Yes, that’s the sound of the Seasiders coming crashing back down to Earth. Unlike last week at the DW Stadium, yesterday was a more realistic welcome to what we can expect from life in the Premier League. We were soundly beaten, and in the end were lucky to keep the scoreline down to six. That’s how emphatically better Arsenal were than us. The sheer pace the Gunners break forward at is frightening and as a football purist, it was hard not to admire, however painful it is to see your team go down 6-0.
So, were there any positives? The sending off naturally played a huge role in our downfall, and up until then we’d given a fairly decent account of ourselves. In fact, if Taylor-Fletcher had taken his glorious opportunity when we were only 1-0 down and still had 11 men on the pitch, it may have been a different game entirely. Even after being reduced to ten, it was refreshing to see the Blackpool players still trying to pass the ball. Naive perhaps, in terms of preventing a humiliating result, but good experience nonetheless and it’s another step towards bedding the new players into our style of play. The way in which Arsenal play is something to aspire to, and against the lesser teams I’m sure we’ll have our successes.
Importantly, I don’t feel that this game will have damaged team confidence as much as some on the outside may think. Had they lost belief yesterday, they would have resorted to the long ball, which never happened. The vocal support from the travelling fans will also have been a boon. The fans have a great deal of respect for what these players have achieved and demonstrated this by backing the team magnificently, in spite of the score. For the last half hour the Emirates was a cauldron of noise, and an outsider turning up 60 mins in would have been excused for thinking Blackpool were winning 5-0, given the volume of the respective fans.
While yesterday was simply to be expected, next week’s game could be a defining moment. The visit of Fulham signals the Seasiders first home game in the Premier League. Bloomfield Road will need to be a fortress if the club wants to mount a serious survival challenge. Not only will we require victories against fellow strugglers, but home wins against the middle tier of teams such as the Cottagers will be key. At a re-developed ground, the home fans will be out in numbers not seen for a generation, and if they can show the same backing they did in North London, it will be an intimidating venue for Mark Hughes’ side.