Arsenal took advantage of the open way in which Blackpool play to open up a 2-0 halftime lead which was ultimately enough to bag the points in a lively encounter.
Ian Holloway has rightly earned many plaudits for setting up his team in such an attacking manner all season and I hope they stay up because of it, but this was a naive approach today. Everybody knows that to stop Arsenal playing you get men behind the ball, close them down quickly in midfield and never let them settle. Blackburn, West Brom and Sunderland have all got reward against us in our last three games playing exactly like that. So it was a relief to see Blackpool play their usual game and throw men forward, allowing us to catch them on the break like we used to do to every side before they worked out how to stop us.
Indeed it was such a breakaway that allowed Diaby to put us in the lead after a great assist from van Persie, who had a fine game. It was against the run of play as Blackpool had bombarded us from the off, perhaps aware that Lehmann might be rusty and looking to exploit our fragile confidence. Soon after the opener, a simple one-two between Wilshere and Eboue allowed the latter to lash home with his left foot and it was 2-0 after 20 minutes. For the rest of the half Blackpool were spectators as they sat off us in midfield and played a high defensive line, allowing us to get through with ease on a number of occasions.
We really should have been four or five up at halftime and it looked like we’d rue those missed chances as Blackpool came at us with all guns blazing after the break, pulling one back on 52 minutes and suddenly we were under siege. The home support got behind their heroes and our soft underbelly was exposed once more as memories of second half capitulations against Spurs and Newcastle came worryingly to the fore. Koscielny lunged in recklessly on Taylor-Fletcher and should’ve conceded a penalty (thank you ref) before their number four somehow missed a clear header five yards out – we were definitely rocking.
Thankfully though we saw the rough patch out and Wenger sent on Walcott for the ineffective Arshavin. His pace caused them problems on the counter and he set up RVP for a tap in after a great ball by Fabregas (who looked close to his best after his latest lay off) and the game was up for the Tangerines.
Our favourite Mad German gives his defence a well deserved bollocking. Welcome back Jens!
So the main mission was achieved – the three points to keep a bit of pressure on Man Utd. Other plus points – we finally scored some goals and the link up between van Persie and Fabregas was encouraging. If those two and Walcott stay fit for the last seven games we will score goals and then who knows. I’m putting the Mad German down as a plus point too. He looked confident and commanded his area, taking a few crosses and making a good one-on-one save late on. He didn’t seem anywhere near as jittery as Almunia has since the Barcelona game, so I reckon he should keep the jersey until Super Szczesny is back.
Negative points were our wastefulness in front of goal (not for the first time) and our heads going down when we conceded (not for the first time). A few wise old heads on the park would help counter that, but I’ve banged on enough about that this season so I’ll leave it there. Nasri was quiet and hasn’t scored for 13 games now – we need those goals back Samir. And finally Clichy dallying on the 18 yard box in the dying moments almost gifting them a goal. Why is he STILL making those kind of errors? He’s been a regular for five seasons now and these lapses of concentration are no longer acceptable. If the rumours about him out and Baines in are true I say go for it Arsene. Baines has some pluck and fight about him too, an ingredient missing from a lot of current first teamers.
So it’s Liverpool at home next Sunday then, and with Man U in FA Cup semi final action a chance to close the gap to four points. Let’s hope the awful run since the Carling Cup final is now behind us and we can keep up the pursuit of Fergie against the Scousers.
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