Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Arsenal 6-0 Blackpool: Hot shot Theo

First home game of the season, six goals, clean sheet, some outstanding individual performances and a great team one, can’t ask for much more than that, can you?

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we could have hit double figures yesterday. Blackpool’s keeper made three outstanding saves that I can think of – one from Arshavin and two from Chamakh – and we created chance after chance after chance.

People will say ‘it was only Blackpool and they were down to 10 men’ and in one way they’ve got a point. In another way, however, they can stick it. You never hear anyone say ‘it was only …’ when Chelsea have turned over another relegation candidate. You can only beat what’s in front of you and we’ve seen this Arsenal side struggle against poor teams too often not to take as many positives from this as we wish.

The early goal I had hoped for yesterday arrived in the 12th minute. Chamakh played the ball to Rosicky who flicked a pass with the outside of his boot for Arshavin who took it on, rolled it into the path of Theo Walcott who sidefooted it home to make it 1-0. It would be wrong of me not to mention the fantastic chance Blackpool had just a minute or two later, some blokey in orange heading wide when he really should have scored, but it would be churlish in the extreme to dwell on it.

Life was made easier for us when Blackpool were reduced to 10 men. Rosicky played a cute ball behind the Blackpool defence, Chamakh got there just before Ian Evatt and while I thought the foul was just outside the box you can’t argue that it wasn’t a red card. Arshavin dispatched the penalty with aplomb. It was 3-0 not long afterwards, Jack Wilshere fizzed in a ball to Theo who had swapped places with Chamakh, he controlled it, turned and fired it home beautifully.

While much of the focus will be on Theo’s goals yesterday it would be wrong to ignore his all-round play which was superb. He twice set up Chamakh. Once the Moroccan rolled his shot just wide, the next time the keeper made a great save. He tormented Blackpool’s left back, delivered fantastic balls from the right hand side, and was always energetic and looking to be involved. It made Alan Hansen’s criticism of him on Match of the Day last night all the more spiteful. He tempered praise by saying it was only Blackpool and picked out the one or two moments when a final ball let him down.

Now, nobody’s foolish enough to think that Theo, on the basis of one performance, is the best player ever but there’s a time and a place for that sort of criticism and when a player has played his best game in … I dunno … his entire career, scored a hat-trick and been involved in almost every dangerous moment it just smacks of wind-up merchant nonsense. Perhaps we should ignore Hansen, he’s a dinosaur, his punditry limited to ‘pace, power and two banks of four’, but it was downright mean. When Gary Lineker is standing up for an Arsenal player that tells you all you need to know.

Back to the football and the second half just picked up where the first finished. Less than five minutes in and it was 4-0. This time it was Sagna tormenting the left back, he did him for pace, drove on, looked up, picked out Diaby with a lovely pass and the finish on the half-volley was quite brilliant. Diaby turned provider then rolling a ball through the Blackpool defence for Theo who took it at full speed, carried on across the box and curled it home with his left foot for his hat-trick.

There was just time for Arshavin to set up Chamakh for a glorious chance  – which he Bendtnered over the bar from about 6 yards out – before Arsene brought on Cesc and Robin van Persie for the Russian and Theo. He said afterwards it was a ‘luxury’ to be able to do that and it was obvious why neither of them started. I know people were asking questions as to why they didn’t but both of them looked a little bit rusty and we lost a bit of our attacking impetus. Giving them a proper pre-season, even if the season has begun, will be a long term benefit to us, and there was little point risking them from the start against Blackpool.

Carlos Vela came on and tried to lob the entire Blackpool team before Chamakh got his goal at last. We know he’s good in the air, he proved it as he climbed highest to head home van Persie’s corner. I’m delighted he scored particularly after the missed chance not long before. He looked very good yesterday, was involved in a lot of our good stuff, and we should remember it took better strikers than him a lot longer to get off the mark for Arsenal. He’ll have no confidence sapping reaction to yesterday and that can only be a good thing.

Overall it was impressive, regardless of who we were playing and how many men they had. Theo, obviously will take many of the plaudits, but it was fantastic to see Tomas Rosicky play the way he did. There’s always been a sense that his ability has been unfulfilled with us, for various reasons, but he was brilliant yesterday. Jack Wilshere got a good 90 minutes under his belt too.

Afterwards Arsene said:

We looked very dangerous when we won the ball and I believe we have matured because when we were 3-0 up at half-time we didn’t become sloppy. We kept playing the way we wanted to play and overall it became a comfortable win.

Naturally enough he was full of praise for Theo, saying:

He is more electric than he has been to date because he is sharp. Let’s not forget that what he does is at a very high pace so it’s not always easy to make the right decision but today I think he got many decisions in the final third right.

Theo said in his post-match interview that this was the season in which he had to ‘push on’ and show people what he can do. Consistency is the key, of course, we all know this, so all I’m going to do this morning is congratulate him on a fantastic performance and make the point that a hat-trick is rather a good way to start.

The manager was asked afterwards about signings and he was hopeful of signing ‘one, maybe one plus one’. There’s still over a week before the transfer window closes so all we can do until then is wait and see what happens. No point stressing too much. We know we need a couple, he knows we need a couple, that’s about that.

Ideally, however, you’d like to add them before the Blackburn game. The boost of a couple of new players on top of yesterday’s performance would be quite welcome as we go up north to face the Walrus’s physical side.

In other news, Wenger on Cesc:

I think that to win something with the club will make him ever greater. I think it would be a greater achievement than going to Barcelona. He has been educated here since the age of 16, he has grown with this team, and to make it into a winning side would be a great achievement for him.

The people says Real Madrid are after Gael Clichy. Kieran Gibbs is ready and waiting, perhaps that has been a feature of Clichy’s good start to the season.

News of the World says we’re after Bordeaux defender Michael Ciani should a deal for Squillaci not go through.

And that’s about that. Wins like yesterday make for good Sundays. Newspapers and breakfast are much better.

After bacon I’m off to see Arsenal reserves play Shamrock Rovers. If it’s interesting enough I might throw up a little report later on. If not, more tomorrow. Have a good one.

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