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Arsenal beat seven bells out of Blackburn

Arsenal 7 Blackburn 1

van Persie 2, 38, 62, Oxlade-Chamberlain 40, 54, Arteta 51, Henry 90+3; Pedersen 32, Givet sent off 42

It has felt like a very long time since they dealt an opponent an old-fashioned shellacking, but Arsenal bounced back from the disappointment of Wednesday’s goalless draw at Bolton by putting seven past a beleaguered Blackburn. The visitors’ defence looked about as water-tight as a colander as the home side scored at will for an hour, before setting up all-time leading goalscorer Thierry Henry to provide a fairy-tale ending to a win which will lift spirits both in the dressing-room and the stands ahead of a tough and potentially season-defining sequence of games over the next few weeks.

Having played twice in the past six days, Arsene Wenger made two changes from the side that started at the Reebok Stadium. Bacary Sagna, who had made his first start after a long injury absence, was rested in favour of Francis Coquelin, while Tomas Rosicky stepped into midfield in place of Aaron Ramsey.

Szczesny

Coquelin – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Vermaelen

Song – Arteta

Rosicky

Walcott – van Persie – Oxlade-Chamberlain

Arsenal entered the game looking to end a disastrous sequence which had seen them collect just one point from four games in 2012. They were also looking to avenge the 4-3 embarrassment at Ewood Park in September, in which they had contributed to their own downfall with two soft own-goals. Their cause was helped by the absence of Yakubu (suspended) and Christopher Samba (dropped) from the visitors’ line-up.

One-way traffic interrupted by one tiny bump

Van Persie's hat-trick took his tally to 22 league goals this season (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

A large proportion of Arsenal’s troubles in recent weeks have been attributed to a lack of specialist full-backs, but here it was Blackburn’s poor defending on the flanks which allowed Arsenal to dictate the game.

The match was barely a minute old when Steve Kean‘s side were sliced open with surgical precision. Francis Coquelin, again deputising at right back, advanced and slid a weighted pass for Theo Walcott to latch on to. The England winger, the target of much anger from fans for his poor form over the past two months, rolled a composed ball back across the face of goal to pick out Robin van Persie at the back post for a simple tap-in. It was the Dutchman’s 121st Arsenal goal, moving him one ahead of club legend Dennis Bergkamp.

Blackburn were just as vulnerable on the other flank, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found plenty of space to run at or beyond defenders. He produced a couple of thrilling runs and one fantastic cross which unfortunately failed to find a red shirt in the box.

Arsenal generated chances with regularity, but without applying the final touch. A devilish free kick by van Persie offered Per Mertesacker a free header, but the big German managed to miss the ball altogether. Tomas Rosicky‘s swerving 25-yard drive took a faint deflection and fell just wide. Mertesacker headed over from a corner. And van Persie floated a right-footed chip past Paul Robinson but just wide of the far post.

Blackburn had barely been able to get the ball across midfield during the first half an hour but, completely out of the blue, they equalised with their first shot of the game. Laurent Koscielny conceded a free-kick in a central position 25 yards out, and Morten Gamst Pedersen‘s flatly struck shot flew into the top corner off Wojciech’s Szczesny‘s fingertips.

Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his first Premier League goal, and soon added a second (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

The Emirates crowd fell into stunned silence, but the home side were quickly back on top. Van Persie fired over after cleverly allowing the ball to run across his body but rapidly made amends with his and Arsenal’s second goal. Song’s penetrative pass was collected by the speeding Walcott on the by-line, and this time he picked out van Persie at the near post for another tap-in.

One of the most common accusations levelled at Arsene Wenger‘s side is their tendency to take their foot off opponents’ throats when they are on top. Not so here. Two minutes after retaking the lead, Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled it, coolly collecting van Persie’s threaded pass and rounding Robinson to score his first Premier League goal. Arsenal’s third goal had come from only their third shot on target – no issues with profligate finishing for once.

Things got even worse for Blackburn in the closing minutes of the half, as Gael Givet slid in two-footed on van Persie. The striker was lucky that he jumped just enough to avoid the worst of the contact. Givet, to his credit, apologised immediately, but there was never any doubt he would receive a red card for the challenge, which he duly did. And in stoppage time Thomas Vermaelen almost a fourth goal, hitting the post after being picked out by Mikel Arteta‘s cross.

Arsenal rediscover their ruthless streak

With Blackburn a man and two goals down, they understandably retreated into damage limitation mode after half-time. Arsenal could have been forgiven for easing off the gas, but instead they added two more goals inside ten minutes.

