Arsenal begin their FA Cup journey with a trip to Bloomfield Road to face Blackpool, with the Gunners aiming to return to winning ways in the cup competition
Towards the end of the Arsene Wenger era, Arsenal has largely become the team to beat when it came to the FA Cup. So much so, that the Gunners ended up winning three of the last five editions of this competition. Unai Emery will be hoping his side make a deep run in the tournament and aim to win it in his first year in charge.
However, Emery will be wary of how Arsenal’s defence of the cup went last season as the Gunners crashed out at this stage of the competition. In Blackpool, they face a weakened opposition considering the League One side’s problems this season and will be hoping to record a comfortable win at Bloomfield Road.
Blackpool come into this encounter at the back of dismal form in their division. The goal shy side have failed to score in five of their last six games and have an injury crisis going into their clash with the Gunners. The Seasiders have already faced Arsenal this season in the Carabao Cup, a clash that ended 2-1 in favour of the Gunners.
Blackpool need an excellent performance to uplift the mood among the fanbase, and there could be no better opponents to do so than Arsenal. Win or not, the hosts will be hoping to put up a fight and rediscover their form ahead of some crucial fixtures in League One.
Team News & Tactics
Blackpool have a few injury problems going into this game against Arsenal with many key players missing. Among those doubtful are Curtis Tilt, Ollie Turton, Jimmy Ryan, Max Clayton and Mark Cullen.
Additionally, Blackpool will also have Jordan Thompson missing due to suspension. Joe Dodoo, on the other hand, might be in contention for a start after coming off the bench against Sunderland earlier in the week.
Terry McPhillips will line his side up in a 4-5-1 formation to thwart the Gunners and will have Armand Gnanduillet as his leading man up front. Meanwhile, former Liverpool midfielder, Jay Spearing will bring experience to the team.
With Mark Howard in goal, McPhillips will likely deploy Michael Nottingham, Paudie O’Connor, Ben Heneghan and Arsenal academy graduate Marc Bola in defence. Liam Feeney, Turton, Spearing, Callum Guy and Nathan Delfouneso will form the five-man midfield for Blackpool with Gnanduillet leading the line.
Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Howard; Nottingham, O’Connor, Heneghan, Bola; Feeney, Turton, Spearing, Guy, Delfouneso; Gnanduillet
Unai Emery still has a few defensive worries in his side, with several essential personnel yet to recover from their respective injury problems. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are both still out and Shkodran Mustafi is a significant doubt for the Gunners.
However, even in the case these stars were available, Emery would have taken this opportunity to rest them. like he is planning to with several of his other stars.
Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira, Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are set to be rested. The likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Bernd Leno could all take their places on the bench as the Arsenal seeks this opportunity to play some of his young players and fringe stars.
Petr Cech will likely start in goal, with the likes of Carl Jenkinson and Stephan Lichtsteiner all set for starts as well. Giving them company in the back four, should be Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Laurent Koscielny.
Emery will likely deploy Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny in the midfield pivot. In attack, considering the Arsenal boss uses a 4-2-3-1 formation, Eddie Nketiah could get the chance upfront, with Alex Iwobi playing from the right side with support from Bukayo Saka from the left and Aaron Ramsey in the No. 10 role.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1) Cech; Jenkinson, Sokratis, Koscielny, Lichtsteiner; Elneny, Guendouzi; Iwobi, Ramsey, Saka; Nketiah
- This will be the fourth FA Cup tie between Blackpool and Arsenal – Blackpool eliminated the Gunners in 1952-53 and 1969-70, with Arsenal winning the most recent encounter 3-1 in December 1999.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last nine games against Blackpool in all competitions (W7 D2), winning the last five in a row, including a League Cup match earlier this season.
- Blackpool have only once win in their last five games, while managing to find the back of the net in just one of their last six matches.
- Blackpool are winless in their last 14 FA Cup matches against top-flight opposition (D4 L10), since beating Burnley in the third round in January 1976.
- Arsenal were eliminated in the third round of the FA Cup last season – the first time they had been beaten at this stage since 1995-96.
Player to Watch
Along with Aaron Ramsey and Petr Cech, Koscielny is the other senior member in the side to have tasted FA Cup success in the past. The Frenchman’s recent long-term injury has meant that he has been slowly integrated into the side. Irrespective of what Arsenal do in the transfer window to address their defensive issues, Koscielny needs to get back to optimum state.
Opponents like Blackpool are a good test for Koscielny to prove his fitness and show Emery that he is still more than capable of leading his side’s defence and provide the substantial foundation Arsenal have been missing all season. The captain needs to step up in his game and ensure that Arsenal start keeping their defence tight.
Blackpool 0-3 Arsenal
Blackpool are going through a difficult period in their season and are finding it extremely difficult to get a goal past their opponents. In fact, they have not scored a goal in five of their last six games. In Arsenal, they face a tough opponent to change that situation, and will definitely find it difficult to find any joy against the Gunners.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are coming on the back on an impressive 4-1 victory over Fulham and have the attacking talents that will undoubtedly get them past Blackpool with ease. Unai Emery is expected to name a squad laden with experienced as well as young players, meaning they are likely to win the game with certainty and with comfort. We predict a 3-0 win for the record FA Cup winners.