To get involved use
) or text us via 81111 with FOOTBALL before your message. (Not all contributions can be used. Messages will be charged at your standard operator rate.)
By Chris Bevan
1817: So, a good day for Arsenal (and their 41-year-old stand-in keeper Jens Lehmann), and a pretty decent one for Aston Villa too. If you haven't seen this afternoon's goals, or the decision that might have seen Lehmann sent off, then be sure to tune in to MOTD2 (on BBC One and this website in the UK) at 2225 BST. I'm off into what is left of the sun, and Pranav Soneji will take you through Liverpool versus Manchester City on Monday. Bye for now.
FULL-TIME Blackpool 1-3 Arsenal Chief football writer Phil McNultyreports from Bloomfield Road: "Arsenal keep their title hopes alive - despite having to thrust Jens Lehmann into action very late in the day and then suffering a rocky patch at the start of the second half. Lehmann salutes Arsenal fans at the final whistle, but Blackpool will feel robbed by referee Lee Mason's failure to award them a penalty as they chased an equaliser."
1815: Two games today, and plenty of talking points. Here's how our reporters saw things...
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew on his side's defeat at Villa Park: "We missed the core of our team today - some big players were out. We put a gallant effort in but our passing could have been crisper. Villa were nervous, though, and we could still have nicked something at the end."
Aston Villa striker Darren Bent on his disallowed offside goal and what beating Newcastle means to his struggling side: "We have looked at the replay on TV at half-time and thought it was onside but the main thing was that we got the three points today. Every other result went our way and we have done our bit too. We have got another cup final against West Ham next week but we will take a lot of confidence into that game."
1802: Villa are the only side in the bottom half of the Premier League to win this weekend, and their reward is to climb to 14th on 37 points, five points above the drop zone. Newcastle remain ninth, only two points better off, and are still not clear of trouble themselves... especially on that showing. Alan Pardew needs to get some of his players fit, and suspended trio Kevin Nolan, Cheik Tiote and James Perch too.
Former England and Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor on BBC Radio 5 live: "Villa are very pleased with this and it'll settle some nerves. Many people will think that's them safe now, but they'll have to play better than that in their remaining games. But it's the result that matters, ultimately. The front two of Newcastle never gave their defence any problems."
MorpethTown on Twitter:
"A particularly awful performance by Villa's finest against Newcastle's B team. 6-1 on aggregate and deserved."
1755: FULL-TIME Aston Villa 1-0 Newcastle
1755: Ryan Taylor takes it, bending the ball over the Villa wall... but over the bar too.
1753: Brad Friedel is belatedly earning his corn, this time denying Peter Lovenkrands with his foot. More work to come? Yep, Newcastle have a free-kick about 25 yards out after Carlos Cuellar took out Fabricio Coloccini, earning him a yellow card.
1752: Newcastle have been poor today but Villa haven't been that much better... which is why they are still leading by only one goal. A few nervous moments still to come for their fans.
1751: There will be five minutes of added time at Villa Park, and we have about four of them left to play.
1750: The inevitable has finally happened. Yep, Joey Barton goes into Stuart Attwell's book after a bit of afters with Nigel Reo-Coker. Can I use my handbags graphic? Thanks. Barton was lucky not to be booked for dissent after Villa scored, to be honest.
1749: Here's Newcastle's big chance. Peter Lovenkrands gets on the end of a clipped ball into the area but his header is not powerful enough to beat Brad Friedel. The start of a late, late comeback?
1745: Joey Barton took it, and Brad Friedel caught it, unchallenged. Anyway let's press on - Villa have brought on Robert Pires for Gabriel Agbonlahor.
1744: Newcastle have won a corner. Yes, things are that desperate.
1742: Another change for Newcastle. Magpies boss Alan Pardew is bringing Shefki Kuqi on up front in place of Nile Ranger. Ranger's first Premier League start was not a huge success.
1741: Stiliyan Petrov is booked for bringing down Joey Barton and, in an urelated incident, we have a slight delay while Ashley Young needs treatment. He is back on his feet again now.
Former England and Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor on BBC Radio 5 live: "If we were in the business of awarding man of the match - and thankfully we are not - then Newcastle's Jose Enrique would get it."
Ashley Young would get the nod for me...
1737: Villa make their second substitution. Carlos Cuellar replaces Kyle Walker.
1736: Less than 15 minutes to go and Villa still lead 1-0. Newcastle have not posed the home side any problems in the second half.
1735: Another Ashley Young corner, and thankfully for Villa he doesn't over-hit this one. That means James Collins can attack it nearer the penalty spot but Newcastle have enough men between him and the goal to block his header.
