Theo Walcott stars as Arsenal give Blackburn six of the best
Arsenal 6 Blackpool 0: Blackpool, stunning four-goal winners at the DW Stadium last week, discovered yesterday just how vast the gap is between the two ends of the Premier League.
Three goals and one man down by half-time – Ian Evatt was sent off in the 32nd minute – their players must have spent much of the second half looking beseechingly at the new clock adorning the official Clock End they were supposed to be attacking. It refused to tick any faster and three more goals had gone in before the referee Mike Jones ended the contest on humanitarian grounds.
The indomitable visiting supporters meanwhile sang "this is the best trip I've ever been on", even as, at 5-0 down, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie stood on the touchline awaiting an entrance as substitutes. Much more of this and the enjoyment may wear a little thin. Consolation will come if they can keep sufficient self-belief to play their football and win some more points off Wigan and the League's other Ws: the West Hams, Wolves and West Bromwichs.
Like the match itself, there were unfair contests all over the pitch, above all between Theo Walcott and the labouring left-back Stephen Crainey. Having scored the first hat-trick of his Arsenal career, Walcott must have been disappointed to be substituted after 66 minutes; not to mention learning that Fabio Capello had been elsewhere. "I like the fact that he mixed the final ball and finishing, which is always a sign a player is more mature," Arsenal's manager Arsène Wenger said. "He benefited from a summer break and he's a person who always sees the glass is half full not half empty."
Blackpool's Ian Holloway could have been excused for staring at the bottom of his glass, but he is sensible enough to realise there will be days like these this season, and he had raised the possibility himself before the game. "If they get a couple early on I dread to think what might happen," he had said. They did so, and the penalty for the second of them brought with it a red card for Evatt, so losing by six was in the circumstances just about to be expected. Teams as established as Everton and Middlesbrough have both lost at Arsenal by more in the last seven years.
"Everything about this place is class and that was a masterclass," Holloway said of the experience. "It was an absolute education. Theo Walcott was unplayable and I hope he continues that because he's English." His one complaint, above some naive defending, was about the triple jeopardy of a penalty, sending-off and suspension. "I thought it was harsh to say the least," he said. "But onwards and upwards. I'm relieved it wasn't 10 or 12."
To say the game turned on the sending off would be inaccurate, for the pattern had been set long before that: Blackpool pushed forward boldly but tended to be caught out by swift inter-passing and Walcott's sure finishing. Critically, they missed one excellent chance, when Crainey's cross was headed weakly wide by Gary Taylor-Fletcher, scorer of the historic first goal at Wigan.
Arsenal were already ahead at that point. In the 13th minute, Andrey Arshavin played a sweet one-two with the excellent Tomas Rosicky and set up Walcott for the first of three fine finishes. Arshavin scored from the penalty after Evatt brought down Marouane Chamakh with a challenge that began outside the area but finished inside, for all the defender's protests. Chamakh's failure to capitalise on his team's dominance was the one blot on the Emirates landscape as Walcott, twice, and Abou Diaby added further goals in the space of 20 minutes either side of the interval. Then, finally, Chamakh had his first Arsenal goal, albeit with a header from Van Persie's corner that the goalkeeper should have saved.
Holloway, having lost a chairman last week, says he wants more players. Wenger does too and is optimistic of securing one this week, though he would not confirm that it will be Fulham's goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Referee: Michael Jones
Man of the match: Walcott