Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

I had high expectations from this game and it did not disappoint. Both teams played positively and created numerous chances. We saw four goals and it could easily have been double that. More importantly, while the game got a bit tetchy at times, there were no horrific tackles, cynical elbows, or any other form of cheap tricks that have become commonplace these days. I consider such games to be glorious examples of the beautiful game rather than the much hyped all-action style that is more a mixture of wrestling, rugby and hoof-ball.

Blackpool deserve enormous credit for the way they played and I sincerely hope the Seasiders survive their debut season. If I’d been a home fan in this game I’d have been furious with the ref. But I’m not and with my red-tinted glasses the luck Arsenal got seemed fairly deserved even though it was harsh that it came at the expense of a team like Blackpool.

As expected, the game started at a bright tempo. The home side were pressing hard and Arsenal struggled to get out of their half in the first five minutes. Holloway’s men were able to get some crosses in but the Arsenal defence dealt with it.

The first real chance fell to Van Persie. Fabregas found the striker with a ball over the top but the Dutchman attempt to chest it in his path didn’t work out and the ball skidded towards Kingson in goal.

This was the first of many occasions when Fabregas passed behind Blackpool’s backline with sublime vision and impeccable execution. Watching this, one tends to wonder why Arsenal don’t use this strategy more often, especially when the teams do come out and play a high line. I’ll leave the analysis of this issue for another post as it is a more general discussion and not limited to this game.

The opening goal came in the 18th minute. Diaby intercepted the ball inside the Arsenal half. He played it to Cesc and charged forward. Fabregas produced another gem that put Van Persie clear on the left edge of the penalty box. The Dutchman had the awareness to look up and play the ball across goal where the marauding Diaby tapped it in.

Arsenal controlled the first half from this point on. The second came within minutes as Eboue finished with a left-footed blast after playing a neat one-two with Wilshere.

There were plenty of chances for the Gunners to make it three but Nasri’s strike against the woodwork was the closest they came.

Blackpool forced a clearance off the line in the first half stoppage time in a sign of things to come.

In the second half I sensed a change in tactics from Arsene. It seemed Diaby was playing a bit higher up the pitch and Cesc was playing in a deeper role. It turned out to be a big mistake as the opening fifteen minutes of the second half were Blackpool’s best period. Arsenal missed the physical presence, height, and reach that Diaby offered in front of the defence. Cesc and Wilshere didn’t make a good defensive pairing and it allowed the hosts to find some spaces.

The Tangerines got one back on a quick counter attack. Arsenal had bodies forward for a set-piece but there was a huge gap between those in the box and the defenders. Blackpool managed to move the ball at pace as Wilshere committed a late foul. The ref did well to play advantage. Campbell made a good run into the box but Eboue should have done a better job of tracking him. Lehmann brought the striker down but Taylor-Fletcher was on hand to score in an open net. The German, and Arsenal, were lucky that the goal was scored otherwise Lehmann might have conceded a penalty and seen red.

I liked the way the ref handled this move and loved the way Blackpool kept going without theatrics. Their fans would certainly have preferred a penalty and Arsenal down to ten but sometimes it’s that bit of luck that can turn games.

Arsenal were all over the place for a while as Fabregas continued struggling in a deeper role. The Tangerines might easily have had a penalty when Koscienly went in on Taylor-Fletcher. The ref let the game flow and the Gunners got away with it.

After a while I saw Diaby return to his deeper role and normalcy returned. Blackpool were still trying but weren’t looking as threatening as in the opening minutes of the half.

On the hour mark Arsene introduced Walcott for Arshavin and that provided a fresh threat for Holloway’s side. That threat finally sealed the game but a number of players deserve credit for the third goal.

It started with a great sliding interception by Squillaci inside the Arsenal penalty box. Diaby then showed strength and composure to work his way out of a tight corner. His chipped pass was flicked on, first-time, by Cesc, again showing superb awareness and technique. Walcott raced onto the pass and played it across to Van Persie for a tap-in.

Funnily enough, Arsenal have scored plenty of goals on quick counter attacks this season but some fans just refuse to acknowledge this.

After the third goal the game petered out as the Gunners held on for a much-needed win.

One aspect that I liked about this game was that Arsenal didn’t try to play too high a line for long periods. The defence dropped back and that countered the pace that Blackpool had in the form of DJ Campbell. This tactic has worked fairly well in away games this season.