1732: Villa are dominating but their final ball into the box has not always been the best. Ashley Young has just sent over a corner that was so deep it almost cleared the penalty area on the other side of the pitch. James Collins did very well to get his head on it but, not surprisingly, he could not do much with it.
1729: A second Villa goal would surely finish Newcastle off here - at the moment the Magpies don't even look like getting one.
1726: Time for a Villa switch too. Jean Makoun is off, and Nigel Reo-Coker is on.
From Newcastle fan Navy Davy, via text: "No surprises here, we are down to our 4th choice striker - this is a good advert for why Mike Ashley needs to splash the cash in the summer."
1723: Steve Harper is involved again, this time to push away a cross-shot from Ashley Young from the left. Time for a Newcastle change? Overdue, I think. Anyway, Ryan Taylor is on for Steven Taylor and that means Fabricio Coloccini drops back into defence. Taylor will operate on the right of midfield.
1721: It doesn't seem to be Darren Bent's day today. The Villa striker has had what seemed a perfectly-good goal ruled out for offside, now he has a penalty appeal rejected. Bent goes to ground when Steven Taylor runs across him, and thinks he has been fouled too. There was contact but a spot-kick for that would have been harsh on Newcastle.
1718: Gabriel Agbonlahor has a pop from the edge of the box but Newcastle keeper Steve Harper is down to his left and collects easily enough. He has been by far the busier keeper - I can only remember one save by Brad Friedel, from Nile Ranger in the first half.
1717: Coming up to an hour gone at Villa Park, where the shadows are stretching across the pitch. Villa still lead 1-0 and we have not seen too many signs that Newcastle are going to change that.
1715: Villa, on the other hand, are creating plenty of openings. Ashley Young picks up the ball and lets fly from 25 yards out, bringing another decent stop by Steve Harper down at his right-hand post. No corner given, though, because Stuart Attwell didn't see Harper get a touch.
1713: Plenty of industry by Newcastle, but not much quality in the final third... they just cannot break Villa down at the moment.
1709: Villa attack again, down the opposite flank. Stewart Downing stands up a lovely cross after getting to the bye-line but there is no-one at the back post to get on the end of it.
1708: Villa start the second half by going on the attack. Stiliyan Petrov feeds Gabriel Agbonlahor out on the left and he cuts inside before firing in a fierce shot that brings a smart save by Steve Harper.
From Andrew, via text: "Defence is looking shaky every time Villa play the long ball. We need to get Fabricio Coloccini back in defence in place of Williamson and get Ryan Taylor on the right wing, dropping Joey back into the centre. It'll give us more width, and might even prevent conceding another ill-deserved goal."
1704: Oh no they don't. Stuart Attwell wants the kick-off retaken.... second time lucky? Yep, here we go...
1704: Aston Villa get the second half under way.
1702: Lots of Magpies fans have been in touch ruing their side's injury problems and lack of options up front, in particular. Not an awful lot on the Magpies bench to turn this game around is there? Their subs are: Krul, Ryan Taylor, Ferguson, Donaldson, Tavernier, Richardson and Kuqi.
From WinterAlex, via text: "Newcastle seriously lacking an attack and defence today. Midfield looks good though, expertly controlled by the man of the hour."
1654: The Villa fans have given Joey Barton a bit of stick this afternoon, including a little chant about him being "just a not very good Gareth Barry". That wasn't the actual term they used, but you probably worked that out for yourselves...
Former England and Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor on BBC Radio 5 live: "Villa have got this 1-0 lead and that should settle them down a bit. But when you look at Newcastle, they've probably been the better side yet they've really lacked end-product."
1648: HALF-TIME: Aston Villa 1-0 Newcastle Alistair Magowan's
HT snapshot: "Villa scored against the run of play but since then the action has subsided in the Birmingham sunshine. England's best midfielder* Joey Barton might have scored but he has played his part at the other end by upending Ashley Young for the free-kick that led to the goal. *His words not mine."
1647: Well, Villa have the ball in the back of the net again but it has been ruled out. Jean Makoun does brilliantly to hold the ball up on the edge of the area and slide the ball through to Darren Bent, who slots home... but he is flagged offside. TV replays showed that decision was very tight... I only got one look at it but he appeared to be just onside to me.
1644: It has been a while since Jose Enrique got forward down the left for Newcastle, but this time he steals a march on Kyle Walker... who has to scramble to recover and block his cross. That's a corner, which Joey Barton takes... but it is easily cleared.
1642: He's back on his feet now, though. Young jogs gingerly back on to the pitch as Brad Friedel punts a long clearance down the pitch.
