Result: Blackpool 0-3 Arsenal
Competition: FA Cup third round
Date: 5th Jan 2019
Venue: Bloomfield Road
Arsenal: Cech, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Chamberlain, Kolasinac, Elneny, Ramsey, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Iwobi, Nketiah
Subs: Martinez, Medley, Smith Rowe, Torreira, Guendouzi, Saka, Lacazette
Arsenal eased into the FA Cup fourth round with a 3-0 win over Blackpool at Bloomfield Lane.
Young midfielder Joe Willock stole the show scoring twice in the first half before Alex Iwobi rounded things off from close range with nine minutes remaining.
Unai Emery was forced into a late change after Laurent Koscielny complained of a back problem in the pre-game warm-up. Having already had to contend with a Blackpool fan delaying our trip to Bloomfield Road by staging a protest against his club’s owners on top of our team coach, it wasn’t ideal. Carl Jenkinson came in at right-back meaning Stephan Lichtsteiner partnered Sokratis in the middle with Sead Kolasinac on the left. Ainsley Maitland-Niles went to right wing, while the inclusion of youngsters Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah reflected the boss’ eagerness to rest up his attacking big hitters.
As expected the two sides stepped out into an eerily empty stadium. Arsenal’s 5,200 travelling supporters dwarfed the home contingent who continue to stay away in the hope of tightening the screw on much-hated owner Owen Oyston. He watched from the stands in sunglasses and cowboy hat, looking every bit the creepy octogenarian villain that he is.
Both sides had great chances to break the deadlock inside the opening seven minutes. Nketiah, twice, had gilt-edged opportunities from Maitland-Niles passes. His first effort hit the side-netting, his second went wide. In between, Cech had to deny Armand Gnanduillet after he’d danced into the box under no pressure at all.
We didn’t have to wait too long before we did finally grab a goal. Ramsey’s free-kick, awarded for a foul on Nketiah on the edge of the box, was deflected onto the post and Willock reacted quickest to head the rebound into an empty net for his second goal of the season. (1-0)
There was a real ebb and flow about the game as both sides played expansive football despite the terrible playing surface. The home side, sniffing nervousness in our mix-and-match defence, played their fair share of long balls in Cech’s direction but we just about dealt with the aerial threat.
Up front, we always looked capable of scoring. Iwobi and Jenkinson both squandered chances before combining, with the help of Nketiah’s heel, to set up Willock who doubled the lead with a close-range tap-in on 37 minutes. “He scores when he wants, Joe Willock, he scores when he wants” joked the chanting travelling fans. (2-0)
A frustrating half for Nketiah ended with him missing a third glorious chance. This time keeper Mark Howard preempted his sidefoot effort to make a decent stop.
Blackpool were bright in the opening 15 minutes of the second half and should have reduced the deficit only for Michael Nottingham to blaze over with the goal gaping.
Having looked relatively composed, our defence decided to have a wobble. A couple of crosses had Elneny and Iwobi swiping at thin air and Cech caused a minor panic when he changed his mind about taking on an attacker who was closing him down. The veteran just about got the ball away from danger.
Nketiah, who barely had a kick after the break, was replaced by Lacazette and the home side had to change their keeper. The replacement took about five minutes to put his gloves on.
We seemed content to coast our way to the final whistle before a late flurry of action. Willock thought he had a hat-trick when he converted a Kolasinac cross but he was flagged for offside. Iwobi did grab our third when he put into an empty net after a Ramsey shot was blocked. Replays showed the Nigerian was offside. (3-0)
Iwobi really should have had a second two minutes later but he took an age on the ball when put clean through on goal and then produced a tame effort. Confident of victory, Emery sent on teenagers Zech Medley and Bukayo Saka for the last few minutes. Ramsey might have added a further gloss to proceedings in stoppage time but he couldn’t get the ball past keeper Mafoumbi who came rushing out of his area to clear.
All in all, a solid evening’s work by the lads, who’ll find out their fourth round opponents on Monday.