Arsenal (1) 2 Blackpool (0) 1
Carabao Cup (EFL Cup) Fourth Round
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Wednesday, 31st October 2018. Kick-off time: 7.45pm
(4-2-3-1) Cech; Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Pleguezuelo, Jenkinson; Ramsey, Guendouzi; Smith-Rowe, Maitland-Niles, Welbeck; Mkhitaryan.
Substitutes: Aubameyang, Holding, Iwobi, Torreira, Martínez, Willock, Nketiah.
Scorers: Lichtsteiner, Smith-Rowe
Red Cards: Guendouzi
Yellow Cards: Jenkinson, Guendouzi
Referee: David Coote
It now seems a world away when tonight’s visitors were stalwart opponents of ours; in fact, it was nigh on seventy years ago when both of us were competing regularly against each other in front of capacity crowds in London and Lancashire for cups and championships. Our very last Charity Shield match at The Old Place was indeed against The Seasiders, on 12th October 1953. All the obvious legends played on the day; Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer and Jimmy Logie for Arsenal, whilst Stan Matthews, Bill Perry and Stan Mortensen stepped out for Blackpool, all of them possessed copious amounts of style and grace. We (the League Champions), beat them (the FA Cup holders) by three goals to one in front of 40,000 spectators on a drizzly Monday afternoon in North London to collect our seventh shield in nine appearances. Times change along with fortunes, and the once mighty Blackpool from Bloomfield Road now play in front of less than 5,000 supporters in Division One of the Football League (formerly the old Third Division). A sobering lesson for us all, methinks.
Our team this evening reflected perhaps the importance (in Mr. Emery’s view) of both opponents and competition, with several changes across the board. Blackpool, however were taking no chances at all, and their attitude to the match reflected this right from the start. They showed no fear and played a good game, despite Arsenal breaking out of defence quickly and narrowly coming close to scoring on several occasions in the first twenty minutes or so. The goal, when it came from Stefan Lichtsteiner on 33 minutes, was a stroke of brilliance from Mattéo Guendouzi when he slotted the ball into the space behind Blackpool’s defence for our centre-back to run onto and score. The rest of the half saw us increasing the pressure on the Lancaastrians, and when the half-time whistle blew, it must have seemed a blessing in disguise for the visitors.
However, five minutes into the second half, Emile Smith-Rowe scored from five yards after some sterling work on the left from Carl Jenkinson, whose welcome return to the side tonight was showing dividends at last; then things started to go slightly awry when our outstanding player on the night, Mattéo Guendouzi ws sent off for a second bookable offence, which was highly contentious. Down to ten men, Arsenal tried to regroup, but Blackpool were certainly not in any mood to let us off the hook. Their perseverance paid off with a well-taken goal ten minutes after our midfielder’s dismissal. Now the heat was on for the Gunners, with our oppoents battling for every ball, being first into the tackle. It was such an attitude that saw them too, have a man dismissed for a reckless tackle midway through the second half. The hallmark of a good side is always the quality of the substitutes, and this is where Arsenal showed their dominance. Bringing on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Iwobi, we simply halted Blackpool’s progress any further, even though they scored a late goal which was cancelled for being offside. In the end, our fitness and professionalism won the day, but Blackpool were worthy opponents and were desperately unlucky at times not to get more out of this match.
Arsenal still have issues in defence, even when we play our reserves in matches such as this. We need to be quicker of thought and deed and show more ruthlessness in front of goal if we are to progress in any competition this season. The visitors here on Saturday afternoon are Liverpool; knowing their style of play and results this season, we are starting to wonder whether our unbeaten run will end in three days’ time. Time will tell. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.