By Tony Farkas
Blackpool entered its match against Arsenal on Sunday with hopes of shattering the memory of their early season 6 – 0 thrashing at the Emirates. Despite the failure to achieve a clean sheet since the turn of the new year, Ian Holloway utilized his usual 4-3-3 offensive minded set up. DJ Campbell returned to the lineup following a three match ban due to a red card received in a prior match against Wolves. After three consecutive draws in league play, Arsen Wenger took an all hands on deck approach to the match using all the Gunner’s first team regulars. Forty-one year old Jens Lehman was in goal for the Londoners due to an injury to Almunia.
Things began auspiciously for the home side as they won two corner kicks in the opening five minutes. Ian Holloway’s men displayed high energy for the first quarter of an hour culminating in the fifteenth minute when D.J. Campbell fired a curling shot toward goal from the edge of the box. Had the shot not deflected harmlessly off of Koscielny, it might have beaten Lehman at the far post. Any early momentum the Tangerines may have had was cruelly dashed in an instant by a swift Arsenal counter-attack. After a steal by Diaby, Cesc Fabregas utilizing amazing skill and vision lifted a perfectly weighted ball down the left side which was controlled by Robin Van Persie. The Duhttps://www.90soccer.com/wordpress/wp-admin/post-new.phptchman crossed to an unmarked Diaby to slot the ball home past a helpless Richard Kingson.
A further blow was dealt to the side from the northwest just three minutes later. This time it was young Jack Wilshere’s time to show his quality. In the twenty-first minute, he unleashed a brilliant through ball on a give and go with Emanual Eboue. The Ivory Coast international hammered the ball past Kingson well inside the far post. At this point in the match, Blackpool players and fans must have been reliving the August demolition they suffered at the hands of the same opponent.
The remainder of the half provided no solace as Fabregas displayed some dominant play. The Spaniard put both Van Persie and Nasri in on goal with brilliantly lofted balls over the last line of the defense. Making good use of his opportunity, Samir Nasri hit a skillful full volley past the goalkeeper which smashed off the outside of the far post. A subsequent Arsenal goal was called back for offsides in the forty-first minute. Blackpool were lucky not to have conceded at least one more time in the closing minutes of the half.
The second half began much as the first half with the home team displaying the spirit which has made them extremely endearing to their fans this season. Arsenal were immediately forced to clear off the line after Luke Varney centered to D.J. Campbell who deflected the ball toward goal. The Seasider’s spirit was rewarded in the fifty-second minute when Campbell was put in one on one with Lehman after receiving a well-timed throughball from the impressive Puncheon. Campbell was taken down by Lehman as he touched a ball over to Gary Taylor-Fletcher who converted into an open net. Had Taylor-Flecther not scored, Lehman conceivably could have been sent off by the referee for his challenge on Campbell.
After three straight draws and a well known reputation for not being able to finish off teams, the Gunners’ collective conscious had to have been invaded by a sinking feeling following the goal. With the crowd at full voice, Blackpool should have been awarded a penalty seconds after the restart as Koscielny took down Taylor-Fletcher inside the box. After twenty minutes of sustained pressure, the game settled down allowing Arsena’sl talent to rule the day. The final tally came on yet another counter-attack in the seventy-sixth minute initiated by the foot of Fabregas. Sending a ball down the right side, he found an open Theo Walcott steaming toward the endline. Walcott made no mistake crossing to a wide open Van Persie who got a well-deserved goal.
Blackpool avoided falling into the relegation zone by virtue of the fact that all three teams below themin the table lost over the weekend. No less an authority than Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp stated that Ian Holloway should be named manager of the year if he is able to keep his side in the Barclay’s Premier League. There is some validity to Redknapp’s assertion when you consider that Holloway’s team was promoted by winning last year’s playoff after finishing sixth (the last playoff spot) in what was then known as the Coca-Cola Championship. There were preseason predictions that Blackpool could potentially rival Derby County’s infamous 2007-08 campaign for ineptitude. The Rams finished with eleven points while managing to score only twenty goals. Such predictions have been proven to have been far from reality as the Seasiders have played an attractive attacking brand of football from the beginning that has caused consternation at times for even the biggest clubs.
Holloway has publicly stated that thirty-nine points would keep his squad from avoiding relegation. Their fate will likely be decided sooner rather than later. The Arsenal match is followed by three home matches against less accomplished opponents as Wigan, Newcastle and Stoke City travel to Bloomfield Road in succession. This homestand is followed by visits to Tottenham, Bolton and Manchester United. The first two sides will likely be desperate for points to qualify for the Champion’s League and Europa League respectively. Even if the Red Devils have captured the championship prior to the final match, it is unlikely that Sir Alex and his troops will be in the mood to cede points while attempting to put on a show to validate their championship. Therefore, at least six points from the next three matches are crucial. It would be a good thing for the league in general if this fearlessly offensive minded side were to be around for at least another year.