1642: A bit of a delay at Villa Park. Ashley Young is down and having treatment.
1641: About five minutes to go until the break. Newcastle are badly in need of a lift - all the zip has gone out of their play.
1640: Darren Bent should do much better here, from another header. He is first to Stewart Downing's cross from the left, but cannot adjust his body and his header sails a mile over the bar from about six yards out. Newcastle are not exactly convincing at the back so far.
OptaJoe on Twitter:
"11% - Before today only 11% of the goals Newcastle had conceded this season were headed goals, the lowest ratio in the league. Breached."
From anon, via text: "As a Manchester United fan I feel that Ashley Young would be a great signings this summer. Nani and Valencia have been outstanding of late but, watching Young play for Aston Villa this season, his presence would complement the United midfield."
I think Ashley Young would fit nicely into most midfields, to be honest. The next Villa player to head to Manchester?
1634: Newcastle have had the better of the play since going behind... but it is Villa who are fashioning the better chances. Ashley Young's corner is flicked on to Gabriel Agbonlahor at the back post but his attempt to force the ball home is thwarted by Steve Harper and at least two Newcastle defenders.
GrahamStokoe on Twitter:
"Come on Newcastle! That was poor set-play defending after such a bright start as well! Very disappointing!"
1631: Good old Joey Barton is in Stuart Atwell's ear again, claiming Jean Makoun handled out on the touchline. Looking at the TV replays, he has a point. Anyway, Newcastle find themselves behind just when they looked like they were taking charge of this game. Time to see how they will respond...
Former England and Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor on BBC Radio 5 live: "Everyone up here has been worrying about Villa, especially in the Holte End. That's exactly what they needed."
Villa goal: Newcastle, particularly Joey Barton, dispute the award of a Villa free-kick out on the left but ref Stuart Atwell waves them away. When play does continue, Ashley Young swings the ball in and James Collins leaps to flick his header into the far corner of the net. A simple goal, but a good one.
1625: GOALFLASH Aston Villa 1-0 Newcastle (Collins)
1623: Stuart Atwell gets out his cards for the first time. Gabriel Agbonlahor rides a Danny Guthrie challenge and motors forward, only to be taken out by Mike Williamson. That's a booking.
1622: Hmmm. I have a feeling that Villa's fans will make even more noise if their side concede here - I doubt they will be too appreciative of boss Gerard Houllier, though. This is an awkward spell for the home side - the Magpies are well on top.
1621: Newcastle are looking the more menacing at the moment. Nile Ranger elects to shoot after cutting into the area but he really should have passed to the unmarked Peter Lovenkrands instead. Brad Friedel easily stopped Ranger's low effort.
1620: Villa's fans are still making plenty of noise but they are yet to see their side really threaten. Luke Young sends over a cross from the left, but it is too deep for Stewart Downing, and Jose Enrique is able to shepherd it out of play.
1617: Our first real chance, and it falls to the self-proclaimed best midfielder in England. Jonas Gutierrez frees Jose Enrique and his deep cross finds Joey Barton unmarked at the back post. Barton probably has time to take a touch but decides to fling himself at the bouncing ball and his header is a long way off target. In fairness, it was hardly an easy opening... although Graham Taylor on BBC Radio 5 live says he thinks Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard would have scored from there. Cheeky.
1613: Villa's best bet seems to be to use their width, and they do just that when Kyle Walker runs at Jonas Gutierrez and forces a corner. Stewart Downing sends it over, but the Magpies clear their lines.
1611: We have had 10 minutes of play at Villa Park. All very low-key so far, and still 0-0.
1609: Finally, Newcastle's first attack of note. Joey Barton lofts the ball into the area and Nile Ranger gets on the end of it but Peter Lovenkrands cannot reach his knockdown.
1608: Newcastle have still not really settled yet, but Villa's attacks have largely been limited to aimless punts downfield in the direction of Darren Bent. That approach hasn't proved too successful so far...
1605: A bit of a mix-up between Steven Taylor and his goalkeeper Steve Harper as a ball bounces into the Magpies area - Taylor heads it behind and that's a corner, which Harper has to punch clear. Newcastle are under a bit of pressure here.
1603: The Villa fans are in good voice so far, and their side have made a decent start too. No chances yet, but Newcastle have hardly touched the ball. Before you get carried away, we have only been playing for two minutes.
1601: Here we go. Newcastle get us under way.
From Ian, via text: "It'll be interesting to see how Fabricio Coloccini copes in midfield for Newcastle but I can't remember a good enough performance from Danny Guthrie to make me feel comfortable."
1556: The players emerge into the sunshine at Villa Park. Newcastle have left their stripes at home - they are in all-white this afternoon.