Individual Performances:

Lehmann: one excellent save, decent on set-pieces, didn’t have much else to do in terms of saves. Was lucky Blackpool scored else he might have seen red.

Eboue: Good finish, decent defensive shift, might have done better for the Blackpool goal but it’s hard to blame him for not chasing the run. I have seen him on his off-days and am glad this wasn’t one of those.

Squillaci: Had a good game and deserves credit for doing the simple things right. Played a critical role in the third goal.

Koscielny: On another day he might have conceded three penalties but I thought the Frenchman read the referee well and took calculated risks.

Clichy: Good game on the left. Made a couple of timely tackles, picked his forward runs well, did a good job of defending the flank without consistent support.

The back five weren’t exceptional but were mostly effective. The only period when they looked shaky was early in the second half when the midfield wasn’t offering the right support.

Diaby: Not close to his best but had a good game defensively and offensively. Excellent interception and run for the first goal, and good work for the third. I’d like to see him dominate the pitch as he did last year but that will take a few games.

Cesc: Played some amazing passes. Didn’t look at his sharpest but offered more than enough in terms of control and creativity.

Wilshere: Struggled during patches and was involved in some of the game’s physical moments. Loved his attitude and spirit as he never gave up. Needs to offer more from deeper areas and can learn a lot from his Captain in that regard.

I thought the midfield was decent but could have done better defensively in the opening minutes of the second half. We saw another example of Cesc lifting the level of those around him.

Nasri: made some good runs, unlucky not to score, could have done more in attacking areas.

RvP: Not at his usual clinical level but still managed a goal and an assist. Loved the way he played on the shoulder of the last defender. Excellent movement and awareness.

Arshavin: Wasn’t involved in the game as much as I’d have liked. Wilshere wasn’t able to bring him into play and Cesc was often looking for Van Persie.  It might have been a better idea to play him further up the pitch rather than in a no-man’s land i.e. neither defending nor completely attacking.

The front three played well but should have done better with their finishing.

Subs: Walcott made an impact and got an assist. Ramsey and Gibbs didn’t get much time on the pitch but it was good to see the defensive substitution.

Wenger: Picked the right team. Made the right substitutions. Got the players to use the space in behind the high line. I’m not sure if it was his decision to push Diaby forward in the second half but otherwise there isn’t much to say against the manager.


26 Responses to Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Metalhead says:

    I forgot what it feels like to see Arsenal win. If I’m not mistaken Leyton Orient were the last team we beat.

    Arsenal haven’t been sharp enough over the last few weeks. This win should bring back a little bit of confidence. I think the presence of Fabregas, Van Persie and Walcott is crucial if Arsenal want to do well. You could see what a difference Walcott made as soon as he came in. My man of the match Cesc Fabregas

  2. critic says:

    shades of 07-08 season………then we had similar game against bolton.

  3. Kushagra India says:

    Desi I agree on ur counter attacks point but the problem is fans remember games with the heavyweights. and we have been lackluster in most of them over the years .The FA cup comes to the mind where we took too many touches ,let it be for another day time to enjoy an Arsenal win cheers…

  4. Kushagra India says:

    Cesc was the difference maker…

  5. Kushagra India says:

    On Diaby fingers crossed he remains fit for the rest of the season,injuries have always stalled his progress..

  6. dw says:

    lol…Yeah your spot on with the
    Koscielny comment,he. Did read the
    Ref , the ref was never going to give a pen
    Today, but i was thinking if he does that against
    A big team like man utd its pens allday so some
    Needs have a word with him.

  7. Northbanksy says:

    Just good to see some confidence in the team & to enjoy a win.

    “…This was the first of many occasions when Fabregas passed behind Blackpool’s backline with sublime vision and impeccable execution. Watching this, one tends to wonder why Arsenal don’t use this strategy more often, especially when the teams do come out and play a high line…”

    My god!!! we witnessed a Plan B !!! Someone had done their homework.

  8. Waleed says:

    I think the change of putting Diaby higher up was non-existent. I think it was just during periods of the game Cesc woud drop deep to get the ball, as he likes to do. And Diaby, although starting as the deepest midfield, does like making runs forward (like Song).

    The reason they were on top for the first 10-15 minutes of each half was because they pressed us very diligently. But then the pressure would wear off and we’d start creating chances.

