward-thinking back. Blackburn controlled early possession but it was sloppy and never threatening.
Arsenal finally managed to get some possession after 10 minutes and Aliadiere was setup beautifully by Eboue but a poor first touch helped out Friedel who accused Aliadiere of diving. He didn’t dive. I’ve seen a penalty given in those situations but a no-call was the best call. Baptista then tried to latch on to a cross but because of his clumsiness he lost the ball. He never had any bearing on what he was doing, this guy hopes he can score, he doesn’t actually believe he can.
In the first game Arsenal were denied a clear penalty and the same can be said here. Ljunberg was clearly trampled inside the box as he was well past the defender but no call from Graham Poll who shook his head like he knew exactly what he was doing but really didn’t have a f***ing clue. Baptista again was wide open on the far post but his clumsy header flew over the bar. The commentator at this point summed up the situation, “the game could be over in truth”. Arsenal missing too many chances and this was going to be much like the 1st tie and the CSKA Moscow game. Aliadiere spun around a little later and fired a shot in but it was too weak, still a good effort but it would never beat Friedel.
Blackburn came out in the second half with a little more purpose in the second half but never really created any scoring opportunities with Almunia having to do almost no work. Senderos almost screwed up by letting Nonda run past him, if Nonda would’ve been a little more aware of where he was, this might have been a goal. But we’ll hear from Senderos later. On the counter-attack, Baptista unleashes a powerful and purposeful strike which Friedel gets his fingertips to, a decent strike, good save. Almost a repeat shot a few minutes later with the exact same result. Baptista, settling for power knowing he has no finesse, as seen in the first half. But wait, later on Baptista tried a bicycle kick which harmlessly rolls to Friedel, why f***ing bother dude?
Walcott is brought in instead of Eboue who was stepped on in the first half and was still feeling it. Clichy comes in for Traore, something which should’ve happened in the 1st minute but didn’t have any runs down the sides that could break Blackburn. Alexander Hleb had a good game, he played smart and did whatever he could possibly do to setup the strikers and midfielders in attacking positions but when you can’t put the ball in the back of the net, nothing really matters. Arsenal was quicker to the ball in the second half and won a lot of freekicks but none of the set pieces ever amounted to anything. The only thing Blackburn could muster up was Darbyshire challenging Gallas inside the area on the right but Gallas saw him off well. So after Hleb works hard to win a freekick, Baptista is all eager to take it and the look on his face before he’s about to strike is one of focus, concentration, desire, determination and intent. But what comes out of the freekick? A direct hit against the wall! I can’t believe this guy and how awful he is. At least, Reyes would score and create occasionally, this guy is just completely bankrupt when it comes to creativity and talent. Here’s to him being sent back to Real Madrid so him and Robinho can cuddle together.
Late in the game, Benny McCarthy blows by Senderos, who was stumbling like an old woman, and unleashed a cracker which Almunia could do nothing about. Senderos actually backed up after stumbling and invited McCarthy to strike the ball with as much time and power as he needed. Arsene Wenger had that look on his face which said, “Oh Shit”. You would think after Sunday’s display of ineptitude Senderos might come into this game with some purpose and a mindset of redemption, but nothing of the sort. A terrible defensive performance in a critical part of the game.
If only we had a talented striker in the game, we would’ve won. I’d even settle for Adebayor if not Henry, even he could finish off some of the chances Aliadiere, Baptista and Ljunberg wasted. That little outburst he had at the end of the Carling Cup final might have cost us a place in the next round, shows you how important controlling your temper is. We’re now out of two major competitions and on the brink of the biggest one. The Champions League is all that we have left.