From Iain in Gravesend, via text: "As a Newcastle fan I'm pretty nervous about this match. A win will highly strengthen our league position, but Villa are out for revenge. Both teams are going to be fighting hard which could make for a very messy game. On a good note, at least we will stay above Sunderland regardless of the outcome."
gavingrewcock3 on Twitter:
"Re Barton's comments. For me, Barton is right. He's been immense this season, should be in the England squad ahead of Barry at least."
lharris92 on Twitter:
"Re Barton's comments. Clearly Joey Barton hasn't seen what Scott Parker has done for West Ham the past few seasons then..."
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on stand-in keeper Jens Lehmann's performance in their win at Blackpool: "Jens can be very proud. The way he practises every day is outstanding. He has helped the club win a big game, and it will have an impact at the end of the season. He's intelligent and committed." And on the title race: "Let's first win the next game (against Liverpool next Sunday). We are on a long unbeaten run, and I knew we'd still have a chance if we won this game. But we must win the game in hand."
1549: The four clubs below Aston Villa in the Premier League have all lost this weekend, but a win for Gerard Houllier's men would do themselves an even bigger favour - three points would lift them up to 14th, five points above the drop zone.
From Chuck in London, via text: "Why does everyone keep saying Arsenal have a game in hand like it's a formality? they're away to Spurs. Hardly a guaranteed 3 points."
From Josh Scott in Sleaford, via text: "Arsenal may have won but as a Man Utd fan what I saw was a really dodgy defence from Arsenal and against a better team that will get punished."
Jay_Ray_93 on Twitter:
"Gutted Blackpool lost but I reckon Villa will turn over that 6-0 drubbing. Bent hat-trick."
1541: Ha! Robin van Persie says he would have gone in goal had Jens Lehmann been sent off when Blackpool scored. That, I would have liked to see. You can't beat an outfield player going in nets - my all-time favourite being Vinnie Jones against Newcastle. I'm pretty sure Ian Holloway and the Blackpool fans would have welcomed it as well...
Just in case you missed it, here's Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton
speaking to French magazine So Foot this week: "Honestly, I think I'm the best [English midfielder]. Luka Modric and Samir Nasri are very good, but in terms of English players... well, Jack Wilshere isn't bad, but Frank Lampard's on the way down and Steven Gerrard's been injured a lot."
ASTON VILLA v NEWCASTLE TEAM NEWS Alistair Magowan
reports: Aston Villa make one change to the side that drew against Everton last weekend. Stiliyan Petrov replaces Nigel Reo-Coker in the centre of midfield. Newcastle, on the other hand, make three changes to the team which beat Wolves. Kevin Nolan is suspended so Fabricio Coloccini is expected to move into midfield with Steven Taylor replacing him at the back. Nile Ranger comes in for Shola Ameobi up front while Jose Enrique is also in the side after a hamstring problem.
1535: We were talking earlier about how this could turn out to be a disappointing campaign for Arsenal fans (although their mood might be lifted by their win today), but it could be a nigh on disastrous one from Aston Villa's point of view. Gerard Houllier's men are hovering dangerously above the relegation zone, an unlikely predicament when you consider the attacking talent in their squad. Too good to go down? We shall see. Newcastle have also been flirting with the drop in recent weeks but they pretty much put those fears to bed when they
took Wolves to the cleaners last weekend,
although in a season like this one it probably isn't wise to dismiss anything until it is mathematically impossible.
Arsenal stand-in keeper Jens Lehmann after being asked whether he should stay in goal for the Gunners' next game: "I don't care."
Aston Villa v Newcastle line-ups Aston Villa: Friedel, Walker, Dunne, Collins, Luke Young, Downing, Petrov, Makoun, Ashley Young, Agbonlahor, Bent. Subs: Marshall, Pires, Albrighton, Heskey, Reo-Coker, Clark, Cuellar. Newcastle: Harper, Simpson, Steven Taylor, Williamson, Jose Enrique, Barton, Guthrie, Coloccini, Gutierrez, Ranger, Lovenkrands. Subs: Krul, Ryan Taylor, Ferguson, Donaldson, Tavernier, Richardson, Kuqi. Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)
Aston Villa winger Ashley Young on his side's 6-0 hammering by Newcastle at St James' Park in August: "When you come back home, and get to play the team again, you want to set the record straight and get a better result. I think that is what everyone is looking to do. It wasn't a nice feeling and all the players were upset in the changing room afterwards and we want to get back out and put things right. As a team, it was one of those defeats you don't want to think about and you want to get that out of your memory."
