Sunday 17 December 2017

World Cup reject routs Tangerines

Arsenal 6
Blackpool 0

Arsenal's Theo Walcott shoots and scores his third goal against Blackpool at the Emirates Stadium yesterday
Arsenal's Theo Walcott shoots and scores his third goal against Blackpool at the Emirates Stadium yesterday

There is a growing campaign to find as many things wrong with Fabio Capello as possible at the moment and at the Emirates yesterday, Theo Walcott gave the mutinous another.

Walcott's exclusion from the England World Cup squad might have been one of the few things Capello got right in the summer but the winger's hat-trick yesterday may see history rewritten.

Walcott left the field with just over an hour played but by then he had scored three, Arsenal had five and Blackpool were left hoping that last week's stunning victory at Wigan will provide more of a guide to their season than yesterday's game.

"He's more electric than he has been," Arsene Wenger said afterwards. "I like today that there was always the right mix between the final ball and the finishing, that is a sign of a player who is maturing."

Wenger believes Walcott's exclusion from the World Cup squad has benefited the player in terms of fitness. The rest, his manager feels, is up to him. "He has to keep his attitude and stay injury-free but he is 21, this is the age when a player usually starts."

His natural ability yesterday was enough to devastate Blackpool. If he can utilise those attributes to Arsenal's benefit in tougher games than at home to Blackpool then Wenger's belief won't be misplaced.

Almost as influential yesterday were Andrey Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky. New signing Marouane Chamakh missed a number of opportunities, including a spectacular chance when he put over from five yards in the second half, before he headed in Arsenal's sixth a few minutes from the end. "He has still to adapt to our style of play," Wenger said.

Walcott clearly felt he had the beating of the Blackpool defence early on when he out-jumped Ian Evatt, chased onto the ball, delivered it across the face of the goal and gesticulated in frustration to Chamakh who was dawdling ten yards back.

Blackpool's manager Ian Holloway described Walcott as "unplayable" but mainly wanted to praise Arsenal.

"If that's how my team plays one day I'll be absolutely delighted -- it was a joy to watch, it was an absolute education but we've got to learn quickly."

Arsenal took the lead with a typical move which began on the left and effortlessly moved to the right. Chamakh was involved on the left flank before Arshavin stepped in and played a one-two with the superb Tomas Rosicky. Walcott was free on the right and Arshavin spotted it. Walcott finished impressively.

Blackpool's day could have been different, but probably wouldn't have been, if they had taken the chance that immediately came their way. Stephen Crainey, tormented by Walcott for most of the afternoon, got forward and delivered a deep cross. Gary Taylor-Fletcher came charging in but amazingly put his header wide.

Walcott exploited the space Arsenal gave him to run into but his touch was also good and he set up Chamakh and Arshavin for chances before Arsenal's contentious second.

Chamakh chased a through ball and Evatt tussled with him. He may have got a touch on the ball before Chamakh went over his leg, but the foul was certainly outside the box. Evatt was shown the red card, a penalty was awarded and once Arshavin had put it away easily, Blackpool's game was over. "I think we'd have lost anyway," Holloway admitted, before criticising the sending off.

Arsenal went for the kill. "Even before we had ten men, it looked like they had extra," Holloway said. "If you give them the ball, you might not see it for ten minutes.

Chamakh continued to squander chances but Walcott guaranteed the three points when he turned new signing and early substitute Dekel Keinan and knocked the ball past Matthew Gilks. Blackpool had no choice but to come out for the second half but things didn't get better, in fact they were exactly the same. When Rosicky released Bacary Sagna, Holloway's side were again in trouble. He pulled the ball back to Abou Diaby, who swept it past Gilks from 12 yards.

Diaby had a marginal involvement in the fifth but it was all about Walcott, who collected the midfielder's pass then drifted inside before curling the ball left-footed into the net.

Cesc Fabregas was sent on for the final half an hour, his first appearance in what is almost certainly his final season at Arsenal. Fabregas's commitment to Arsenal on the field can never be questioned and he was greeted as a returning hero.

Robin Van Persie was also on and he took the corner which Chamakh headed in, helped by poor goalkeeping.

Holloway says his side won't be changing. Arsenal won't either, much to Holloway's delight.

"Everything about the place is class. Well done, Mr Wenger, it was an absolute honour to come here."

Arsenal may yet surprise a few people. "Yes, I am confident, but then you will say to me I always say I'm confident," Wenger smiled afterwards. His team now need to match his confidence.

Sunday Independent

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