Arsenal are through to the fourth round of the FA Cup thanks to a 3-0 win over Blackpool.
The Gunners took the lead 10 minutes in with Joe Willock heading in a rebound following Aaron Ramsey’s free-kick. And Willock got his second close to half-time, finishing off a good Arsenal move.
Alex Iwobi rounded off the scoring 10 minutes from time with another tap-in after Ramsey’s shot was saved, confirming Arsenal’s place in the fourth round.
Here are the winners and losers from the match.
Winner: Joe Willock
When you’re a young player given a chance to start in the FA Cup third round, it’s important to make the most of it. Last season Arsenal crumbled to Nottingham Forest at this stage as a much-changed side prove too inexperienced against their Championship opposition.
It was no such problem for the Gunners against League One Blackpool, with Joe Willock one of those starring, having failed to make an impact in last year’s defeat by Forest.
Willock lasted 65 uneventful minutes being overrun by Forest but took just 10 to make a positive impact against Blackpool this year. Aaron Ramsey’s free-kick was deflected onto the right post and bounced back into the six yard box, where Willock reacted quickest to head into the open net as goalkeeper Mark Howard had committed to the save.
The 19-year-old had his second 25 minutes later with a good late run to the far post, tapping in from close range after good play from Alex Iwobi and Carl Jenkinson.
On a day where Callum Hudson-Odoi showed his abilities for Chelsea with a pair of assists, Willock made sure his name was stamped on the FA Cup third round with a pair of goals.
19y 138d – Joe Willock is the youngest player to score for Arsenal in the FA Cup since January 2010, when Aaron Ramsey netted against West Ham (19y 8d). Glimpse.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 5, 2019
Loser: Eddie Nketiah
While one Arsenal youngster was taking his chances, another was passing up the opportunity to show Unai Emery what he is capable of.
Nketiah burst onto the scene for Arsenal last season, scoring twice against Championship side Norwich City in the League Cup to help the Gunners win, and would have fancied his chances against League One Blackpool.
But things just weren’t going the way of the forward, as he missed three very good chances in the first half alone. The first came after just three minutes as he was played in well by Ainsley Maitland-Niles with just the goalkeeper to beat. But his shot went into the side netting.
Then, moments later, the 19-year-old missed another good opportunity thanks to another Maitland-Niles pass, this time slicing his shot wide from six yards out. And, just before half-time a third chance came and went as a scuffed shot was saved well by the goalkeeper.
The youngster could not be faulted for getting into the right positions, but his finishing left a lot to be desired. Fortunately for him, and Arsenal, Willock was not having the same game.
Winner: Unai Emery
Unai Emery had his first taste of the FA Cup on Saturday evening but took a slight risk with his line-up.
The third round of the FA Cup is often used by some teams to rest first-team players after a busy Christmas period, depending on the opposition.
Arsene Wenger did it last year against Nottingham Forest and paid the price as the defending champions bowed out in the third round – in what would be the Frenchman’s finally campaign in charge of Arsenal.
But there was no such disappointment for Emery as his perfect mixture of youth and experience proved too much for a Blackpool side out of sorts both on and off the pitch.
The Gunners did ride their luck at times, presenting the Tangerines with goalscoring opportunities, but kept their sheet clean thanks to a combination of poor finishing, Petr Cech and some luck.
With the Premier League out of their reach and Carabao Cup run over, Emery must look to the FA Cup as a serious chance for a trophy this season.
Loser: Laurent Koscielny
Things were finally starting to look up for Laurent Koscielny as he slowly began his return from injury into the heart of the Arsenal defence.
Speaking before the match, Koscielny told reporters of his return to injury and good feelings for the season ahead. He told RMC (via Football.London): “Everything is going very well. I do not have any pain which is very encouraging.
“My return was a bit rushed due to injuries, so physically things were hard, but overall I feel good.
“It’s a little harder to tie up every three days, I’m trying to be careful not to hurt myself and be out for weeks.
“I am gradually resuming possession of all my means and confidence. My pace is slowly coming back.”
Vital to his recovery, Koscienly was set to start against Blackpool on Saturday evening as part of a back four. But the Frenchman didn’t make it to kick-off, pulling out having picked up a back injury during the warm up.
Carl Jenkinson was his replacement, pushing to right-back with Stephan Lichtsteiner moving into the centre, and nothing has been revealed yet about Koscielny’s latest absence.
Winner: Carl Jenkinson
Carl Jenkinson wasn’t planned to start Arsenal’s game against Blackpool on Saturday, but ended it by giving Emery something to really think about for the rest of the season.
Replacing the injured Koscielny on the pitch and playing in his natural right-back position, Jenkinson had a very good game for the Gunners, both in defence and attack.
Jenkinson played a big part in Arsenal’s second goal, starting off the move with a good pass to Iwobi before continuing his run down the right flank. The full-back received the ball back and then sent a teasing cross to the far post for Willock to tap in.
The 26-year-old has played just four games this season and is still yet to make the bench in a Premier League fixture. But with Lichtsteiner yet to truly impress at right-back in Hector Bellerin’s absence, Jenkinson may feel hard done by if he doesn’t get a chance in the Premier League after Saturday’s performance.
Loser: Blackpool fans
It’s been a sad state of affairs for Blackpool in recent years with the Tangerines some way off the team which once graced the Premier League.
FT | Blackpool 0 Arsenal 3
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) January 5, 2019
Still under the horrible ownership of Owen Oyston, Blackpool had fewer fans at Bloomfield Road than those visiting from Arsenal, as the supporters continue to protest against the regime with boycotts.
It meant for a poor atmosphere, something which the fans would have been hoping would send a message to Oyston but they are still yet to cause any positive changes despite Blackpool’s average attendance for the season being less than 4,000.
One fan even went as far as sitting atop the Arsenal coach outside the club’s hotel, to try to delay the 5:30pm kick-off – though it was to no avail. Oyston was pictured at the match, seemingly unbothered by the low attendance. And, despite the uplifting performance, the Tangerines will not have a cup run their fans deserve as Arsenal proved just too good.