    What killed Blackpool was the high line they played inthe first half, which handed us a 2 goal lead and it could’ve been more.
    Second half they played deeper and it made more difficult for us but then being a goal down had to push up in the final minutes and Walcott exploited the space in behind.

    Good game for us. A more confident Arsenal might’ve put the game to bed in the first half. We had a few nervy periods but we held on and I think we can build on this win and really go for the title.

    • desigunner says:

      I haven’t been able to double check this so I might be wrong but I thought it was Diaby and RvP who kicked-off the second half. Usually it’s the striker and the attacking midfielder who do that for Arsenal. It also seemed that they were trying to play some high balls in the second half and Diaby was hanging further forward rather than making runs.

      I do agree that Cesc often drops back and other midfielders including Diaby have the license to go forward based on the positions and ball movement but in this instance it seemed like a clear change of tactics. Will have to see it again to confirm.

      • santori says:

        I’m not so sure about this change either. I think Cesc, Diaby and Jack take turns going forward. The goal came from an interception which Blackpool were efficient at converting from defense to attack. I thought I saw Diaby try to put in a tackle at the half way line but when he missed, a huge hole was left between him and the defense. In hind sight, he should have tracked the player and shown him the byline.

        Also when Arsenal were having jitters at the back, Diaby was back to help out.

        In general, I thought Diaby had a very decent game.

        he showed good physical presence in the middle of the park today and picked his way forward well.

        His contributibution for the third goal was enormous. Had he gotten it wrong, we would have been under pressure again but I picked out an astute pass to Fab whilst holding off the Blackpool player.

        Sans Song, we could well do with his physicality.

        Apart from his yellow (Shade of Newcastle). I thought he had his head screwed on properly today.

        What i thought went wrong start of second half was we were too stretched out and i do agree with Waleed that they were pushing us and closing spcae well. We could have been a little more compact to saok the first 10 minutes of pressure and let them petter out a little IMO.

  9. cupsui says:

    great ratings…on all players…all four back made little errors but were solid for the most…clichy and eboue excellent in attack! a good win and yes a great and entertaining exhibition of football…

  10. dutchgunner says:

    I think I saw clichy win more headers this game than the last 5-6 combined

    • desigunner says:

      Good point. I’d noticed it during the game but forgot by the time I started writing! Clichy certainly made quite a few important clearing headers.

  11. santori says:

    I think Desi is being a bit generous to the back 4.

    Particularly Eboue who whilst offering some push going forward 9and the goal) was absent several times allowing Blackpool to exploit our left.

    Also Clichy could have given it away dallying with the ball at the end. I don’t think Jens was too impressed.

    + Nasri was a bit uncomfortable when they pressed us in the second half. He let the blood go to his head a little and lost the ball on a couple of occasions near our box. Rather than play a pass, he tried to muscle/finesse his way out.

    Bit jitterydefensively although I thought we defended well with the several (poorly delivered) set pieces they put in.

    I do think though Mad Jens might make a bit of a diff back there as he isn’t afraid to give the thousand yard stare to the offender when we are culpable with basic errors at the back.

    What i think we should have learnt by now is that teams will always try to put us under the cosh immediately after the break which should mean we should be prepared to stand too defensively.

    Had it been a better team, we could have paid a price for our errors today.

    • desigunner says:

      I agree with your observations regarding the mistakes/shakiness at the back but I don’t think it would have been a big issue against other teams because the entire game would have been different. Let’s not forget most teams manage only one or two attempts against Arsenal and it’s great credit to Blackpool that they troubled us more.

      Moreover, I was happy there were no howlers that gifted goals to the opposition, an issue that has troubled us against some of the other smaller teams. So in a way it was a better defensive performance. Not ideal, but pretty decent.

  12. santori says:

    I think we were more commited going forward today helped somewhat by Blackpool’s poor (highline)defending.

    The gaffer got it spot on today particularly with his subs. I would have put on Theo a little earlier to relieve the pressure but it was a timely introduction none the less and told with the third goal.

    I hope this is a turn around for us and that some of the players are rediscovering their Mojo. It would certainly help to regain the confidence for the final push particularly with the matches against Liverpool, Spurs and United.

    With regards counter attacking, I think we had an easier time with that today because of the way Blackpool play.

    However against teams that are more discipline/compact at the back, our build up can be a tad tedious (especially without Walcott).

