London: Arsenal face an eighth straight season without silverware after losing 0-1 to second-tier Blackburn in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, the latest big surprise in the famous old competition.
Colin Kazim-Richards grabbed the 72nd minute winner at the Emirates Stadium in a rare attack by the visitors, as Arsenal paid the price for resting many of their star players ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg against Bayern Munich.
That's the only trophy Arsene Wenger’s men have left to play for — and they are big underdogs in that competition, especially after Saturday’s lacklustre display. The club’s last trophy was the FA Cup in 2005.
Also Saturday, Luton failed in their bid to become the first non-league team to reach the FA Cup quarter finals in 99 years by losing 0-3 at home to Millwall, and Barnsley beat MK Dons 3-1 in another match between lower-league clubs.
The loss to Blackburn was one of the worst in Wenger’s 17-year reign — the Frenchman had never lost to a lower-division team in the FA Cup — and will further test the patience of supporters angry at the club letting their best players, including Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, leave in recent times.
Wenger gambled by starting with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski on the bench, with the Bayern game in mind.
Ironically, Kazim-Richards stabbed home the scrappy winning goal off the post less than 60 seconds after Wilshere, Cazorla and Walcott had been thrown on in a desperate attempt to avoid a replay.
Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle are among the Premier League teams to have been upset by lower-tier opponents this season, which is proving to be one for the underdogs with top teams focusing on the league and their European campaigns.