Arsenal vs. Blackburn Rovers: 5 Things We Learned in Gunners' 7-1 Victory
Arsenal racked up their biggest Premier League win of the season as they smashed seven past a thoroughly dreadful Blackburn Rovers side at the Emirates Stadium, and here we'll take a look at five things the game taught us.
Things couldn't have gotten off to a better start for the Gunners as they took the lead after barely 80 seconds, Robin van Persie knocking home from close range after Theo Walcott had split the back line of Rovers.
Morten Gamst Pedersen equalised for Rovers after half an hour, but in the final 15 minutes of the first half Rovers self-destructed, conceding twice more—Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and van Persie again scoring—and seeing defender Gael Givet sent off for a two-footed challenge.
It was all one-way traffic after the break as Arsenal added to their tally with goals from Oxlade-Chamberlain again, Mikel Arteta, van Persie for his hat trick and then Thierry Henry, who scored his first Premier League goal for just over five years.
A hugely convincing win for Arsenal who move back up into fifth position, while Rovers drop one place to 19th on goal difference.
The Rest of the Gunners Finally Find Their Finishing Touch
For too long this season—and last season, arguably—Arsenal have relied an awful lot on the goalscoring ability and consistency of Robin van Persie.
Not a bad strategy, considering the Dutchman has now netted 25 goals this season, but Arsenal need other players to contribute as well.
Against Blackburn, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain delivered another hugely promising performance and added his first two Premier League goals to his list of achievements.
Mikel Arteta and Thierry Henry also got on the score sheet as the Gunners put Rovers to the sword.
Arsene Wenger will need plenty more of that, midfielders and other attackers shouldering the goalscoring burden, if his side are to continue challenging for a top four spot.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal's Newest Star
First off, let us acknowledge that Blackburn Rovers put in arguably the worst performance by any Premier League side of the season against Arsenal.
That little fact notwithstanding, there can be no doubting the massive talent and promise of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who tortured Blackburn's defence for over an hour before making way for Thierry Henry.
If he keeps up this kind of performance, there is every chance he could go on to be as big a star at Arsenal as that illustrious player was.
Oxlade-Chamberlain showed craft, invention, his usual willingness to run at defenders and an unusually calm head to finish off his two goals, not to mention blinding pace and no shortage of skill on the ball.
Arsene Wenger has been roundly criticised in some quarters for buying young players to develop instead of established first-teamers, but there can be few players who were available last summer who would have made the impact on the Gunners' season that this youngster is having, and for that both manager and player deserve massive applause.
Empty Seats at the Emirates Stadium Speak Volumes for Fans' Dissatisfaction
Arsenal were 1-0 up against Blackburn with little over a minute gone in the game.
By half time they were 3-1 up and a man ahead.
But it wasn't until almost the 70th minute that the fans inside the Emirates Stadium really made any noise, giving a huge ovation and applause to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as he left the pitch substituted, and then gave an equally big welcome to the incoming Thierry Henry.
The "Highbury Library" gained notoriety some years ago for their hands-off approach to supporting their team but there has usually been a good atmosphere inside the new and shiny Emirates Stadium.
This season, however, has been a different story and the fans have voiced their disapproval of Arsene Wenger's tactics, team selections, substitutions and transfer policies at different times.
The lack of noise in the Blackburn match might have had to do with that, or it might have had to do with the early kick off.
It might even have had to do with Arsenal scoring so early on, leading the fans to sit back and soak up the entertainment on offer without having to go through the emotional mill.
But the empty seats—and there were plenty of those, all over the ground—spoke their own message in rather a particular tone.
Arsene Wenger's Injured Full-Backs Begin to Return
For quite some time Arsenal have had to resort to fielding a defensive line comprising entirely of central defenders, with Laurent Koscielny or Johan Djourou playing on the right and Thomas Vermaelen, arguably the Gunners' best centre-back, playing on the left.
Against Blackburn, midfielder Francis Coquelin got the nod at right-back but the second half saw the introduction of Bacary Sagna for the Gunners, who played on the left side for his 20 minutes on the pitch.
For years, attacking full-backs were a huge part of how Arsenal played under Wenger and these options at the back have been sorely missing with Carl Jenkinson, Andre Santos and Keiren Gibbs all out injured along with Sagna for a considerable period of time.
Sagna's return indicates better squad depth for Arsenal to pick from, while Gibbs, usually a left-back, should also be available soon.
Once Wenger can call upon his natural full-backs, he will be forced into deciding which central defensive duo is his preferred combination—Koscielny, Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker will all be vying for the two slots.
The Fight for Fourth Place Is Still on for Arsenal
Make no mistake about it, this was a massive three points for Arsenal against Blackburn Rovers.
Coming into the match, Arsenal had lost three and drawn one of their previous four Premier League games and Arsene Wenger was coming under increasing pressure to get his side back to winning ways, with their last league victory coming back in December against QPR.
Defeats to Fulham, Swansea and Manchester United had seen his side slip behind both Liverpool and Newcastle United to seventh position coming into this game, but with Chelsea also dropping points with alarming frequency, this result lifts the Gunners to within two points of their London rivals, who have a game in hand.
With three of the Champions League spots looking sewn up already, the battle is on between Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle United to claim the fourth and final one—with this 7-1 thumping, Arsenal have shown that they are still in that particular race.