ASTON VILLA v NEWCASTLE (1600 BST) Alistair Magowan
reports: "This match could be perfect for Villa to build momentum ahead of four games against relegation rivals as they take on Newcastle, who are without several of their regular players through suspension and injury. Gerard Houllier's side will also be looking to avenge a 6-0 spanking in August following the departure of former boss Martin O'Neill."
1525: So, Manchester United's lead is now back down to seven points and Arsenal still have a game in hand AND are still to play Sir Alex Ferguson's men at the Emirates. Like I said earlier, don't write the Gunners off just yet...
1523: FULL-TIME Blackpool 1-3 Arsenal
1521: Arsenal are still looking very comfortable and it takes some clever defending by Blackpool defender Alex Baptiste to stop Robin van Persie escaping again.
1520: We will have three minutes of stoppage time at Bloomfield Road.
1519: This game is rather petering it out - Arsenal's third goal finished it as a contest. Theo Walcott tries to fire in number four from a free-kick, but his effort is wide of Richard Kingson's right-hand post.
1517: Another switch? Yes, sorry. Off comes my man-of-the-match Cesc Fabregas and on comes Aaron Ramsey. We have just two minutes of the 90 to go.
1516: More changes, by both teams. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger takes Samir Nasri is off, to be replaced by Kieran Gibbs. And Blackpool make their third substitution, with Sergei Kornilenko replacing Jason Puncheon.
1515: Maybe this one isn't over just yet? Ian Evatt gets on the end of a cross from the right but his header does not trouble Jens Lehman.
1512: Blackpool boss Ian Holloway makes another change. Matt Phillips replaces Keith Southern.
1510: Cesc Fabregas has been outstanding today, and he almost caps his fine display with a goal. It would have been a cheeky one too - the Spaniard meets a corner on the edge of the box but his header loops just the wrong side of the post.
1509: With 10 minutes to go, I was going to say that goal should put this game to bed, but Gael Clichy has other ideas. He is caught in possession by Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who plays in DJ Campbell... but his shot is kept out by Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann. That was still pretty dozy defending, though.
Arsenal goal: Breathing space for Arsenal, after a brilliant goal on the counter-attack. Cesc Fabregas, inevitably, is involved, helping the ball down the right and setting Theo Walcott free. Walcott looks up and delivers the perfect pass for Robin van Persie in front of goal, and the Dutch striker can hardly miss. He doesn't.
1505: GOALFLASH Blackpool 1-3 Arsenal (Van Persie)
1504: Another Arsenal chance comes and goes. Cesc Fabregas lifts the ball over the Blackpool defence again, and Robin van Persie, in acres of space, elects to take a swing at it rather than controlling the ball. He does get hold of his shot, but it flies over Richard Kingson's bar, and he should have done a lot better with that.
1501: Right, 20 minutes left for Blackpool to salvage something from this game. The sting has gone out of their attack a little of late and they have more defending to do when Robin van Persie somehow wriggles along the bye-line. He tries to pull it back as he approaches Richard Kingson's near post but loses his balance at the wrong moment.
1458: Stephen Crainey trips Theo Walcott near the corner flag and that's another booking for Lee Mason to dish out... Crainey's team-mate Keith Southern was also booked a few minutes ago for a foul on Jack Wilshere.
1457: Blackpool are defending a lot better as well at the moment, surviving a little spell of Arsenal possession and pressure. The Seasiders have just had another half-chance too, when Jason Puncheon burst into the box from Charlie Adam's clever ball, but his control let him down and Arsenal cleared the danger.
garrethhawkins on Twitter:
"I don't know what Holloway said at half time but boy has it worked, Blackpool have come out looking like a brand new team!"
Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Bloomfield Road
"Blackpool know Arsenal have cracked under pressure before this season and they are really starting to put them under the cosh. Bloomfield Road is buzzing and Arsenal are rattling. And surely that was a penalty as Gary Taylor-Fletcher went down under Laurent Koscielny's challenge?"
1452: Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie combine again, with Fabregas slipping Van Persie free but the Dutchman's low angled shot flies just past Richard Kingson's left-hand post.
1450: And Arsenal make a switch too. Andrey Arshavin is replaced by Theo Walcott, who has got half-an-hour or so left to bag another hat-trick against Blackpool following his treble against the Seasiders in August.
1449: Time for a Blackpool change. Andy Reid is on for Luke Varney.
1448: Arsenal's first real attack since the interval sees Robin van Persie tee up Cesc Fabregas but his first-time shot is blocked by Keith Southern.
From James in Warrington, via text: "I don't know about you but I think Blackpool would have preferred a penalty and to play for 40 mins against 10 men and an outfield player in goal!"
