Blackpool 1 v Arsenal 3

There was drama before kick-off at Bloomfield road. Jens Lehman who last played for Arsenal three years ago was drafted into the starting line up after Manuel Almunia injured himself in the pre-match warm up. Almunia was not even able to take a place on the substitutes’ bench with the Gunners having no back up ‘keeper. Goals from Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue and Robin Van Persie however earned Arsenal a priceless three points in a game that given Gary Taylor Fletcher’s goal that made the score 2-1 at the time was perhaps too uncomfortable for Arsene Wenger and his team.


Taking their time to settle, this was a nervy Arsenal, but chances finally began to come. Van Persie hit an inviting cross into the Blackpool area, but as tends to be the way no Arsenal player was able to capitalise. Andrey Arshavin then hit wide of the target from the edge of the area, but it was the Gunners who opened the scoring. Van Persie fed Diaby, who took the ball in his stride before lashing home the opener on 18 minutes minutes.


The Gunners calm in possession were now finding it all too easy, and doubled their advantage three minutes later. Eboue raced away from the right back position, and as the Blackpool defence backed off, struck a fierce drive into the roof of Richard Kingson’s net. With Arsenal so dominant, it seemed just a matter of time before a third Arsenal goal would arrive, and memories stretched to the 6-0 thrashing Arsenal achieved at the Emirates earlier this season began to surface.


Cesc Fabregas looked comfortable and showed no ill affects from his now famed hamstring injury. He and Jack Wilshere were showing all the skill and know how to unlock the home side’s defence, Samir Nasri hit a post from a delicate chip over from Fabregas, but the half ended at 2-0 to the Gunners. Blackpool had actually made a bright start to the match, but could not capitalise on that and a raucous seaside crowd.


Ian Holloway will not have been pleased with what he was seeing as the relegation battle seemed to be getting even tougher. Blackpool again enjoyed more early possession in the second half, but this time made it tell. Referee Lee Mason allowed play to continue as firstly Wilshere – who received a yellow card for a foul in the build up – and then as Lehman brought down DJ Campbell, play continued to see the ball fall to Gary Taylor Fletcher to slot home on 52 minutes.


It was not what Arsenal wanted, given the fragility of the defensive capabilities of Laurent Koscileny and Sebastien Squillaci, but it was game on for Blackpool you felt. The composure that was evident disintegrated as Arsenal looked for answers. With thirty minutes remaining, and in the mood to fight fire with fire, Wenger switched Arshavin for Theo Walcott.


Fabregas and Van Persie combined to see an angled shot from the Holland striker go just wide of the upright. Both sides were intent on playing the ball and it was a failed Blackpool attack that brought the Gunners a third goal. Diaby cleared up, and found Walcott from 30 yards. Walcott sped up, slipped the ball across to the advanced Van Persie who intelligently placed his shot beyond Kingson 14 minutes from time. Fabregas saw a header deep from a corner sail just wide of the post, as Arsenal held on for a deserved win that ensures they continue to have the best away record in the Premiership and crucially keeps their title hopes very much alive.