Arsenal Make Hard Work Of League Cup Progress…

Online Ed: Gunners defeat Blackpool to line up North London Derby quarter final

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It was a surprise to see the name of Julio Pleguezuelo in the starting eleven against Blackpool last night, and another surprise was the return of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, as his return from injury was not expected when people (including myself) were predicting the line-up for this 4th Round League Cup tie.

Both, along with another youngster, Emile Smith-Rowe played competently enough, as it was some more experienced names that put the home side in danger of elimination from the competition. Petr Cech had an uncomfortable evening and will have done little to persuade Unai Emery that he should think about replacing Bernd Leno in goal for Saturday’s visit of Liverpool.

Shkodran Mustafi was the principal individual to blame for the concession of a goal that gave the visitors – by that time with a man advantage – hope that they might get an equaliser and take the tie to a penalty shoot-out (apparently there being no extra time in this competition any more). I doubt either Cech or Mustafi will be starting the next game.

A crowd of approximately 35,000 witnessed lots of empty seats in the more expensive upper tiers, although I was surprised that Ivan Gazidis was in attendance, having read on the BBC website that he was down to start his job at Milan yesterday. Looks like they got that wrong. If you can’t rely on the BBC for accurate information… Anyway, it appears that yesterday was his final one as an Arsenal employee, a few weeks short of serving a decade at the club. Ultimately, his best work was done in his final year, as he finally ushered in much needed change to the organisation. Now his work is done and as far as a link between the owners and the support, Raul Sanllehi seems a lot more credible in terms of you believing he means what comes out of his mouth.

Back to the on-field fare, and until Blackpool scored, it was a fairly pedestrian affair, with limited excitement. It was an inevitability that Arsenal’s line-up meant the fluidity we see from the first choice team on occasion was largely lacking. Playing Carl Jenkinson at left back is hardly going to grease the wheels, although fair play to the forgotten man for getting an assist for the second goal. The first, a very nicely taken volley by Lichtsteiner getting on the end of Guendouzi’s cross was the highlight of the opening half. When Smith-Rowe converted Jenkinson’s cross after the keeper flapped at it not too long after the interval, things looked comfortable.

Then, Gunedouzi received a second yellow that puts him out of contention for a place on Saturday. Will Ainsley Maitland-Niles revert to left back, allowing Xhaka to partner Torreira? Or will Xhaka stay where he is with AMN going central? Maybe it’s too early for AMN to play two games within four days, meaning Aaron Ramsey plays in a deeper role than he has done under Emery until last night.

The Welshman looked a little off colour last night, possibly disappointed that he is effectively now one of the shadow team, a Premier League sub when everyone is fit. Of course the snub from the club, having withdrawn a contract offer which he claims he had more or less agreed to, will surely also be a factor. For the sake of his football, he might be better moving in January, although financially, seeing out the whole campaign would benefit him far more. It’s an unfortunate state of affairs, but at the end of the day, it’s his agent who is probably responsible. In one way, it is good to see the club making a stand. That will make future negotiations with others more straightforward. Effectively, Ramsey is the first playing casualty of the new regime. This would never have happened under Arsene Wenger, but Le Boss has long been guilty of overpaying his players.

So against ten men, Blackpool made a fist of it and the game became rather concerningly entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Their defender Paudie O'Connor headed against the bar from a corner, but soon after had a similar chance and found the net, as Mustafi moved forward to head a ball that sailed over him, only to be met by O’Connor. There was a near calamitous moment afterwards when Cech tried to pass the ball out, only to be dispossessed, but the resultant goal was fortunately offside. Things calmed down when the Blackpool goalscorer himself was red carded and Arsenal played out the rest of the game in a more controlled manner.

It was a performance with few highpoints, although at least some fringe players and youngsters got some game time. At League Cup ticket prices, I am sure the quarter final against Spurs will sell out, although Arsenal will have to field a stronger eleven than last night to progress. The quarter final comes in the midst of a run of seven matches in 20 days around the Christmas period, which will inevitably see plenty of rotation. Depending on the strength of the Spurs team, it might be a round too far, but at least Arsenal have home advantage. Next up, Liverpool and the return of A team.

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6
comments

  1. 112496 GoonerRon

    Nov 2, 2018, 09:11

    @ madmax / mbg - to fair there were very few AKB voices left on here towards the end so those not posting shouldn’t make it this quiet. There are a lot of anti-Wenger posters who have gone MIA - you wonder if they were more interested in picking a fight with Badarse and Co rather than talking about Arsenal...

  2. 112495 The Man From UNCLE

    Nov 2, 2018, 08:11

    My boy loved it up there Wednesday. Great to see him enjoying himself. Where we was (right next to Blackpool end) the atmosphere was good, might be to do with the lower prices bringing some old fans back or what. Got to get a result tomorrow though.

  3. 112493 mbg

    Nov 2, 2018, 00:11

    mad max, you see they have nothing/no one left to support now, they were always wenger supporters/fans not Arsenal ones (and indeed that was obvious for years) now their messiah is gone they have nothing, no one to try and defend and support, argue for, some of them still can't/wont lose face now and admit they were wrong, sad, maybe when he makes his big announcement that he has come out from under his rock again, and still with his sly smirk, to keep every one guessing about they'll follow him.

  4. 112492 mbg

    Nov 1, 2018, 23:11

    Not much to write home about, some of the young guard got another run out and did well, and we won, 35,000 was a decent enough crowd for this one, I doubt we would have had as many if whatshisname was sill bumbling about on the touchline. I'd say the next round against the spuds will certainly see more interest.

  5. 112491 mad max

    Nov 1, 2018, 21:11

    I find it astonishing how few people comment on here anymore, now their messiah has left they've got nothing to say. well last night's poor performance has a lot to do with the mess wenger has left us in, unai emery has done a fine job so far but we're miles behind the likes of city, chelski, and Liverpool at times last night we were run ragged by a 3rd tier team I dead to think what might happen against the bin dippers on Saturday with the likes of mustafi at centre back, news coming out of the club that we're unlikely to spend in January is worrying to say the least, all we can do is get behind emery's team and hope for better things to come

  6. 112490 GoonerRon

    Nov 1, 2018, 20:11

    All about getting into the next round and giving minutes to the fringe players, so in those respects it was job done. Emile Smith-Rowe looks so comfortable on the pitch and for me is a big reason why we’re prepared to let Ramsey go. Let’s smash Liverpool on Saturday and knock the **** out of the spuds in the next round.