Premier League – Walcott hat-trick destroys Blackpool
Ian Holloway‘s team beat Wigan 4-0 on their Premier League debut, but were given a harsh lesson in the realities of top-flight football as Arsenal ran riot to ensure the promoted side left North London with negative goal difference.
Reduced in number by Ian Evatt‘s red card for a professional foul on Marouane Chamakh, Blackpool were powerless to resist an attacking onslaught led by the brilliant Walcott. His efforts were supplemented by an Andrei Arshavin penalty, an Abou Diaby finish and a Chamakh header.
It could have been worse for Blackpool; Chamakh produced a miss bad enough to guarantee lifetime inclusion in those Christmas bloopers DVDs.
Walcott opened the scoring on 12 minutes, finishing a move that was pure Arsenal; slick, diagonal passing from left to right featuring Tomas Rosicky, Ashavin (twice) and Chamakh, before Walcott side-footed low into the left corner.
Blackpool reacted well and should have been level when Stephen Crainey crossed to the back post from the left. Gary Taylor-Fletcher rose high above Gael Clichy but headed wide when it looked like the hard work was done.
But it was game over just after the half-hour mark, when Evatt and Chamakh chased a through-ball, and the Blackpool defender brought down his opponent without touching the ball.
An honest challenge it may have been, but the laws are clear – red card. However, referee Mike Jones erroneously awarded a penalty when the contact was outside the box.
Arshavin converted the penalty low into the right corner, and from then on Blackpool went into pure survival mode. Or at least they tried to.
Jack Wilshere found Walcott with his back to goal, and the winger turned his man before shooting past Gilks.
It should have been four just before half-time when Arsenal broke clear after a rare Blackpool corner, but for once Walcott’s pass went astray.
They stayed there until seconds after an incredible missed open goal from Chamakh, firing over from a couple of yards just after the hour mark. Wenger’s response was to unleash his star pair, which seemed a little cruel.
A couple of minutes later Walcott went off to a standing ovation. Take nothing away from a superb performance by the 21-year-old, but his detractors might say it is one thing excelling against a 10-man Blackpool side – quite another to do it against top-class opposition.
Chamakh partly atoned for his earlier miss by netting a downward header from a Van Persie corner to complete the rout. Despite his goal, Chamakh did not exactly look the part and the Moroccan may struggle to keep his place when Van Persie returns to full throttle.
As time ticked down, the powerless Holloway wore a resigned look on his face. If rumours of his discontent with boardroom machinations at the club have substance it may not be the last time we will see the words ‘Holloway’ and ‘resigned’ in close proximity.
Welcome to the Premier League.
Alex Chick / Eurosport