1447: Arsenal wobble again. Samir Nasri gives the ball away and, when the cross comes in from the right, Keith Southern flings himself at it at the near post. Any decent contact, and it is a goal, but the ball flicks off his head and continues across the face of goal. Chance gone.
1445: Worth considering that Arsenal don't have a back-up keeper on the bench had Blackpool not scored and Jens Lehmann had been sent off for that foul. Anyway, more drama to tell you about. Laurent Koscielny gets nothing on the ball as he slides in on Gary Taylor-Fletcher just inside the Arsenal box, but then brings the striker down with his trailing leg. It looks a clear penalty to me (and furious Seasiders boss Ian Holloway) but Lee Mason says no. Not such a good decision, that one.
Blackpool goal: Credit to referee Lee Mason, who plays advantage twice as Blackpool score. First he allows the Seasiders to break forward despite Jack Wilshere's foul, for which he is later booked. DJ Campbell is felled by Jens Lehmann as he runs through on goal but Mason lets play continue and Gary Taylor-Fletcher picks up the loose ball to slot home.
1441: GOALFLASH Blackpool 1-2 Arsenal (Taylor-Fletcher)
1439: Another Charlie Adam free-kick, this time out on the left. He slips as he takes it but the ball still curls into the path of Luke Varney at the near post... but his first-time shot is a fraction wide. A Blackpool goal now would make this very interesting.
1437: Blackpool begin the half by pouring forward, but their final ball - whether it be a Gary Taylor-Fletcher cross or Charlie Adam free-kick - is not good enough to trouble the visitors.
1434: Arsenal get us back under way.
1433: The upshot is that Arsenal are well on top but haven't quite wrapped this game up yet. I'm not sure when I last saw a defensive display as poor as Blackpool's has been so far, but they can't be as bad in the second half, can they?
From Matt, via text: "I remember Newcastle away, so I won't be comfortable until the final whistle goes & we have at least 1 more goal than Blackpool."
From Andy in Bolton, via text: "This isn't a match that Blackpool have to get anything from. Next week at home to Wigan is a massive game."
rjh2468 on Twitter:
" Everyone needs to remember who Arsenal's centre backs are. And Arsenal always let a lead slip. Blackpool will be fine..."
1425: A few of you are asking what Jens Lehmann did to Manuel Almunia in the warm-up to ensure he got a game today... we were right first time because it is a knee injury (not illness) that is behind Almunia's absence, but I don't think his veteran understudy was involved in the incident.
richwarner123 on Twitter:
"As much as I admire Blackpool's football, you can't defend like they have for Arsenal's two goals and expect to stay in this league."
1419: HALF-TIME: Blackpool 0-2 Arsenal Chief football writer Phil McNulty's
HT snapshot: "Just the half Arsene Wenger needed to lift his spirits and keep those flickering Premier League title hopes alive. Blackpool boss Ian Holloway? Might be worth him mentioning that Newcastle United came from four down to get a point against Arsenal."
1417: Some escape for Arsenal this time, right on the stroke of half-time. Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Charlie Adam combine down the right and, when the cross comes in, DJ Campbell looks to turn it in from point-blank range but is denied by Jens Lehmann's leg. Not sure he knew too much about it, but a great stop. Cesc Fabregas coolly clears the loose ball from under his own crossbar to mop up.
1416: Our first yellow of the afternoon. Abou Diaby concedes a foul on the halfway line, then hoofs the ball away. Silly boy.
1416: Jack Wilshere tries to chip Richard Kingson after being played in by Samir Nasri, but doesn't quite get enough height on the ball.
1414: Total one-way traffic at the moment. Arsenal have just put the ball in the back of the Blackpool net again, but it was ruled out for offside. That brought ironic cheers from the home fans who think the Gunners are not being flagged often enough when they charge forward... but the problem is with the Seasiders' defending, not the officials.
1411: Not sure how Blackpool survived this. The home side are playing a high defensive line and Arsenal are breaking through, time and time again. This time Robin van Persie takes the ball past Richard Kingson and plays in Abou Diaby, but he dallies too long on the ball and Blackpool get defenders back to put the ball behind for a corner.
1409: Almost a third goal for the Gunners. Samir Nasri is unlucky when he is crowded out in the area after another nice Arsenal build-up, but he gets another chance soon afterwards, beating the offside trap to meet Cesc Fabregas's chip over the Blackpool defence, and meeting the ball perfectly as it drops over his shoulder... only to see his shot come back off the post. Unlucky, again.
1407: Around 10 minutes of the first half left. All going well for Arsenal so far - in fact, the only way their trip to Blackpool could get any better is if they get a ride on the donkeys after the game.
