Outgunned ‘Pool still expose Arsenal frailty

SO THE fight will continue until the end but there was little to suggest that this performance at Bloomfield Road was not just the latest false dawn for this Arsenal team.

Arsene Wenger has been more than outspoken in his defence of his team in recent weeks, despite seeing them fall away in the title race and knocked out of three competitions when it came to the crunch.

Yesterday they showed brilliance that no other team in the Premier League could handle at the same time as demonstrating why they still have such a long way to go before they can consider themselves ready to be champions.

For a spell in the first half, they looked like they were playing against seven-year-olds and their two-goal half-time lead could have been as much as five times that, such was their dominance.

But in the end, they were reliant on some poor refereeing from Lee Mason to keep them in the contest.

There was at least one clear penalty shout, when Laurent Koscielny chopped down Gary Taylor-Fletcher with the scores at 2-1, that had to be given as well as two or three other decent shouts.

They trail United by seven points but have a game in hand and Alex Ferguson’s side still have to travel to the Emirates.

After five matches without a win, it was enough to keep them in the hunt but hardly enough to have Arsenal supporters rushing to the bookmakers.

“Only three points could help us keep a chance,” Wenger said afterwards. “We have promised to give everything for the rest of the season and seven games is a long time, many games.”

It could also be a very long time to have Jens Lehmann in goal if Manuel Almunia’s knee problem, sustained in yesterday’s warm-up, does not clear up quickly.

The German had not played since turning out for Stuttgart in May last year and while his distribution and communication impressed, he was shown up in the one moment he was really tested. Fortunately for Arsenal, it did not cost them.

Once Abou Diaby robbed Charlie Adam in midfield, he set off into the box and got on the end of a simple cross from Robin van Persie to put the visitors ahead.

Three minutes later the lead was doubled when Emmanuel Eboue swapped passes with Jack Wilshere and Luke Varney failed to track the run, allowing the right-back to ram a shot past Richard Kingson.

The rest of the opening period was embarrassing, with Blackpool scurrying around after shadows and Arsenal toying with their opposition. Samir Nasri had two fine chances and Van Persie also went close.

But Ian Holloway was the only man left on the Fylde coast that believed in his players and he revived his team at the interval.

Wilshere fouled Varney in the Blackpool half but Mason waved play on, allowing Jason Puncheon to break and clip a pass behind the Arsenal defence for DJ Campbell.

The Blackpool striker broke into the area and was hauled down by Lehmann before Taylor-Fletcher drove in from close range.

Within a couple of minutes, Taylor-Fletcher’s burst into the box was halted by a dangled leg from Laurent Koscielny, only for referee Mason to ignore the pleas for a penalty.

Blackpool continued in wave after wave but were hit hard on the break with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining when Theo Walcott broke down the right and crossed for Van Persie — who Holloway claimed looks like he is on a Kawasaki 400 motorbike — to tap in.

That killed the contest but the bigger tests await for both.

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