So Saturday was our first home game of the new season, and after having a tough opening at Liverpool, it was an opportunity to get our season rolling with a win. But with Blackpool flying after their 0-4 win over Wigan last week, it was not going to be a walk in the park. Well, that’s the way it seemed before kick-off!
The starting line-up for yesterday was: (thanks Dev, for the formation!)
Sagna – Song – Vermaelen – Clichy
Diaby – Wilshere
Walcott – Rosicky – Arshavin
Before the game started, there was the unveiling of a replica of the Arsenal clock that used to be at Highbury, and it’s another nice touch, carrying on from the Arsenalisation of the Emirates that started last season. The stadium is becoming more and more like home, all that’s left is a trophy…
Anyway, back to the game. Koscielny was missing due to the Red card he picked up at Anfield, so Song, back from a little injury, had to deputise at the back. Walcott was brought into the starting XI, along with Rosicky. Eboue dropped to the bench, and Nasri was out due to injury.
Blackpool didn’t start to badly, and had their share of possession at the start and had a chance to test Almunia, but the effort was weak and easy for Almunia to gather. But from then on, the Theo Walcott show started.
The first goal came after 11 minutes and started on the left. Chamakh to Arshavin, to Rosicky, then back to Arshavin on the edge of the box, who found Theo to his right, who then found the bottom left corner with a fine finish! Very well-worked goal, and a typical Arsenal one. Great goal. Blackpool had almost an immediate chance to respond, but the header was off-target.
A chance for a second came through Theo, heading Vermaelen’s long clearance into the path of Rosicky near the half-way line, receiving the ball back and heading towards goal, where he found Arshavin coming in from the left, but his first time effort was well saved by the Blackpool ‘keeper. Good save!
Another chance, again from Theo, receiving the ball this time from Diaby. He shrugged of the Blackpool challenge and found Chamakh, but his effort rolled just past the post! Very close.
Chance again. A pass back to Rosicky from Chamakh, who then found Theo in acres of space, but with 2 options to his left, he went for goal instead, but his effort was well off-target.
And another one, this time Rosicky finding Chamakh, but he was brought down just outside the box by the defender, which just the goal-keeper to beat. But the last-man challenge was illegal, meaning a Red for the defender. Good decision.
The next decision was not so good though, the referee awarding a penalty. It was close, and you can’t really blame the referee for getting it wrong. But either way, a chance to make it 2-0, and with Robin on the bench, it was up to Arshavin to take it. And it was a perfect one, low into the right corner, and even though the ‘keeper went the right way, the effort was way too good. 2-0, with 32 minutes gone. And with Blackpool down to 10, it was game over, really. It was just a question of how many we would get.
Another chance again. Given we had 30 shots (12 on target), I’m afraid almost every sentence is going to be about to a chance! Chamakh to Theo, making his way into the box, and even though he was surrounded by Blackpool players was still able to find Chamakh, but his effort was saved by the goalkeeper. The ball fell to Arshavin on the right, but his curled effort went wide.
Chance again but this time, goal number 3, with still only 38 minutes on the clock! Another goal from Theo, this time, Wilshere with the assist, his pass finding Theo in the box, with his back to goal. He was given the time and space to turn, which he did brilliantly, firing the ball across the goalkeeper and into the net. Great goal, 3-0, and Theo on a hat-trick!
He almost got it 2 minutes later, but his effort was easy for the ‘keeper. Chamakh then almost got his first of the game, after Clichy’s cross from a quick free-kick found him inside the box, but his effort was well-saved by the goalkeeper. Almost another goal on the counter, with Arshavin, Wilshere and Theo breaking and combining, but Theo’s pull-back just evaded Wilshere!
The referee blew his whistle a few minutes later, and any Blackpool fan would have been forgiven for thinking it was full-time, but it was just half-time! The first 45 minutes was full of wave after wave after wave of Arsenal attack, and it didn’t look like it would alleviate one bit in the second half!
