Unai Emery was pleased his mix-and-match Arsenal side could extend their unbeaten run to 13-games with a 2-1 win over Blackpool in the Carabao Cup, but he reserved praise for the League One side who gave the Gunners a fright on Halloween.
Goals from Stephan Lichtsteiner, his first for the club, and Emile Smith Rowe, his first at the Emirates, gave the home side breathing space before Matteo Guendouzi’s red card, for two bookable offences, swung momentum the way of the visitors.
Centre-back Paudie O’Connor reduced the deficit with a header that had Arsenal on the ropes for a few minutes, however, nerves settled when the same player was given his marching orders for a poor tackle on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with six minutes remaining.
After the match, Unai Emery was quick to praise the Seasiders.
“For me they are very organised,” he told his post-game press conference. “Tactically very good. Hard to win against them.
“I don’t know League One or the level for these teams but for us I know and I spoke with Steve Bould, and he knows the level for this team, and he said to me that every match is difficult. We needed a big performance with big preparation.
He added: “I think we controlled a lot of moments. When we are 2-0, when the match is in a good moment, the red card to Matteo threw the balance to them. Their goal also – we need to continue our work. Doing our work, we deserve it.
“That is football,” he said of Guendouzi’s red card, which now results in a one-game ban that rules him out of Saturday’s game with Liverpool.
“Things can be positive or negative like an injury, a red card, a 90 minutes of hard work, that don’t allow you to play other matches.
“A red card is like that. We have a lot of players looking to play to help us and take responsibility. His quality for the team, I am going to prepare with other players for the big match.
“He [Guendouzi] is playing well. He’s playing with a spirit. Competitive. The action is… it’s an action, he plays that action as a normal moment in the game. He is pushing behind the player.
“He is playing with the spirit I want today and every match. We have spoken. It is very important to control but I don’t think he lost control. The red card is one circumstance.”
The Gunners will now face Sp*rs in the quarter-finals at home, the week before Christmas. It’ll be the second North London derby in quick succession in December. Emery knows he’ll need to get up to speed on the importance of the occasion.
“Yes, I know [the importance]. I didn’t know like a supporter here in London.
“When we are going to play against them in the Premier League or like now in the Carabao Cup I am going to save a lot of information for this.”