The club’s fans, players and manager were perhaps all overlooking this clash as they had their eyes set on the midweek game against the mighty German giants Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League. This persuaded Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to name a different than usual starting 11, as he chose to rest the likes of Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski on the bench. There were some initial concerns about Jack Wilshere making it to the matchday squad, however Wenger took a gamble and named him as a substitute.
Bacary Sagna was replaced by Francis Coquelin, and Per Mertesacker was given a much needed rest, and he made way for Thomas Vermaelen who returned from an injury. There was a rare start for Tomas Rosicky and Gervinho as well.
There was a very slow start to the game in an unusually quiet Emirates Stadium. It was a case of ‘same old, same old’ for Arsenal as they dominated the opening exchanges and tried to take the game to Blackburn, and in return earned a dearth of corners. However, they simply could not take advantage of it as every corner fizzled out into nothing. They had plenty of possession, but could not make it materialize into anything of substance.
The closest they came was when Abou Diaby’s header was saved by Blackburn goalkeeper Jake Kean. Arsenal dominated possession for the initial 30 minutes as Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked lively. The best chance for Arsenal in the first half came just before the break, when Rosicky split Blackburn’s defense with an expert through ball to find Gervinho one on one with the goalkeeper. However, the Ivorian’s finish left a lot to be desired.
The teams re-emerged for the second half, and there was finally some sense of urgency in Arsenal’s play. The Gunners finally started to find spaces, and almost scored when Rosicky’s thunder strike rattled the bar, and somehow shook up the fans present on Emirates Stadium, who were way too quiet anyway.
Wenger decided to put this game to bed, and brought on his three big guns in the form of Walcott, Wilshere and Cazorla, all at once. However, that move immediately backfired as Blackburn took the lead completely against the run of play. Right back Martin Olsen darted forward towards the Arsenal goal in the 67th minute, got past Coquelin and fired a shot past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. However his shot was parried, and fell to Kazim Richards. The shot of Kazim Richards had very poor contact, but it somehow managed to find its way to the back of the net. The goal suddenly woke up the Gunners, who tried desperately to get back into the game, and save perhaps their best chance for silverware this season.
Wave after wave of Arsenal attacks followed, with Walcott and Cazorla putting cross after cross in the box for striker Olivier Giroud, who had a very quiet game too. Blackburn however parked the bus in front of their goal, and fought for their lives. Arsenal were simply not good enough when it mattered.