Blackpool 0 Arsenal 3
Willock 11,37  Iwobi 82

Joe Willock grabbed a first half double to help Arsenal progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup. The 19 year old reacted first to head past Mark Howard after Aaron Ramsey saw his free kick come back off the goal frame. Comfortable in possession, the Gunners worked a free-flowing move involving Iwobi and Carl Jenkinson whose cross from the right evaded several Blackpool defenders, but Willock was at the far post to finish for the second goal. Ramsey was the orchestrator of the Arsenal attacks. Playing in a deeper role, Ramsey displayed all the brilliance of a player who the travelling Arsenal fans chanted “we want you to stay.” His earlier pass to find Eddie Nketiah was perfect, but the young Gunners forward could only find the side netting. Nketiah could and should have netted a first half treble, his next effort from Ainsley Maitland-Niles unselfish pass went wide of the target, and when one on one with Howard, Nketiah placed his shot which the Blackpool keeper held. Armand Gnanduillet gave Blackpool hope when he danced through the Arsenal defence, but Petr Cech made the save at his near post. Alexandre Lacazette came on for Nketiah after 64 minutes, and the France striker was instrumental in the move also involving Ramsey which saw Iwobi finish after substitute Blackpool keeper Christoffer Mafoumbi had saved Ramsey’s initial shot.

With six changes to the side which saw off Fulham 4-1 in the Premier League last week-end, Unai Emery was aware of Arsenal’s early FA Cup exit last season when the then holders crashed out at Nottingham Forest. Laurent Koscielny was named in the starting eleven but had to be withdrawn following a pre-match back injury from the warm up. Jenkinson now started and the “forgotten,” man from the Arsenal defence grabbed his opportunity with a resilient display at both ends of the pitch, and culminating with a clean sheet to boot. With Blackpool’s off the field issues with the owners manifesting itself with a largely stay away home crowd, the 5,500 travelling Arsenal fans created an atmosphere which lifted their side at what could have presented itself as a potential banana skin of a tie.

The Arsenal team bus saw a protesting Blackpool fan sit on top of the roof, a replacement bus was called for and minimal delay ensued. Emery wanted to speak about the game, but gave due respect to the home side and the fans’ struggles.

“We know there were some problems here with the club’s supporters and the club, but from us there is respect, respect to them, to the club, to the supporters and to the team. We prepared for the match with this respect also for this competition. I think that the 90 minutes against a competitive team also, I think we can watch a big match I think for them and for us,” said Emery who confirmed that Koscielny suffered pain in his back, but may be fit for the Premier League trip to West Ham next Saturday.

Emery however was pleased with his first FA Cup experience and spoke of his pride in his young players.

“I am very proud of the players today, of our work. Because first, the adaptation to the circumstances and the atmosphere here. I think every player was with very big commitment, very good concentration in the 90 minutes, being competitive to impose, little-by-little, our positioning and also sometimes our quality. But it’s very important first that with the respect, the adaptation to their game plan: the long ball, the second action, in the duels. We did that and I am very happy for every player and their work today.

“We mixed the experienced players in the squad and in the first 11 with some young players like Willock, like Eddie Nketiah and also Ainsley and I think it’s a good combination, because they can show us they are progressing with the team. The most important is with the passions, they work hard and be concentrated when they need to help again today. And then, I am very happy with Willock and also with Eddie. Eddie had three good chances to score, but the most important is to create these chances. Willock scored and I think it’s good for them and for us.”