Blackpool’s charmed run in the top-flight could finally be over when grumpy Arsenal travel to Bloomfield Road on Sunday.
The barebones squad at Blackpool has so far confounded expectations of a quick trip back to the Championship, with Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp both tipping their cap to Seasiders boss Ian Holloway as Blackpool rounded the New Year inside the top 10.
But 2011 has not been kind to the Premier League minnows, who have lost 10 of 14 league fixtures this side of January 1 to plummet to 17th in the standings.
Sunday’s 3-0 loss at Fulham left Blackpool teetering a mere point away from the relegation zone, with the likes of Wolverhampton and West Ham United primed to cash in on the fledgling club’s vulnerability.
And next up is a visit from the seething Gunners, who have fallen seven points behind league leaders Manchester United with a run of three straight draws.
It seems incredible to think Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was openly discussing the possibility of a quadruple at the Emirates in February – how times have changed.
The Gunners’ title aspirations have since dwindled down to just the one possibility and Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to Bolton – their second goalless stalemate in three league games – may have put paid to that hope too.
Wenger, robbed of using fatigue as an excuse after the international break, seemed at a loss for an explanation after Arsenal’s meek showing against Bolton and admitted to being “really concerned”.
But a trip to leaky Bloomfield Road, where Blackpool have not allowed the visiting side to hold them to keep a clean sheet this season – or held anyone else goalless, for that matter – could be what inspires the title hopefuls to get back on track.
At the very least, it would not be unreasonable to expect improved performances from the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby and Alex Song, all of who returned from injuries against Owen Coyle’s side.
That still leaves a number of players on the Emirates injury table, including Johan Djourou, Wojciech Szczesny, Thomas Vermaelen and Lukasz Fabianski.
For Blackpool, top-scorer DJ Campbell returns from a three-game suspension which, due to a quirk in the fixture, has lasted six weeks.
Campbell will be short on match fitness but should still provide some welcome class up front for the Tangerines.
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