View From The Bank: Blackpool 1 Arsenal 3
After a few tough weeks a 3-1 win at the seaside was just what Arsenal required. The performance was not without its nervy moments but most importantly we came through the test and are still in the hunt for the title.
The big team news on Sunday lunchtime was the knee injury to Manuel Almunia and the accompanying 200th appearance, for Jens Lehmann. Almunia’s body language in the Blackburn game was that of a broken man. He’s been anxious and edgy in his rare appearances this season so to see the big German between the sticks would probably have been as much of a relief to Manuel as it was to us Gooners.
Blackpool started with a lot of enthusiasm but our veteran stopper employed a few stifling tactics, like taking his gloves off to tie a shoe lace just as they got a corner during a period of pressure. It was reassuring to see him having a word in the ear of a few of his defenders and barking instructions around. The fact is that we wouldn’t ideally be entering the home straight with a 41-year-old stopper but, he’s a pretty good option to help negotiate this tricky run-in.
After negotiating the early tangerine onslaught our slick passing created the first goal for Abou Diaby. The lanky Frenchman began the move, passing short to Fabregas who sprayed a perfect pass out to Van Persie. Diaby showed huge desire to get into the box and provide the simplest of finishes.
The second was from another unlikely source, Emmanuel Eboue, in for the injured Sagna. The passing was precise but it has to be said that Blackpool made it very easy for the Ivorian to benefit from a simple one-two with Jack.
Blackpool began the second period with renewed vigour and got a deserved goal of their own, with Clichy once again playing the opposition onside costing us a goal. Although we don’t statistically have a poor defence, it is now a given to see us wilt under pressure and panic. After the goal the Seasiders should have been awarded a penalty when Koscielny lost his head and lunged in on Taylor –Fletcher. A little bit of composure would’ve helped us through this period with a few less scares.
Whilst Blackpool pressed hard we kept the game stretched. This made it harder for us to keep the ball using our midfield triangles but, with the introduction of Walcott, it did allow us to profit from the space left in behind.
In the end it was the resolutely unflustered nature of Diaby that effectively killed the game. As Blackpool chased us down all over the pitch, Diaby received the ball just outside our own box. Facing our goal and under pressure, Diaby trusted his own touch and strength, rolled his marker and flipped a ball into Fabregas who in turn set Walcott free with a first time flick. The resulting cross and Van Persie finish were academic.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in screaming at Diaby to get rid of it but, with the benefit of hindsight, it was this composure and confidence that made the last 10 minutes a lot easier to watch than they might have been. This is how he plays; sometimes it’s excellent whilst other times it’s a disaster. When he plays like this, or like he did in the first 45 at St James’ Park, you realise how much ability he has. Abou Diaby continues to be the most frustrating player at the club.
One eighth of our eight-win run to the title complete. Next up, Liverpool.