Rampant Arsenal hit seven past 10-man Blackburn at the Emirates
Premier League: Arsenal 7 Blackburn Rovers 1
It was not enough to get Arsenal back into the top four or to banish the long-term concerns at the club, but at least the Gunners faithful got to enjoy a scintillating 90 minutes as Blackburn were hit for six at the Emirates.
Robin van Persie’s second hat-trick of the season and two goals from teen sensation Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain saw Arsenal record their biggest win of the season and breathe life back into their struggling Premier League campaign.
With Chelsea hosting Manchester United on Sunday and Spurs travelling to Anfield on Monday night, the Gunners will await with interest to see which of their top-four rivals drops points.
However Arsene Wenger will know that thrashing a poor Blackburn side who had to play for 50 minutes with 10 men after defender Gael Givet’s red card is not an instant cure for his team’s failings.
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Tougher tests await, not least at a resurgent Sunderland next weekend, but at least the teeth-gnashing and frustration of four winless league games came to an end.
If the boo-boys were ready to get stuck into Wenger and the players again, they did not have much of a chance this time as Arsenal were ahead within 90 seconds.
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The much-maligned Theo Walcott was the creator, although young stand-in right-back Francis Coquelin began the move, slipping in Walcott to cross for Van Persie to tap home at the far post.
It was the Dutchman’s 20th Premier League goal of the season – the first time he has reached that milestone – and looked to have given the Gunners the platform to go on and record a convincing win.
When has life ever been that easy at the Emirates this season? Van Persie did have another effort blocked and Tomas Rosicky went close twice but there was always a sense that Blackburn would get chances at the other end.
On 32 minutes they did just that. Laurent Koscielny manhandled Rovers new boy Anthony Modeste just outside the box and picked up a yellow card for his troubles.
But there was worse to come as Pedersen curled the free-kick over the wall and into the top corner of the net, with Wojciech Szczesny unable to keep it out.
The Emirates groaned collectively, but respite was just around the corner as Arsenal restored their lead with a goal that bore an uncanny resemblance to the opener.
This time it was Alex Song whose pass released Walcott and the England man again zipped to the byline before pulling the ball back for Van Persie to finish from close range.
Before Blackburn could draw breath they were further behind. Van Persie was the orchestrator this time with a stunning reverse pass which Oxlade-Chamberlain crucially got a toe to, before rounding Paul Robinson and tucking the ball into the empty net.
Finally Arsenal were putting in the kind of display they have threatened for weeks, and Rovers could not handle the pace.
Moments later mission improbable for Steve Kean’s side became mission impossible as Givet lunged two-footed at Van Persie and sent the Gunners captain flying into the air. The red card was inevitable for the French defender, while Arsenal were just relieved to see that Van Persie had not suffered any lasting damage.
There was still time for Thomas Vermaelen to strike a post before a chaotic first half came to a close and the Arsenal fans could reflect that there was surely no chance their team could not record a first league victory of 2012.
Within 10 minutes of the restart they were probably talking about record scores, because te Gunners added two more goals almost instantly.
Mikel Arteta was first, bouncing in a shot from the edge of the box after Rovers failed to clear, but Arsenal’s fifth goal was far more memorable.
Walcott was enjoying the kind of afternoon that makes you wonder quite what he has been up to for the last six years, and from another mazy dribble he teed up Oxlade-Chamberlain to fire his second of the day past Robinson.
Both he and Van Persie were on hat-tricks but you wouldn’t have bet on the teenager reaching his treble before the Dutchman, and so it proved.
Just past the hour mark, the Premier League’s top scorer duly completed his treble. This time the assist came from the excellent Coquelin, whose centre from the right was swept almost disdainfully into the net by Van Persie to take his Premier League tally to 22 goals in 24 games.
Oxlade-Chamberlain did not get the chance to emulate his captain as he was replaced by Thierry Henry, while Koscielny limped off a little gingerly, which could be a worry for Arsenal with the Champions League trip to Milan just 11 days away.
That was a worry for another day, however, as the Gunners enjoyed their biggest win of the season and then waited to see how their top four rivals fared over the rest of the weekend.
There was even time for Henry to score his 228th goal for Arsenal in injury time, set up inevitaly by Van Persie.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Coquelin, Mertesacker, Koscielny (Sagna, 68) Vermaelen, Arteta, Song (Benayoun, 72), Rosicky, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Henry, 68), Van Persie.
Subs not used: Fabianski, Park, Ramsey, Arshavin, Benayoun.
Blackburn Rovers: Robinson, Martin Olsson, Lowe (Orr, 36), Dann, Givet, Petrovic, Nzonzi, Pedersen, Dunn (Hanley, 45) Hoilett, Modeste.
Subs not used: Bunn, Formica, Rochina, Goodwillie, Vukcevic.
Referee: A Marriner.