Arsenal's day got off to a difficult start as the team bus couldn't leave the hotel given the protest by a Blackpool fan, but they showed no sign of stress in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bloomfield Road. Joe Willock made the most of his first game since Dec. 13 with two goals from attacking midfield, while Eddie Nketiah was hard for the hosts' defence to handle.
The victory puts Unai Emery's side into the FA Cup fourth round and kept their stars sufficiently rested ahead of a potentially tricky trip to West Ham in the Premier League on Jan. 12.
It was encouraging for Emery to see his squad players thrive amid tough conditions. Willock and Nketiah were lively, while a defensive unit sorely in need of confidence had a fairly easy time against League One opposition.
Frustration will be justified for some lacklustre finishing that could have put the game away early. Nketiah in particular was wasteful and could have wrapped up a hat trick before half-time.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- It was a simple enough day for Emery & Co. and few headaches when it came to team selection, although he will be worried about Laurent Koscielny's injury in warm-ups that forced a start for Carl Jenkinson in the back four. Arsenal's reserves justified their inclusion and progress in the FA Cup ensures further opportunities for his younger players. Nice also to see him give young Zech Medley a late run-out as his development continues.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 6 -- Didn't have much to do but still showed sufficient concentration to keep a clean sheet.
DF Carl Jenkinson, 6 -- A late swap for Koscielny, the right-back was rarely troubled on the defensive side of the ball, he was able to surge forward as the visitors overwhelmed Blackpool early on. Not the best delivery from crosses, though.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 6 -- The veteran defender never looks entirely comfortable despite a wealth of experience. Went missing on a couple of set pieces only to be rescued by his teammates.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 6 -- An uneventful afternoon bar one notable error that should have led to a Blackpool goal. More is expected from him given his stature at the club.
DF Sead Kolasinac, 6 -- The usual frustrating mix of wayward shots on goal, agricultural defending and mistimed runs that denied Arsenal further goals.
MF Mohamed Elneny, 7 -- Did what was needed as a holding midfielder.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 7 -- The traveling Arsenal fans serenaded their soon-departing star, who put in an expectedly tidy performance. A constant source of effort and industry in midfield.
MF Ashley Maitland-Niles, 7 -- Magnificent in the opening 20 minutes as part of a front four that should have put the game beyond doubt but tired from there.
MF Joe Willock, 8 -- Took his goals brilliantly and was denied a hat trick by Kolasinac being ruled offside in the build-up. His form in limited minutes should have him continuing to push for more starts both in the FA Cup and the league.
MF Alex Iwobi, 6 -- Not his finest performance but he still had an impact with his positive runs and constant willingness to kickstart the Arsenal attack. Took his late goal well, too.
FW Eddie Nketiah, 8 -- A constant menace up front against a bewildered Blackpool but was kept off the score sheet by his own wayward finishing rather than a resolute defence. He sliced one early shot wide from six yards out and fired into the side netting on another effort, but did play provider for Willock's lovely second goal.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 7 -- Typically lively as a sub midway through the second half, replacing Nketiah, he thought he'd helped tee Willock up for his hat-trick only to be denied by Kolasinac, who had strayed offside during the build-up. Did well to link with Iwobi, though, and played a part in the third goal.
DF Zech Medley, NR -- The 18-year-old replaced Kolasinac for the final few minutes with the game wrapped up.
FW Bukayo Saka, NR -- Given a late run-out replacing Iwobi down the left flank, but little time to make an impact.