    We need to be more efficient when we turn the ball around, take a couple of touches less.

    What I liked about today was we got commited when going forward which helped the counter attacking players with options. With our set up 4-3-3, we can be a little outnumbered in the middle where RVP operates.

    Diaby’s willing ness to pounce forward both opened up space and allowed for options when we broke forward. Ditto the rest of the players (at one time we had five charging forward). I think this is a crucial difference from the way we have played out our last 3 draws.

    We’re still 7 points off but this is a great lift. Feels like it anyway.:)

  13. santori says:

    What happened to Al?

    It’s not within the realm of possibilities that an incident may have been engineered by one Mad jens to make room for our fourth keeper for the season.:D

  14. Tee Song says:

    Interesting analysis. Personally, it was my impression that Diaby was actually going forward more in the first half and was a little more restrained in the second. At times, I was reminded of Chelski away in which Diaby played ahead of Wilshere and Song. Diaby had a very good game. He was positionally sound, covered a huge amount of ground, made good forward runs, and provided both pace and power in the middle. The first goal showed why he can be such an important player–winning the ball deep in our half, quickly releasing it and then sprinting 60 yards up the pitch to calmly finish off a wonderful counter. For me he remains our most frustrating player. Capable of games like this and yet far too often slow and cumbersome on the ball and positionally naive.

    I was pleased that we seemed to have worked on a couple of things in practice, or at least the players were executing previously practiced moves better. RvP especially but also Nasri and Arshavin seemed more intent on working the channels and trying to make runs behind the defense. No doubt Blackpool’s high defensive line helped but those three in particular often seem too attracted to the middle of the pitch. When Nasri hit the post I couldn’t remember the last time Samir made a run like that. When we won possession, there also seemed to be concerted effort to break forward quickly and with numbers. Far too often in the last few games, we haven’t seen that. Finally, when teams press us, Cesc can be very effective if he drops deep. It helps our ball retention and he can still make those killer passes from deep.

    • desigunner says:

      I too had a feeling that Diaby offered more in attack in the first half but there was a period early in the second half when I sensed a deliberate change.

      I just saw the opening minute again on ATVO and indeed it was Diaby who kicked the second half off with RvP. Cesc played two balls to him over the top in the first minute itself and it seemed like a strategy that was discussed in the dressing room.

      Not a big deal though. I was happy they got a grip on the game after a few shaky minutes.

  15. a99 says:

    Desi – don’t see how you can say that Clichy had a good game. He continually played two yards behind the rest of the defence (despite being the fastest defender on the pitch) and as in the Barcelona game, played the goal scorer onside. His confidence seems shot and I don’t know why this should be – it’s as though he has no confidence in his centre backs to cover behind him which leads me to believe that we still need a leader in the heart of that defence to give the players in defence the confidence to focus on their own games.

    • desigunner says:

      For the goal I agree with you, Clichy was behind the other defenders but I would not say he was continually behind.

      I think it’s more a problem of the way the team defends and communicates. If you watch again Clichy was having to keep tabs on the guy to his left while watching the ball to his right and back. This is not easy. If he also has to keep track of the other defenders then it would be really tough for him to get into any kind of a position to track the run.

      I’m not sure what the correct approach would be but I feel better and faster communication might work. It’s tough to execute and risky because one never knows exactly when the opponent is going to release the ball.

      At such times I feel playing the off-side trap is not the best approach or that even while playing that someone should be actively looking to intercept the attempted through ball. For that, each defender would have to know the areas he is supposed to cover. This would again bring it back to an issue of defensive training/coaching. I don’t feel qualified to make a firm assertion on this topic but these are my thoughts.

      Having a leader is a good thing but one would have to understand the role of the leader in such a situation. For most people it’s easy to say we need a leader. That way the onus of thinking and finding the solution is on someone else. In effect, we just assume that someone will come in and solve the issue without us having to put in any thought into what the issue is in the first place. But as I always ask, what is it that the leader would have actually done in the fraction of a second available?

      These are extremely complicated issues and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a straightforward/overnight solution.

      • Kushagra India says:

        exactly its not rocket science but highly intangible but we all saw what Keane and Viera were all about and how Cesc went missing when everything went against us….

  16. ne says:

    Just one game we had win, hope they can maintain it. And another, why cesc, nasri, arshavin, walcoot and eboue look a bit fat????..

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