Blackpool will seek to turn home advantage into a famous upset when they host Premier League side Arsenal in the third round of the FA Cup at Bloomfield Road on Saturday (5.30pm GMT, live on BT Sport).
Blackpool may ply their trade in League One, two divisions down their pyramid from their visitors, but they need only look to last year’s third round for inspiration. There, then-League One side Wigan and League Two’s Coventry both downed Premier League opposition.
It wasn’t too long ago that Blackpool were themselves briefly a top-flight side. They lost home and away to Arsenal in their solitary Premier League campaign in the 2010-11 season. It had only taken them nine years to rise from the fourth tier to the top flight. It only took them another five to find themselves right back where they started down in League Two.
In recent years, the club has been plagued by financial troubles and regular protests against their owners, but things have at least started to go a bit better out on the pitch. They were promoted back to League One at the end of the 2016-17 season. After finishing 12th last season, they are in 10th this time around, albeit some distance from the playoff places.
Indeed, Blackpool come into Saturday’s match on a back of a five-match winless streak in league play, encompassing one draw and four defeats. They failed to score in all but one of those encounters, and coach Terry McPhillips will have to hope that his forwards Nathan Delfouneso and Armand Gnanduillet can rediscover their scoring touch in time for the midday cup showdown.
Progress to the third round was secured by victories over Exeter City and Solihull Moors, but Blackpool have only once made it further than this stage in any of last six seasons. They haven’t gone further than the fifth round since their famous triumph in 1953, when Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen drove them to a 4-3 defeat of Bolton Wanderers at Wembley.
That was Blackpool’s only FA Cup, which stands in direct contrast to Arsenal’s record in the competition. The Gunners are the most successful team in the history of the FA Cup, having lifted the trophy on 13 occasions and been losing finalists a further seven times.
Arsenal had triumphed in three of the previous four seasons prior to their third round exit at the hands of Championship side Nottingham Forest last time out. It was the first time since 1996 they had been eliminated at such an early juncture. They will be determined to make further progress this time around.
Unai Emery’s side come into the match on the back of a 4-1 win at home to Fulham on Tuesday. It was the sort of result they needed after their 1-5 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool in their previous match and one that was secured thanks to goals from Granit Xhaka, Alexandre Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Arsenal’s attack has performed impressively since Emery’s arrival in the summer, averaging over two goals per match. Their defence has been a weak point, conceding almost three goals for every two matches they play. Given the disparities in the talent available to him at both ends of the pitch, it is a tradeoff that is probably worth making, albeit one that probably still gives the edge to others in the fight for a top-four finish.
It is, though, an approach that will in all likelihood prove too much for Blackpool to deal with. If Blackpool were themselves a bit more of an attacking force, it would have been easier to make an argument in their favour, but even if Emery elects to rest a few of his regular starters following a hectic festive period, Arsenal have enough quality to take the win.
That feeling is strengthened by the fact they already have a victory over Blackpool to their credit this season. The two teams met in the Carabao Cup in October, with goals from Stephan Lichtsteiner and Emilie Smith Rowe seeing Arsenal through despite Paudie O’Connor pulling one back in the second half after Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin had been sent off. A repeat result is the most likely outcome on Saturday.
Our review’s Blackpool vs. Arsenal Betting Tips Verdict
- Back Arsenal -2 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 23/18 with BetVictor.
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