Arsenal v Blackpool - The Match Breakdown

All the features of match day were there upon exiting Finsbury Park station: the guy wearing the new gut-hugging Arsenal kit embracing with a kofte kebab after a summer apart, the ownerless football being blasted at passing traffic and the synonymous ‘WAHEY’ of the lager-bathing crowd. Those unaware that Arsenal were at home looked perplexed driving past. Their regret at not having checked the fixtures was un-concealable as stray plastic pint glasses shattered under their wheels. At the Emirates, Blackpool were crushed in similar style.
Theo Walcott doesn’t talk big. He doesn’t answer his critics with snide remarks and never retaliates with petulance. It’s something to admire about the young man and has been a trait of his since he joined Arsenal four years ago. Every now and again Walcott has these moments of utter brilliance which Arsene Wenger rightly labelled “electric” yesterday. There is still rigidity to Walcott’s game, probably down to his berserk style born from the frenzied pace his legs work at. Perhaps it doesn’t place him alongside the smoothness of Thierry Henry, but against Blackpool, Walcott’s finishing reminded me a little bit of the Frenchman.
A hat-trick to go with one against Croatia in 2008 is proof that when Walcott finds his backbone, he can spawn from a docile ambassador off the pitch into a footballing assassin on it. He took the Sunday plaudits, enhancing the profile of the smug ‘I told you so’ posse and transforming many cynics into Walcott believers. But Theo can lose his followers as quickly as picks them up. Only in pre-season was I moaning about his lack of quality, yet as of five o’clock Saturday I was part of the Walcott creed. Now though is the time for him to preach what he practises consistently, if those like me are to be baptised into the Walcott religion permanently. Much rests of Wenger to give Arsenal’s adopted son regular starts.
The day’s positives didn’t rest at Walcott. It was always going to be an exhibition for Arsenal when the Tangerines went down to ten men, but the visitors were not the nervous wreck you might expect in a newly promoted team. The reaction of Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna in particular caught the eye. In one instant Sagna ran down a relatively unthreatening counter-attack like a liquor sore owner remembering he’d left the shop wide open. His efforts received a standing ovation. Vermaelen was water-tight in the centre and both remained constantly professional, setting a template Arsenal must churn out time and again to eradicate slips-ups such as last week against Liverpool.
After victory over Derby on Saturday, Coventry manager Aidy Boothroyd said, “we’re not going to play sexy football every week.” I fully expect that to be the case. Arsenal were at their inviting best too, although I make Aidy right, the pattern of games won’t always be so elementary. This is why it was promising to see Arsenal switched on, prepared to deliver a performance that could be a joy to watch and in the same instance look like it was a day at the office instead of a game of football. Is this the season where they make football both an art-form and a profession to a standard worthy of silverware? In previous seasons this hasn’t always been the case.
Marouane Chamakh ended the day with a header from a corner. It was a slice of his individual professionalism to want his goal for the day despite the game being won in the first half. Not happy with a couple of missed opportunities, the Moroccan leapt high to earn his first Premiership strike. I had watched Barking FC in a preliminary FA Cup game last week with my dad and one of his old team-mates (from the days when pre-game showers in the winter consisted of smashing the ice on a horse troth). Conversation drifted onto shirt pulling in the penalty area. “You know why it doesn’t happen at this level?” said Johnny Archer, a dead ringer for Charles Bronson.”No cameras. If somebody did pull your shirt here then they’d get a thump.”
Thinking back to the Liverpool game, Chamakh was having his kit constantly tugged by Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger. Perhaps Blackpool were too respectful to get so shirty but it was good to see the forward loose his marker and not succumb to the physical harassment of the Premier League. It tied together the feeling that Arsenal are learning fast. At the same time it’s no reason to get carried away. Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie made their returns and on the day things seemed to be moving in the right direction. All expect that is, a few cars outside the Twelve Pins pub who were heading to the mechanics with punctured tires. My advice, check the fixtures!

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