From anon, via text: "This game is far from over, all it needs is one quality set piece from Charlie Adam - then Arsenal's defence will be on the rocks."
1405: And there's a decent delivery by Charlie Adam too... whipping a delicious free-kick into the danger zone from the same flank. It's cleared easily enough, though, and Arsenal continue to look menacing when they get the ball. Cesc Fabregas just released Robin van Persie, but his shot from distance is dealt with by Richard Kingson.
1402: Better by Blackpool, who get it wide for the first time since the opening minutes. Stephen Crainey gets a cross in from the left but it hits Sebastien Squillaci's arm and flies out of play. No penalty, though... just a corner. Don't think Squillaci had any way of avoiding that.
fredhazard on Twitter:
"Looks like it's gonna be a long afternoon for Blackpool then... lets see what Holloway has up his sleeve."
1359: Blackpool have been struggling to get a touch of the ball at all recently, so any spell of possession is welcome. Charlie Adam tries to get things going with one of those diagonal balls of his out to the corner, but he gets it all wrong and curls it straight out of play.
Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Bloomfield Road
"Blackpool have looked bright and breezy going forward but they are all over the place in defence and the scoreline reflects their struggles. Arsenal's fans loving the weather and the way this game is going. Ian Holloway is exhorting his players to greater efforts - but those efforts would need to be superhuman to pull this around."
1355: I'm not sure what has happened to the Blackpool defence in the last five minutes but they don't seem to have learned their lesson. Arsenal seem to be cutting through them at will.
Arsenal goal: Blackpool's bright start seems a distant memory now. After another slick build-up, Emmanuel Eboue's rocket finish doubles Arsenal's lead. Blackpool keeper Richard Kingson is left exposed... and is helpless to keep it out.
1351: GOALFLASH Blackpool 0-2 Arsenal (Eboue)
Arsenal goal: Too easy, I'm afraid. Not that Arsenal will be complaining. A neat move, as you would expect, started and finished by Abou Diaby. The ball is sprayed out to Robin van Persie out on the left and when he sends it back across goal, it falls for Diaby to slot home.
1349: GOALFLASH Blackpool 0-1 Arsenal (Diaby)
kaufman39 on Twitter:
"Battle of the dodgy keepers this afternoon then. Mad Jens vs 'waste of space' Kingson. I'm backing Jens, Kingson is shocking."
1347: A shout for a Blackpool penalty when Gary Taylor-Fletcher is caught by Laurent Koscielny as they battle for a bouncing ball on the edge of the box. Looking at the replays, I'm not sure Koscielny got too much of the ball there.
1345: No wobbles yet from Jens Lehmann, who has had to deal with a couple of crosses from the right, the first from Charlie Adam and the second from Luke Varney. Jason Puncheon has had a shot on goal for the Seasiders but it was deflected wide.
1343: A big chance for Arsenal, when Robin van Persie latches on to Samir Nasri's clipped ball and runs clear. But his first touch is heavy, and the ball runs through to Blackpool keeper Richard Kingson. A hint of offside about Van Persie, anyhow.
From Dean in Bedford, via text: "Since Lehmann left in 2008 not one of our goalkeepers have commanded our area! I'm glad he's back and I hope he stays in goal for the rest of the season, we got a small chance of winning the league and when need all the experience we can get!"
1339: Free-kick to Arsenal, about 25 yards out. Robin van Persie is standing over it... but bends the ball a long way over the bar.
1338: Arsenal's first attack sees Robin van Persie send over a dangerous low cross, but none of his team-mates are there to get on the end of it. The Gunners get another sniff of goal moments later, mind, when Richard Kingson comes a long way to reach a cross from the right then punches the ball straight to Andrey Arshavin, who skews his first-time shot wide of the target from the edge of the area. Lively, from both sides.
1335: When Charlie Adam does fire the ball across, Ian Evatt is first to it at the near post... but he cannot direct his header on target. This is still a decent start by the Seasiders, though.
1333: Some early pressure from the home side and a couple of corners for Jens Lehmann to deal with. We have to wait for the second one to be taken because his shoelaces have come undone...
1331: Here we go, Blackpool get us under way. By the way, I'm now hearing Manuel Almunia is ill, not injured, but the end result is Jens Lehmann is starting in goal and Arsenal do not have a back-up keeper on the bench. The German told referee Lee Mason in the tunnel beforehand (with a smile) "you have to protect pensioners".
OptaJoe on Twitter:
"13 - It is 13 games since Blackpool last kept a clean sheet and they have won just one of their last 11 Premier League matches. Tumbling."
