Arsenal completed their progression to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals as they beat Blackpool 2-1 in the fourth round at the Emirates on Wednesday
The Gunners dominated the proceedings from the get-go, although chances came few and far between as the front men took time to get into their stride. The deadlock was finally broken just after the half-hour mark as Matteo Guendouzi released Stephan Lichtsteiner, who stretched to give Arsenal the lead.
The hosts ended the first half strongly before doubling their lead a few minutes after the break as Emile Smith Rowe scored a senior goal for the first time at the Emirates. But, Arsenal backed themselves into a corner soon after, with Guendouzi seeing red for a second bookable offence.
The numerical advantage helped Blackpool press harder for their first goal, which they duly scored at the midway stage of the second half when Paudie O’Connor scored from a corner. But, all hopes of a comeback faded when O’Connor was sent off with just six minutes left on the clock.
Well done, lads 👍 pic.twitter.com/zuHgyfqixr
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) October 31, 2018
Arsenal held on to their slender lead to record a 2-1 win and set up a quarter-final date with local rivals Tottenham Hotspur. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Unai Emery’s men following their fourth round success in the Carabao Cup.
Petr Cech: 5/10
Back into the side for the first time since recovering from a hamstring injury, Cech was far from his best, showing a lot of uncertainty in aerial situations and struggling to judge the trajectory of the ball. One such instance saw him nearly concede, only to be bailed out by the woodwork.
The veteran goalkeeper also provided another reminder that he will continue to struggle in Emery’s system in the long run, as he almost conceded when dribbling inside his box. But, Cech was lucky to not pick the ball from the net, as Nathan Delfouneso was offside. Will find it difficult to displace Bernd Leno as a regular.
Stephan Lichtsteiner: 7/10
The best of the lot at the back, Lichtsteiner used his experience to good use, negating the threat posed by Liam Feeney to a great extent. Going forward, the Swiss veteran was a constant outlet, with his diagonal runs making him a major threat. One such run yielded the opener for Arsenal, as Lichtsteiner slid in to score from Guendouzi’s pass.
Julio Pleguezuelo: 7/10
A first-team debut at long last for one of the most highly rated prospects in the Arsenal youth setup. The Spaniard looked at ease despite this only being his first game on the big stage, reading the game well while also looking comfortable on the ball. Gave a good account of himself when the Gunners were down to 10 men.
All in all, it was a solid debut to remember for Pleguezuelo, with Konstantinos Mavropanos’ absence aiding his cause to no end. Will hope for more outings in cup competitions.
Shkodran Mustafi: 5.5/10
There weren’t any major forgettable moments for Mustafi, who wasn’t tested all that much for large parts of the game. The German distributed the ball smartly as well. But, as has been the case with him for much of the season so far, he made an uncharacteristic error, failing to mark Paudie O’Connor before the Blackpool man scored. Needs to curb this tendency of his.
Carl Jenkinson: 6.5/10
Back in the side for the first time in nearly two years, the nerves were palpable when Jenkinson took to the field. But, the worries soon eased off, as the injury riddled defender produced an accomplished performance at the back while also doing exceedingly well, even if within himself in the final third.
One such instance produced the second goal, as Jenkinson burst down the left flank before his cross was parried by Mark Howard before it fell to Emile Smith Rowe. A handy backup option for Emery.
Matteo Guendouzi: 6.5/10
Guendouzi continues to grow into his role in the first-team setup at Arsenal, and showcase incredible maturity for his age. The Frenchman controlled the game with aplomb on Wednesday and set up the first goal with an intelligent ball for Lichtsteiner.
But, a solid outing was soured by his dismissal for a second bookable offence, and an unnecessary one at that. The incident notwithstanding, the teenager was Arsenal’s best player on the night.
Aaron Ramsey: 6/10
Chances have been hard to come by for Ramsey ever since news of the breakdown in his contract talks surfaced. But, the Welshman could have used the game as an opportunity to stake a claim for a more regular role in bigger games, i.e. the one this weekend against Liverpool.
Ramsey though, failed to take control of the game and complement Guendouzi. In fact, he only had one big chance coming his way, barring which he really should have done a whole lot better.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 7/10
Another player who was returning from an injury layoff, Maitland-Niles was slightly slow off the blocks. But, he soon found his feet and proved his worth as a versatile asset to the Arsenal squad, playing in a wide attacking role this time.
His runs infield showcased his intelligence, overloading the half spaces while allowing Lichtsteiner to bombard forward. At times, he was the furthest man forward and a constant outlet for the creative chiefs to make use of. Maitland-Niles is proving the old adage, “Jack of all trades, master of none” emphatically wrong with his versatile output.
Emile Smith Rowe: 7/10
Pleguezuelo is the second Arsenal academy product to announce his arrival this season. The first is someone who is slowly growing accustomed to being a part of the first-team setup. Emile Smith Rowe has made a big impact in the outings that have come his way, and Wednesday’s went a long way in helping him grow into the squad.
This wasn’t his best performance in his young senior career at Arsenal by any means, even though his runs on and off the ball made him a potent threat. But, his first goal at the Emirates would give Smith Rowe a huge confidence boost. Onwards and upwards for the teenage prodigy.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 5/10
Another player who flattered to deceive, as he has been for the most part this season. Mkhitaryan is struggling to be the creative force that Emery needs him to be in order to make Arsenal one of the most feared attacking units in English football. Wednesday was more of the same, and it was not for lack of trying. He just seems to be missing that cutting edge, and perhaps, a bit of luck.
Danny Welbeck: 5/10
Perhaps, the most in-form player in the Arsenal starting lineup on Wednesday, Welbeck was the man who was supposed to make it an easy night for the hosts. But, the Englishman never quite came to the party in a rare off day this season. It wasn’t all his doing though, as he was never provided with adequate service, bar which he kept on hustling and working hard.
Lucas Torreira: 7/10
Torreira is an early contender for signing of the season, and he showed why once again on Wednesday. Coming on at a time when Blackpool were quite clearly in the ascendancy, Torreira helped bring a sense of calm to the middle of the park. Distribution was on point as well for Emery’s go-to man.
Alex Iwobi: N/A
On for the final 15 minutes or so, Iwobi helped see the game out, retaining the ball and not letting Blackpool see much action.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: N/A
Aubameyang, like Iwobi, was effective in his cameo, with his pace being the sole reason why Blackpool were down to 10 men, and with it ending all hopes of a comeback from the visitors.