Arteta has scored three times against Blackburn this season (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

A van Persie corner was headed clear, only to be met by a ferocious first-time strike by Arteta on the edge of the area. The ball took a slight deflection as it whistled into the net, giving Robinson no chance. It marked the third Premier League game in which Arteta had scored against Blackburn this season, having netted for both Everton in August and in Arsenal’s defeat at Ewood Park.

And three minutes later Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled his league tally with a calm finish from ten yards after being picked out by fellow wide-man Walcott at the end of a long, mazy run – his third assist of the game.

That wasn’t to be the only hat-trick of the game, however, as van Persie duly bagged his third goal. Again the damage was initiated from the wide positions. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s superb cross-field pass found Coquelin in space on the right. The full-back advanced and clipped an intelligent cross to the near post for van Persie to sweep home right-footed from seven yards.

Henry put the full stop on a dominant Arsenal win (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

6-1 up, Arsenal had the luxury of taking off Koscielny, their most consistent defender, and the outstanding Oxlade-Chamberlain at the mid-point of the half. In stark contrast to the latter’s removal in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester United, there was no booing here – quite the contrary. But even then there was little respite for an embattled Blackburn, as the rest of the game was played almost exclusively in their half of the pitch and chance after chance rained down on their goal as Arsenal attempted to tee up substitute Thierry Henry.

Finally, with virtually the last kick of the game, they succeeded. Henry and van Persie broke forward after the former stole the ball in midfield and embarked on a game of ping-pong. The Frenchman attempted to set up the Dutchman, who slid it back across the face of the area to Henry, whose shot took a deflection off Scott Dann past Robinson.

It was the cherry on the icing on the most delicious of cakes, and for once Arsenal’s fans were able to greet the final whistle with lusty cheers and their appetites fully sated.

Post-match reaction and analysis

Arsene Wenger was delighted after the game with a result which fully reflected his side’s excellent performance:

I felt that recently we had quite good performances but did not get the results. Today we got the performance and the result, which is ideally what you want. I do not give much importance to the seven goals, it is just important we won and played well.

He was particularly pleased by the way his side kept up the pressure even after Blackburn had been reduced to ten men:

We remained serious and were guided by the way we want to play football and not by any extravagant individualism. That is positive. We were mature and serious, we played together until the end.

He highlighted the important supporting contributions made by both his wide men:

I feel providing today was as important as scoring. The flanks provided very well and scored through Alex. Robin is an exceptional football player and you could see that with his movement in the box, which could be shown in every football school. When you feed him in the box, he is deadly.

But he also preached the importance of not getting too carried away with one result:

It was important to the confidence of the side that we win a game and get three points but the result in itself will not make us win at Sunderland. What will make us win there with the confidence we got today is to continue to play the way we did today.

As we said before we need consistency. To win 1-0 at Sunderland would be fantastic and that’s what we have to prepare for, to produce a good performance.

Wenger’s final point is a crucial one. It is important not to get too carried away by a big result against a very poor Blackburn side, and one which of course carries only the same three-point tariff as a scrappy 1-0 victory. However, you can only beat the team in front of you, and the manner of this win is one which will fill everyone associated with the club with confidence ahead of a tough four-week stretch which starts with a visit to in-form Sunderland and takes in games against Liverpool and Spurs interwoven with the Champions League round-of-16 tie with AC Milan.

There was little to fault with Arsenal’s performance here. Virtually every shortcoming the team is so often criticised for was answered emphatically here. They converted dominant possession into chances (19 total shots). Eight were on target, of which seven were converted into goals, showing that Arsenal are capable of clinical finishing when on song. The quality and speed of passing from midfield was excellent – Arteta in particular was excellent – with 87% of passes successfully completed. And the team bristled with threat across the entire front three, with the speed of both Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain and their willingness to run both at and beyond the Blackburn defence opening up the space in which van Persie excels.

A special mention should also go to Coquelin, a midfielder renowned for his defensive qualities playing out of position at full-back. He was composed, exhibited an exemplary array of passing and was a willing and able threat coming forward. Seven tackles, four crosses and an assist in no way overstates his contribution to a fluid team display in which every individual played their part.

There are many big challenges to come over the next month, but Arsenal will know that when they play like this they can be a match for anyone.

Arsenal man of the match: Robin van Persie. The beating heart of the team. And to think people questioned his suitability as captain at the start of the season! In truth, though, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Coquelin and Arteta were all outstanding.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

6 Responses to Arsenal beat seven bells out of Blackburn

  1. Sheree says:

    Hope to see all the goals later this evening. You must have so enjoyed this match! There’s nothing quite like thrashing another team. It’ll give Arsenal a great confidence boost.

    • Tim says:

      It was rather enjoyable, yes! And a perfect antidote to the gloom which has settled over the Emirates in recent weeks. It’s only one result, obviously, but what a result! It’s days like this we live for as fans …

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