We advanced to the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night with a 2-1 win over Blackpool.
Stephan Lichtsteiner broke the deadlock with his first goal in Arsenal colours, before Emile Smith Rowe scored his first senior goal at Emirates Stadium. Read on to find out what we noticed from the game...
GUENDOUZI STEALS THE SHOW
Matteo Guendouzi was the best player on the pitch - while he was still on the pitch. The French teenager plays every game with the same attitude - whether it’s Blackpool or Manchester City - and while others found their feet he was immediately into his stride. Dictating the tempo from the centre of midfield, Guendouzi linked up well with Aaron Ramsey and regularly looked for teammates’ runs over the top. It was Guendouzi’s vision that conjured up the first goal for Stephan Lichtsteiner, a deft ping over the Blackpool defence that the Swiss right back diverted into the net. Guendouzi’s night turned sour in the second half when a second yellow left us a man short. A harsh decision? Perhaps. It’s a sign of how influential Guendouzi had been that we missed him immediately.
FINDING SPACE IN BEHIND
At times in the past we’ve been guilty of playing in front of massed defences and making it easy for them to keep us at arm’s lengths. Not this season. For as long as we had 11 men on the pitch we looked to turn the Blackpool defence by exploiting our pace in behind - and especially Danny Welbeck’s. He got in a couple of times and Ainsley Maitland-Niles also profited in his advanced role on the right, beating the offside trap but not quite getting his shot away. The first goal came in the same fashion - courtesy of Guendouzi’s imagination and Lichsteiner’s well-timed run. And Shkodran Mustafi got Henrikh Mkhitaryan in not long after, only for a marginal offside to check the Armenian’s progress.
Julio Pleguezuelo became the 860th player to represent our first team when he made his debut on Wednesday. The Spanish centre back has been operating on the right for much of this season but he was back in his old role for his big night. Pleggy was solid if unspectacular - exactly what we needed in a game that threatened to go away from us after Guendouzi’s red card. The Spaniard started with well-timed challenge by the touchline and read the game well, stepping in to intercept when Blackpool ventured forward. Assured on the ball, Pleggy was strong in the air too and won a couple of vital headers as the visitors piled on the pressure in the second half. All in all an accomplished debut - the 92nd we’ve seen in the League Cup in the Premier League.
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