Arsenal 2-1 Blackpool

Arsenal 2-1 Blackpool: Stephan Lichtsteiner and Emile Smith Rowe goals help 10-man Gunners scrape through as Matteo Guendouzi sees red

  • Arsenal will play Tottenham in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals at the Emirates Stadium 
  • Stephan Lichtsteiner gave Arsenal the lead after 33 minutes after tapping in Matteo Guendouzi’s good cross
  • Emile Smith Rowe doubled the home side’s advantage early in the second half, his first goal at the Emirates
  • Frenchman Guendouzi was shown a red card by referee David Coote soon after for a second bookable offence
  • Paudie O’Connor’s thunderous headed goal from a corner gave Blackpool an unlikely lifeline in the match
  • O’Connor was then shown a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang  

Much like his frizzy-haired look-alike David Luiz, Arsenal’s young midfielder Matteo Guendouzi demands attention. He is a player of true promise, who stamps his personality all over a football match.

Yet Guendouzi is only 19-years-old and he retains the exasperating capacity to veer from the sublime to the absurd at a moment’s notice.

This was the case on an evening that seemed to be going swimmingly for the young Frenchman.

Arsenal players celebrate with Stephan Lichtsteiner after the Swiss defender fires them into a one-goal lead over Blackpool

Arsenal's Lichtsteiner scores the opening goal after latching onto a pass from midfielder Matteo Guendouzi after 33 minutes

Lichtsteiner, scoring his first ever goal for Arsenal, directed the ball into the corner of the net to give his side the lead

Arsenal youngster Emile Smith Rowe runs to celebrate after doubling his side's lead with a scuffed volley in the second half

Arsenal's No 55 failed to hit his shot cleanly but still found the roof of the net to give his side a two-goal advantage

Matteo Guendouzi looks confused as he is sent off by referee David Coote after receiving his second yellow card of the night

MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Cech 5.5; Lichtsteiner 6.5, Mustafi 5.5, Pleguezuelo 6, Jenkinson 5.5; Maitland-Niles 6 (Torreira 60, 6), Guendouzi 6; Ramsey 6, Smith Rowe 6(Iwobi 73, 6), Mkhitaryan 5.5; Welbeck 6 (Aubameyang 76, 6).

Subs not used: Holding, Martinez, Nketiah, Willock.

Goals: Lichtsteiner 33, Smith Rowe 50

Bookings: Guendouzi

Sent off: Guendouzi 57

Manager: Unai Emery 6

BLACKPOOL (4-1-4-1): Howard 6.5; Bola 6, O’Connor 7.5, Heneghan 7, Nottingham 7 (Pritchard 65, 6); Turton 6, Spearing 6; Feeney 7 (Cullen, 79), Guy 6 (O’Sullivan, 86), Thompson 6; Delfouneso 6.

Subs not used: Dodoo, McLaughlin, Taylor, Mafoumbi.

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Goals: O’Connor 66

Bookings: Thompson

Sent off: O’Connor

Manager: Terry McPhillips 7

Referee: David Coote  7

As Arsenal laboured for a breakthrough, it was Guendouzi who seized the initiative, picking the lock with a delightful pass to create Stephan Lichtsteiner’s opening goal.

Yet after Emile Smith Rowe doubled Arsenal’s advantage shortly after the interval, Guendouzi’s impetuous streak complicated his side’s task.

Having already been booked for a hack at Jordan Thompson in the first half, Guendouzi needlessly placed his hands across the path of the same player as the Blackpool midfielder pursued a flick on.

All of a sudden, Arsenal’s breeze hit turbulence. Blackpool turned up the heat and Emery felt compelled to introduce his safety net in Lucas Torreira. Even the Uruguayan’s presence did not stabilise Emery’s side, as Paudie O’Connor rose at a set-piece to half the deficit on 66 minutes.

They very nearly equalised moments later, as Petr Cech’s discomfort in possession remerged and he was dispossessed in his own penalty area only to be spared by an offside flag.

Indeed, Blackpool continued to threaten, pressing a jittery Cech at every opportunity. Yet their goalscorer O’Connor then let Arsenal off the hook, lunging in high and recklessly on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and receiving the second red card of the game.

In truth, this was a peculiar evening all round for Arsenal. They won the game but this was a performance pockmarked by imperfection.

For 33 minutes, this was as laboured and ordinary as anything we have seen from Arsenal under their new manager. On the touchline, Unai Emery was a fidgety presence, flapping his hands and shaking his head as he grew exasperated at his side’s meandering tempo.

