Arsenal made light work of their third-round FA Cup trip to Blackpool, coming away 3-0 winners in a game where they could’ve scored many more.
Unai Emery opted to rotate heavily for the match, bringing in Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock from the academy, giving Carl Jenkinson a chance and leaving the likes of Granit Xhaka, Bernd Leno and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back in London.
Despite all the changes, Arsenal created all the best chances in the match, and it only took 11 minutes for them to take one and move into the lead. Before half-time, it was 2-0, with both goals coming from 19-year-old Willock. Fellow academy graduate Alex Iwobi made it three late in the game, to ensure the Gunners’ progress into the fourth round.
Let’s have a look at our individual player ratings for the match.
Goalkeeper and Defence
Petr Cech 8.5
He didn’t get enough credit for it, but Cech was excellent against Blackpool. He came out to claim crosses really effectively, made a number of saves, and even charged out of his box to win Arsenal a throw-in at one stage.
He did make one near-error when his footwork almost allowed a Blackpool player to take the ball off him. However, he recovered that situation well enough, and for the rest of the match, he was impressive.
Carl Jenkinson 7.5
Jenkinson was a last-minute addition to the team after Laurent Koscielny pulled out, but he did well. He was very positive going forward, and although his crosses didn’t often find their mark, the right-back did play a really nice over-the-top through ball to Iwobi which led to the second goal.
The highlight of the evening for the defender has to be his interactions with the fans though. They enthusiastically sang ‘Jenko is a Gooner’ and urged him on every time he picked the ball up. He seemed touched by the support in his Instagram post afterwards.
Stephan Lichtsteiner 6
Like Jenkinson, Lichtsteiner had to make a last-minute change to his plans for the match after Koscielny pulled out. Initially set to start at right-back, Lichtsteiner had to move into the middle in a back four, not his usual position.
Defensively, he was solid, so full credit to him for that. However, on the ball, the Swiss international was a liability. At best, his work in possession slowed Arsenal down, at worst, it gifted Blackpool opportunities to win the ball or put his teammates under huge pressure. He has to improve or Jenkinson will deservedly take his backup right-back spot.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos 8.5
Sokratis was probably a little more busy than he was expecting against a League One side, but he dealt with the challenge with ease. He made a huge nine clearances (the rest of the defence made eight combined), blocked a couple of shots and made a few interceptions and tackles, as well as playing a few impressive long balls forward.
Sead Kolasinac 7.5
Kolasinac continues to look threatening creatively, and he was only denied an assist by the offside flag on the night. He was also solid enough at the back, though he did pick up a yellow card for shirt-pulling. Eventually subbed off as Emery tried to protect the only fit left-back he currently has available.
Click ‘Next’ for Midfield, Forwards and Substitutes
Mohamed Elneny 7.5
This was a classic Elneny performance. He had a huge amount of possession, completed almost every pass he attempted (73 out of 75) yet it’s hard to name a single positive Arsenal move he was involved in. He was solid but uninspiring, which is fine when the rest of the team are providing the spark.
Aaron Ramsey 8.5
Ramsey had a very good game, which was reflected in the “we want you to stay” chants from the Arsenal fans. His most important contributions came with a bit of luck though. His free-kick came off the post for Willock to score Arsenal’s first, and his late shot rebounded off the goalkeeper for Iwobi to add a third.
After that, he could’ve added a fourth goal with another great run, but the goalkeeper just about got there first. Despite a hint of fortune with the goals, Ramsey was still a pivotal part of the win.
Joe Willock 9
Just over a month after he scored his first senior goal for Arsenal, Willock scored his first brace, against Blackpool. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time for both goals, and he didn’t waste the chances when they fell to him. He also played a fantastic long-ball forward for Iwobi late in the game.
The teenager got back well too, making a game-high four tackles, and winning as many aerial duels as any Arsenal outfielder bar Kolasinac. It was a big night for the academy graduate, as he proved he deserved his opportunity and silenced the critics.
Click ‘Next’ for Forwards and Substitutes
Ainsley Maitland-Niles 8
It’s always fun watching Maitland-Niles when he’s full of confidence. He has a swagger about his game as he skips past people and definitely adds something different to the Arsenal attack.
The midfielder-turned-winger created a couple of chances, both of which Eddie Nketiah would probably have put away on another day. He also made a lot of tackles and interceptions in a very solid performance.
Alex Iwobi 8.5
Iwobi was at his best at times in the trip to Blackpool, and he was heavily involved in the second goal before scoring the third himself. Maybe he could’ve added a fourth late on when he unselfishly held the ball up to play in a teammate before realising no one had kept up with his run and he had to go it alone from a tightening angle.
Other than that, the winger made the most of his start to ensure Arsenal came away with the win.
Eddie Nketiah 7
On another day, Nketiah could have scored a hat-trick in the first half alone. He picked up some great positions, but he was guilty of failing to make the most of them, which is rare for him. The striker’s overall game was very good, and he provided an assist for Willock’s second.
The teenage forward needs to be putting away his own opportunities to earn further senior game-time. However, the fact he keeps making chances for himself is a good sign, as Unai Emery pointed out afterwards.
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Alexandre Lacazette 7.5
Emery gave Lacazette almost half an hour at the end of the match, and the striker made it count, helping Arsenal to add another goal. It was the Frenchman’s run and lay-off that gave Ramsey the chance to shoot, and although the Welshman couldn’t quite put the chance away it fell to Iwobi with an open net.
Zech Medley 7
Medley was only on the pitch for seven minutes, but he won the only aerial he contested and the only tackle he attempted, so that’s a good sign.
Bukayo Saka N/A
As against Fulham, Saka only came on for a few minutes and hardly had a touch of the ball. That’s not a criticism, he just entered the fray at a point in the game where he was unlikely to get a chance to make anything happen. Nonetheless, it’s good for him and Medley to make their FA Cup debuts.