Well my warnings from yesterday were certainly a bit of a waste of time in the end, eh?
I said we shouldn’t underestimate Blackpool and whilst there was a little patch after we went down to ten that looked a little nervy – not helped by some shoddy ‘keeping by Cech that could have led to an equaliser – we managed to navigate safe passage at home to Blackpool and now face a home game against the Totts in the quarter final.
That in itself will be an intriguing tie because we’ll have another three games in six days and it will inevitably mean some heavy rotation against the scummers.
Probably a bit like last night to be honest. I must admit to some apprehension over how many first teamers might start against the League One outfit but my concerns were pretty swiftly addressed, as we saw an almost complete change around in the first XI from Sunday’s game at Palace.
Cech, Jenkinson, Pleguezuelo, Maitland-Niles, Welbeck, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey and Smith-Rowe amongst some of the most notable incumbents and I have to say it was heartening. The game at the weekend is a big one and I think Liverpool’s high-energy approach will take a lot out of us so I don’t think that playing anyone who is earmarked for Saturday evening should be an option for us.
In fact I hope that I’m reading right into the situation because if Lichtsteiner is risked then perhaps it means Bellerin has a more than likely chance of a comeback. Let’s just hope Nacho and Sead are in a similar situation.
I also hope the playing of Mustafi at centre half – culpable for the first Blackpool goal in my opinion – is indication that we’ll be seeing Sokratis and Holding from the start on Saturday.
But in terms of last nights game, as I said at the top of the blog, this wasn’t as difficult a game as I thought Blackpool would have made it for us and you could tell there was a two league gulf in class between the two teams. We controlled much of the ball and Blackpool didn’t really cause us too many concerns in the first half, unlike almost every team we’ve played so far this season!
In fact, throughout the game as a whole we had 65% possession, created more goal scoring chances, looked more likely to break the deadlock. So of course it would be that most unlikely of scorers to do so: Lichtsteiner.
It was a poacher-like goal that just needed to be guided in by the Swiss defender, but was almost entirely made by the vision of Guendouzi, who had a very good game up until his sending off. More on that in the next paragraph but once again he showed just what a talent he’s going to be for us. He is calm in possession and his vision and range of passing is fantastic for a 19-year-old. He still gets nudged off the ball a little too easily at times but his body is probably still evolving and he’s still getting used to a new league and a new culture, so we’ll let him off. Nobody thought in a million years we’d have him as an option at this stage but the fact his sending off does actually feel like a blow from the weekend – even if he probably would just be an option from the bench – shows just how far he’s come in such a short space of time.
It was a silly sending off though. The yellow in either half for hauling back his man is something that was ridiculous although the second yellow was so soft from a referee who was pretty pants all night to be fair, trying to make a name for himself by giving foul after foul for every little thing. It’s a shame because Guendouzi was looking like a shoe-in for the man-of-the-match award but lost himself a third of the game on the pitch by a silly foul that you tend to see from young kids as they’re learning.
That incident followed a bit of sustained pressure from Blackpool and their goal had many of us chewing a few fingernails, but whilst Cech seemed content to age us with the incident of their second goal, we hang on until they had their guy sent off and then the game pretty much petered out.
So we’re through, we’ve had another goal and decent enough performance from a few of the youngsters, including another Smith-Rowe chance and we have to be happy with thirteen matches unbeaten.
We now go in to the Liverpool game with still some big concerns about how they’re going to ravage our back line, but at least the form guide shows that we should have a little bit of confidence about us. That’s the best preparation we could have hoped for ahead of the game and now all eyes can focus on how we keep the Liverpool front line quiet.
Catch you in the morning you wonderful people.