Blackpool v Arsenal FA Cup third round: PREVIEW
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Arsenal head to the bright lights of Blackpool and the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday in a tournament that could prove to be Unai Emery’s best chance of silverware this season.
The Gunners travel to the Lancashire seaside town famous for its illuminations buoyed by an excellent result - if not performance – against London rivals Fulham on New Year’s Day at the Emirates.
The 4-1 victory on the first day of 2019 was the perfect tonic after the humiliating 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool three days before.
The defeat on Merseyside showed just how far the North Londoners have to go to be considered genuine title contenders, even if the Reds performance had many seasoned observers convinced they will finally put an end to their 29 year wait for a league title.
Speaking after the triumph Emery conceded there was still a lot of work to do defensively. He said: “Our challenge is to improve defensively. We are very happy with our attacking players but defensively we need to take more balance and improve. We need to do better in the second half of the season
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However, Arsenal are more concerned with easing past a troubled Tangerines side led by Terry McPhillips.
While tenth place in a strong League One is a superb achievement on the back of an unexpected promotion from the fourth tier last term the Bloomfield Road outfit are reeling off the field due to a stalemate between fans and controversial owner Owen Oyston and his chairman son Karl.
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With the famous Tangerines battered and bruised after years of neglect leading to a sad malaise it is the club’s long-suffering supporters that are suffering.
Talks of boycotts from loyal regulars have failed to dent travelling Gunners from cheering on their side in the North West with all 5,000 tickets snapped up.
Arsenal eased past a determined Blackpool 2-1 in the third round of the Carabao Cup back in October and will be aiming for a similar result.
Speaking at the club’s training base London Colney ahead of the trip to the North West Emery said: “It’s a new competition we are going to start, the FA Cup.
“In the history, it’s been very important for us. Arsenal is the team that has won this competition 13 times, more than anyone else.
“It’s a title and it’s a possibility for us to do something important.
“We are going to start that at Blackpool. We know them because we played against them and we have the respect.
“We’ll prepare for the match with this respect for them, but also respect for this competition. It’s a way to [win] a title. We want to play and have positive things with our supporters in this way.”
The admirable McPhillips, a former Halifax Town forward, saw his side lose 1-0 to a resurgent Sunderland on January 1 with the Black Cats roared on by more than 7,000 visitors from Wearside.
Yet the Seasiders will provide a stiff challenge for Arsenal as the defeat was only their eighth in 25 league games.
For live updates from Bloomfield Road press box follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29