Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
Arsenal flash-fried Premier League newcomers Blackpool today at the Emirates Stadium by a final score of 6 - 0. It is a result that is perhaps a bit lopsided, as Blackpool had to play about 70 minutes with ten men, but Arsenal will not mind the final scoreline, as goal difference is going to be key this year (Chelsea just defeated Wigan 6-0, so the Blues are already at +12).
Blackpool's 4-0 win against Wigan last weekend was that part of the dream where one runs and runs across the field, every first touch is great, mothers weep in the stands, every shot is a 30-yard laser, and then suddenly one is flying high above the clouds. Today, though, is when suddenly one's legs are stone, and a clown is bearing down with a chef's knife in hand, staring, staring, the screams will not come out, and for some reason, David Lynch is talking on the phone/zucchini to the President of Finland.
The action kicked off with a somewhat shuffled Arsenal lineup from the one that featured at Anfield. Alex Song started at center half for the suspended Laurent Koscielny, Theo Walcott started on the right wing, and Tomas Rosicky got the nod at attacking midfield in place of the injured Samir Nasri.
For the first ten minutes, both sides looked eager to get forward. Blackpool's five-man pressed well and forced Arsenal into some bad passes. Arsenal gradually settled down and began holding possession much better, and the breakthrough came in the 12th minute, Arsenal stringing together eight passes from Almunia upwards before Arshavin supplied the killer ninth for Walcott to pass into the far corner.
Blackpool had a good chance shortly thereafter to make it level, Gary Fletcher-Taylor heading wide of Almunia's right post. It would be the last real chance Blackpool would see.
In the 23rd minute, the excellent Andrei Arshavin played a through ball which Marouane Chamakh looked set to pounce on. Ian Evatt looked to get the ball with his tackle, but it was from slightly behind and his follow-through clattered the Moroccan to the ground. Referee Mike Jones awarded the penalty kick, perhaps harshly, (Arsène Wenger admitted after the match that ""I thought at the start it was a bit outside the box; from the bench, it's difficult to see...the decision is harsh, but the referee has no choice once he gives the penalty") and thus had no choice but to send off the Blackpool defender. Arshavin executed a perfect spot kick, and the Gunners were up 2-0 and a man.
Arsenal's third came courtesy of Walcott again. Standing on the penalty spot, he received a feed from Jack Wilshere, spun on the spot, and placed the ball past Matthew Gilks. Arsenal went into the half with a 3-0 lead.
The second half began much the same as the first had ended. Arsenal bossed the disadvantaged Blackpool, and within four minutes, Abou Diaby had supplied the Gunners' fourth with a trickier-than-it-looked half-volley from a Bacary Sagna cutback.
Arsenal continued to press the accelerator, the goal chances piling up. Marouane Chamakh Bendtnered a good cross from Arshavin over the bar from about six yards before Walcott finished his hat-trick, cutting inside from the right and finishing into the far corner with his left foot. He was substituted shortly thereafter for Carlos Vela and received a wonderful ovation from the Emirates crowd. Cesc Fàbregas and Robin van Persie both came on as well, for Diaby and Arshavin, respectively. Arsenal were cruising now, lining up long-range shots for fun and trying to avoid injury.
A sixth goal was in the offing, and Chamakh finally ended his bad luck with exactly the kind of goal he was brought in to score, rising high above his marker on a corner kick and heading straight into the ground past a diving Gilks. The rout was complete, Arsenal having 24 shots to Blackpool's three, and referee Jones called time after 94 minutes.
It was a vintage Arsenal attacking performance, but credit should go to Blackpool for continuing to press and attack despite their disadvantages in manpower. Most sides would have closed up shop, but Blackpool stuck to their guns and had a go of it. The score is perhaps inflated by their willingness to go forward, but they will indeed have to work on their defensive play if they are to avoid similar results in the future. Best of luck to them, though.
Arsenal's next match is a week from today at Blackburn.