Arsenal 2 – 1 Blackpool
Let’s be honest, it was a match of few talking points and entirely overshadowed by events off the pitch. Like the draw for the quarter-finals which brings Tottenham a sharp reminder of how to build a stadium. I was going to make a jibe about tax havens but thought better of it since Enos shipped us off to Delaware, the startling example of USA hypocrisy when it comes to taxes and secrecy.
A sending-off and a poorly conceded goal from a setpiece later, and we had a frantic few minutes. One scything scissor-tackle later, ten aside returned us to the previous somnambulism.
Guendouzi, walking a tightrope from the 20th minute, gave a tiny tug of the shirt of a marauding seasider who proved less than rock hard. One crumpled heap on the floor later and Matteo, who some said had been in the ref’s ear all evening, took an early shower.
He was joined by Blackpool’s goalscorer O’Connor who made his way off after causing a moment’s consternation following his tackle on Pierre-Emerick. Imagine Robin van Persie on the receiving end and we’d be head-to-toe in horse placenta.
The result ‘justifies’ the means, but doesn’t stop it being questioned. I’m sure you’ll remember this when in the quarter-final preview I state the match is of such importance that we must field our strongest XI.
Guendouzi’s dismissal “affected the balance” in Blackpool’s favour according to Unai Emery. Publicly at least, the Spaniard backed his charge. Guendouzi “played how the action demanded and the red card is one circumstance in the game.”
Whether he had something stronger to say afterwards, within the confines of the dressing room is another matter. Football’s archaic rules mean the cards in one competition carry to another so Guendouzi misses Liverpool.
Well Done, Petr
The first seventy-minutes were straightforward. Blackpool failed to exploit Carl Jenkinson’s left-back cameo. Instead, they focused on Lichtsteiner. The Swiss punished their impudence by guiding Guendouzi’s delightful pass into the net for the opener.
Emile Smith Rowe added the second after the Blackpool ‘keeper flapped away Jenkinson’s cross. The youngest’s shot, scuffed into the ground or deliberately so, bounced high into the roof of the net. 2 – 0 game over. Until it became game on.
There are plenty of hints about Saturday’s team selection. Holding and Sokratis seem to be the first-choice centre-back pairing, which comes as some relief.
Meanwhile, Unai Emery’s ‘coaching’ of Petr Cech following his clown feet episode suggests Bernd Leno hasn’t much to fear just yet about his place in the side. And was reminiscent of watching a coach at a kids match, such were the nature of Emery’s shouts. “Well done, Petr,” after Cech launched the ball downfield next time the team passed to him.
Which was about five minutes after the incident and during that time several instances of the back pass being the best option were spurned.
Leaving the man of the moment, Aaron Ramsey. It was as anonymous a performance as I’ve seen from the Welshman on a day when he hit the headlines. Arsenal took time to talk him but now he knows the contract was withdrawn for the ominously sounding “financial health of the club”. Or as I think of it, “Look, it’s not you, it’s me”.
The club’s decision is questionable. I understand the change of manager was a key factor. He wanted to see the squad in action in his style of playing. Not a problem, except in the case of a saleable asset
The Invisible Man
Our funding is such that we must sell to strengthen other areas of the squad and the Dynamic Duo reinforced that message in recent weeks. Thus, Ramsey should have been sold during the summer. The club’s let it be known they don’t expect to sell in January. However, even £15m plus the saving in wages is better than nothing. Isn’t it?
The question is who took the decision to rebuff interest? I have my suspicions and he’s doing one anyway. However, as Raul Sanllehi said the other day, we can’t let this situation recur; no player must be allowed to run down his contract.
With Danny Welbeck, Petr Cech and David Ospina all out of contract next summer, Sanllehi is fighting back the tide this time around. It’s claimed Sven Mislintat is scratching his head with homegrown players, astounded by the prices being quoted.
That’s Premier League football for you. Nobody cares if the club is backed by a sugar daddy or self-sustaining; brag about cash and someone will have your wallet. Arms and legs, too.
Their attention it seems is now overseas. Losing two homegrown players out of the squad next summer may change that outlook.