No changes for us at the start of the second, and really, no need for any!
Where else to start, if not at another Arsenal chance!? This time for Wilshere, but his curled effort was straight down the ‘keeper’s throat. Few minutes later, goal number 4, Sagna running down the right flank, riding a challenge, after being found by Rosicky from the half-way line, and his pull-back was perfect for Diaby to lash onto and fire into the bottom left corner. Great start to the second half, and 4-0 with 49 minutes gone. You had to feel for Blackpool. Well, just a tiny bit!
I’ll ease up on the chances, as there are still 2 goals left to get through!
Goal number 5 came after 57 minutes, and it was a hat-trick for Theo! Only the 5th ever at the Emirates, apparently, the others being by Simpson, Adebayor, Vela and Bendtner. He was found by Diaby, and his finish was brilliant, effortlessly gliding past the defenders and finding the bottom left corner. Great hat-trick, and more to come from Theo in the future, hopefully!
Chamakh really should have made it 6, after Arshavin’s square ball in the box left the goal at his mercy, but he shinned it over the bar! No worries though, we’d already scored 5! Arsene made his first substitutions, Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas coming on Arshavin and Diaby, after 63 minutes. How further depressing for Blackpool! The welcome for both players was brilliant, particular for Cesc, everyone very glad he stayed on. Vela came on 3 minutes later for Theo Walcott, who deservedly got a standing ovation. Top class performance from him, and he’d be an even better player if he can replicate such against top opposition. I’ve got every confidence he will.
Almost the best goal of the afternoon, Vela juggling the ball impressively past 3 different defenders, but his effort was blocked. That would have been a brilliant goal. And from the resulting corner, Chamakh scored our 6th! As per usual now, we scored in the last 10 minutes, Chamakh FINALLY getting his first Premier League goal on his home debut, after about 82 minutes. And given his reputation, no surprise it was a header! A corner was swung in from the right by van Persie and Chamakh rose the highest and thumped it into the back of the net, in between the penalty spot and the 6-yard box. Great goal, and no doubt he’ll score similar goals during the course of the season. He deserved the goal for all the effort he’d put into the game. As they say, the first is always the hardest!
The rest of the game was played in the Blackpool half really, and full-time couldn’t have come any sooner for them. Jack almost capped it off with a goal, but his effort was weak and the ‘keeper was able to recover and prevent a goal. 6-0 in the end, and a well-deserved win for us. We’ll face stiffer tests in future, but such a performance bodes well for us.
Rosicky was brilliant all game, spraying lovely passes here and there. He may not have got a goal, but his contribution was immense. And he played the whole 90 minutes too! Welcome back, Tomas. Fingers crossed injuries don’t derail his season this time…
Wishere also got 90 minutes, which was really good, as I doubt he’ll get that many chances to play 90 minutes when Fabregas is back in the starting line-up. He did well, and hopefully we’ll see more of him this season, with the odd goal too!
The impressive thing about Theo’s play is that not only just he try his best in the attacking half, he also helps out defensively. I’ve always been impressed with that part of his game, and it is good to see that he still considers it important!
There isn’t a lot to say about our defence really, as it was solid, allowing Blackpool only one shot on target, which came very early in the first half! Clean sheets leave you with a very good feeling, and we’ve got our first of the season, which should help confidence at the back. Song was brilliant at the back, filling in for Koscielny, and it’s good to have him back. Koscielny should be back next weekend, so Song should be back in defensive midfield, and I’m sure he’ll be brilliant, as usual.
With Manchester United drawing with Fulham just a few minutes ago, we now lie second in the table, on goal-difference. Not a bad start. Blackburn away next, which is usually a tricky tie for us, but with almost a full-strength team, hopefully we’ll be too much for them to handle.
So 6 goals scored, none conceded, huh? The future’s bright, the future’s red and white (sleeved)!