Infostrada Sports on Twitter:
"Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in three of the last four Premier League matches in which Jens Lehmann has played a part."
BLACKPOOL v ARSENAL TEAM NEWS Chief football writer Phil McNulty reports from Bloomfield Road: "The sudden elevation of Jens Lehmann after an absence of almost three years in the Arsenal goal following Manuel Almunia's injury is now the major talking point of Arsene Wenger's team selection. Drama even before the game. Blackpool boss Ian Holloway makes four changes from the side that lost at Fulham, the most significant of which is DJ Campbell's return after suspension."
1328: Here come the players at a sunny Bloomfield Road... kick-off is just a couple of minutes away.
RobRichardson12 on Twitter:
"Oh how I've missed Jens. He was definitely the highlight on MOTD for a number of reasons. I can't wait now - Thank you Arsene!"
1323: Manuel Almunia picked up a knee injury in the warm-up, hence Jens Lehmann's late inclusion. No news on how serious it is yet. Anyway, Arsenal have David Seaman and John Lukic on the bench as back-up (not really).
Lehmann has not exactly been in unbeatable form for the reserves, but I am sure he will enjoy his moment back in the sun...
1316: The 41-year-old Jens Lehmann's last game for Arsenal? A clean sheet in their 1-0 win over Everton in May 2008, when he was brought on a substitute for Manuel Almunia for the last 20 minutes. Have any of you Gunners fans missed him since he has been away?
1314: It's prediction time. Robbie and Mark of Take That
took a novel approach to predicting this weekend's scores,
but all the goals that flew in yesterday meant they didn't do too badly in the end. They are going for another couple of high-scoring games today too, while Lawro is backing Arsenal and Villa to come through, but only just. Your thoughts?
BREAKING ARSENAL TEAM NEWS Jens Lehmann will start in goal for the Gunners after an injury to Manuel Almunia in the warm-up.
1309: Blackpool, by the way, are on a run of one win in 11 games - it is form like that that has seen them perform the old 'glass mountain' slide down the table. Sunderland are the other side rivalling them for the prize of 'the worst finish to the season'... but are grateful to have a few more points already in the bag.
Blackpool boss Ian Holloway on reaching 39 points, which he believes will keep his side up: "We need a couple of wins and we might be able to do it, and it would be the greatest story ever. Obviously if our current form is anything to go by, it is not looking good, but if you look at the last time we played every team we have got left to play, we got 13 points out of 21 in the first part of the season. Surely we have to take some faith from that, and try to reproduce that at the business end of the season."
BlackyMatt on Twitter:
"Late night football in Melbourne, hoping the Seasiders can turn on the style and pull of a mini miracle against Arsenal."
Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner on his side's title hopes: "There will still be more twists and turns in this championship. We are still in with a chance. I firmly believe if we win all of our last eight games we will be champions, but we have to give it absolutely everything."
mattster4000 on Twitter:
"Re 1238. Yes, Arsenal definitely still in it. We play United at home, and they still have to play Chelsea! Come on you Gunners!"
1259: Just to clarify, Theo Walcott's treble versus Blackpool in August was his first club hat-trick... he had already bagged that memorable one for England
against Croatia in Zagreb in 2008.
Another one today? Well, he will have to come off the bench to do it.
From Anxious Andy, via text: "Re 1238. I think there are very few Gunners fans left who genuinely believe we could win the title; and beating Blackpool today won't change that."
BLACKPOOL v ARSENAL (1330 BST) Chief football writer Phil McNulty reports from Bloomfield Road: "Glorious sunshine by the seaside as Arsenal visit Blackpool. Arsene Wenger's frustration at his side's recent collapse was on show at his pre-match briefing on Friday. Victory is essential for The Gunners today and the optimists will point out that if they win their two games in hand on Manchester United the deficit at the top of the Premier League will only be four points. Blackpool have lost 10 of 14 Premier League games since the turn of year, but this is the first of a sequence of home games that will surely shape their fate this season."
1247: I cannot guarantee goals, obviously, but I'd like to be able to count on some chat from you lot. We can talk trophies or discuss the drop - it's up to you.
I'm Chris Bevan,
and you can tweet me at
using the hashtag
please. Or feel free to text me via 81111 (UK) instead.
1238: Let's not write the Gunners off just yet folks, and I'm pretty sure their fans haven't completely given up either (let me know on that one)... but it's fair to say nothing less than a win will do for them against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road today if they are going to have any hope of catching United. Some goals would definitely help though - Arsenal have managed just three in their last five outings. Anyway, that is our first game of the day, at 1330 BST, followed by Aston Villa versus Newcastle at 1600 BST.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.