Perhaps a little tuning was always to be expected after Emery made nine changes from the draw against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

A generous home tie against third-tier opposition allowed Emery to blood the young defender Julio Pleguezuelo and the bright midfield pair of Guendouzi and Smith Rowe. There was room, improbably, for Carl Jenkinson, one of the remaining waifs and strays of the Arsene Wenger era.

Guendouzi looks dejected as he walks off the pitch after being sent off for a second bookable offence in the 57th minute

Blackpool's Paudie O'Conner (No 5) scores with a header from a corner to fire his club back into the Carabao Cup fixture

O'Connor is congratulated by his team-mates as they rush back to their own half to restart the game in search for an equaliser

Blackpool's Nathan Delfouneso puts the ball in the net only to be ruled out for offside during the Carabao Cup match

The Blackpool defender was punished for a scissor-like challenge as the Gabon attempted to break forward with the ball

O'Connor looks dejected as he heads towards the Emirates Stadium as Blackpool go down to ten men as well

Remarkably, 701 days have passed since Jenkinson’s last appearance in an Arsenal shirt in November 2016 and it showed during a sluggish start to the game down Arsenal’s left side.

He was not the only one to toil. Until Lichetsteiner broke the deadlock, Blackpool appeared eminently comfortable. Arsenal did not carve a chance of note and did not hit a strike on target for the opening half-hour.

For all the rotation, this was still an Arsenal starting XI that has made a combined 1,062 Premier League appearances and, fleetingly, we wondered whether Emery may be exposed to the peculiarities of English cup competitions.

Indeed, Blackpool started with the greater menace, creating a series of half-chances. Liam Feeney’s teasing ball needed a smart clearance as defender Ben Heneghan closed in. Guendouzi then made an important intervention when Nathan Delfouneso wriggled free in the penalty area.

Delfouneso, a former Premier League striker at Aston Villa, caused consternation in the Arsenal backline with his movement and trickery. He deceived a flat-footed Shkodran Mustafi, who required a muscular rescue act by Lichtsteiner.

Lichtsteiner’s instincts would prove important at both ends. As Arsenal probed for a way through, chances were rare. Welbeck teed up Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who scuffed a low strike wide of the post. Jenkinson broke in behind but shanked a cross straight out of play. It was that kind of game. Emile Smith Rowe jinked his way into the penalty area but Oliver Turton stood his ground, made the challenge and earned a goal-kick.

Arsenal players respect the minute's silence held for the five people killed in Saturday's helicopter crash in Leicester

Huge numbers of seats remain empty in the upper tier as Arsenal fans stay away from the Carabao Cup round of 16 fixture

Unai Emery gives his team tactical instructions as he watches from the technical area at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey looks frustrated after missing a chance to double their lead at the Emirates StadiumArsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey looks frustrated after missing a chance to double their lead at the Emirates Stadium

Yet Arsenal’s class finally emerged. Guendouzi was afforded time and space 30 yards from the goal. The Frenchman then demonstrated his rare talent. He glanced up and delicate clipped a pass that deceived the Blackpool defence and Lichtsteiner dived in and poked out a leg that was sufficient to wrong-foot goalkeeper Mark Howard.

The lead was not particularly deserved and it felt rather cruel on Blackpool’s positive and organised display. Blackpool have endured a torrid few years under the stewardship of the Oyston family, sinking from the Premier League to League One.

Drained of hope and money, the once proud club of Jimmy Armfield and Stanley Matthews has been reduced to a basketcase of an institution, compelled to train at a local amateur outfit as Blackpool’s Squires Gate training ground does not possess hot water or electricity.

Manager Terry McPhillips has, at least, restored a sense of pride amid the discontent and his team resembled one that has lost only two league matches this season. Yet the quality gap inevitably told. Arsenal stepped through the gears. Welbeck’s curling cross located Aaron Ramsey, who stabbed over and Jenkinson’s cross was flapped into the path of Smith Rowe to double the advantage.

Yet Guendouzi then intervened and in the end, Arsenal were fortunate to survive.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles chests the ball down during the Carabao Cup tie, his first start since fracturing his fibula in August

Arsenal's Julio Pleguezuelo in action with Blackpool's Nathan Delfouneso during the first half at the Emirates Stadium

Arsenal defender Carl Jenkinson, pictured competing with Jordan Thompson, was starting his first Arsenal game since 2016

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