Arsenal vs. Blackburn Rovers: Ranking the Gunners' Players in 7-1 Victory

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2012

Arsenal vs. Blackburn Rovers: Ranking the Gunners' Players in 7-1 Victory

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    Arsenal thumped relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers 7-1 at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League to get their Champions League charge back on track after four league matches without victory.

    Here's the ratings for how each player got on against Rovers.

    The Gunners made a dream start with Robin van Persie's goal after only one minute, while the Dutchman went on to record his hat trick during the game after scoring all three goals from in or around the six-yard box.

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored twice and put in a star performance, while the returning Thierry Henry also scored his first Premier League goal for the Gunners in a little more than five years.

    Mikel Arteta and Morten Gamst Pedersen were also on target for their respective sides.

    The Gunners dominated the match from start to finish and the scoreline didn't flatter them in the slightest as they out-passed, out-fought and out-manoeuvred a thoroughly dreadful Blackburn side.

Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczesny

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    It was one of those days for Wojciech Szczesny in the Arsenal goal; he had absolutely nothing to do except pick the ball out of the back of his net.

    After half an hour of the Pole needing binoculars to watch the match, which took part exclusively up the other end of the field, Arsenal conceded a soft free kick outside the penalty box. And Morten Gamst Pedersen drew Blackburn level with a sweetly-struck, bending effort which found the top corner.

    Good placement of the set-piece aside, Szczesny will be disappointed at not doing better with the shot, which was not fiercely-struck.

    He managed to get a hand to it and should probably have done slightly more, but seemed to shrink away at the oncoming post that he was flying through the air toward.

    Clearly, in the end, it mattered not a jot, but that goal levelled matters up momentarily and Szczesny may have had to answer one or two questions had Arsenal not gone on to batter their opponents.

    Shortly afterwards he mishandled a cross, though a foul had already been given, and beyond that all Arsenal's first choice goalkeeper had to do was make a comfortable stop from a low Bradley Orr shot.

    An easy match for Szczesny to stroll through, though not his best personal performance.

    Wojciech Szczesny - 6/10

Full-Backs: Francis Coquelin and Thomas Vermaelen

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    Still starting Premier League matches without recognised full-backs, Arsene Wenger will be glad to have been able to call on Bacary Sagna on the bench against Blackburn.

    However, he went with midfielder Francis Coquelin and centre-back Thomas Vermaelen on the right and left of defence respectively.

    Coquelin had what was certainly his best performance so far in an Arsenal shirt, as he constantly raided the right flank to slip cute passes between opposing defenders for Theo Walcott to run onto.

    The first of these, inside the first minute, led to the opening goal for the Gunners.

    Coquelin continued with a fine display for the rest of the game and will be pleased with his continued progression towards being a regular first team player.

    On the opposite side, Vermaelen got forward at times but was much less involved than his younger teammate.

    The Belgian defender hit the post in the first half from close range after a cross wasn't dealt with, and earned himself a silly, pointless booking for a late challenge with Arsenal 6-1 up in the second half.

    Francis Coquelin - 8/10

    Thomas Vermaelen - 7/10

Centre-Backs: Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny

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    A hugely quiet game for the Arsenal central defensive pair, Blackburn never looked like they were threatening them on a regular basis and they had little to do for the 90 minutes.

    Nonetheless, what they did have to do was not always accomplished comfortably.

    David Dunn initially made a few runs at the heart of the Arsenal defence, and was well dealt with, but Laurent Koscielny's needless foul on Anthony Modibe, who rolled the French defender far too easily, resulted in the Blackburn equaliser.

    Per Mertesacker was ponderous on the ball in defence, despite next to no pressure from the Rovers front line, and was relieved to see a back-header reach Wojciech Szczesny with Modeste again lurking.

    After the sending off for Gael Givet, Dunn was substituted by Rovers and the back two had barely anything to do for the last hour of the match.

    Per Mertesacker - 6/10

    Laurent Koscielny - 6/10

Central Midfield: Alex Song, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky

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    Arsenal's utter and complete domination of the game came largely courtesy of these three players performing at the top of their game—and Blackburn's woeful attempt at playing football, of course.

    Alex Song mopped up any loose balls with his usual energetic style, while Mikel Arteta played the ball quickly and simply to keep the 10 men of Blackburn chasing shadows.

    Tomas Rosicky was frequently popping up in spaces just short of the back-line of Blackburn, teasing them out of position and looking to thread passes through to the front three.

    Rovers tried to pass their way into the game early on, but quickly gave up on that after their defensive midfield failed to get forward and support in the final third.

    Steve Nzonzi in particular went for the physical approach at times, but this also failed to ruffle Arsenal unduly and they were worthy winners of the game, thanks largely to the fine passing and movement of the three at the heart of the midfield.

    Almost 60 percent possession for the entire match speaks volumes for the work and consistency of Song, Arteta and Rosicky.

    Alex Song - 7/10

    Mikel Arteta - 8/10

    Tomas Rosicky - 8/10

Forwards: Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Robin Van Persie

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    Not much can be written about Robin van Persie that hasn't been said already.

    He started this match with a good record against the Blackburn Rovers throughout his Arsenal career, and ended with a great one—13 goals in 13 matches now against the Ewood Park outfit.

    Van Persie's movement and instincts, first-time finishing against Rovers, were that of a confident striker in his prime, gaining himself a yard of space and anticipating where crosses or pull-backs would fall, and dispatching them clinically.

    He was aided admirably by the willing running of his two young sidekicks, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as the abysmal defending of Blackburn themselves, but finishing is an art in itself and van Persie has it down to a tee these days.

    His delivery from wide areas also caused constant problems for Rovers and he was unlucky to maybe not end the game with as many assists as goals.

    Walcott, as mentioned, was full of running behind his full-back, Martin Olssen, who had an absolute nightmare.

    Just one minute into the game Walcott grabbed his first assist from the byline and collected another almost identical later on.

    The star of the show, however, was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left flank.

    His dribbling ability mesmerised first Jason Lowe and then, when he went off injured, debutant Bradley Orr.

    Oxlade-Chamberlain ran at the Rovers defence every time he had the chance, always with a step-over handy to help him on his way, and found spaces—like Walcott—behind the defence at every opportunity.

    His first goal in the Premier League came from a great reverse pass by van Persie, but Oxlade-Chamberlain's own movement, control and confidence played a huge role too as he took the ball around the 'keeper before finishing calmly.

    The second goal followed in due course and owed much the same to the youngster's poise, turning inside well before finishing low inside the near post.

    A great afternoon all-round for these front three and they deserve every accolade they get after this performance.

    Theo Walcott - 8/10

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - 9/10, Man of the Match

    Robin van Persie - 9/10

Substitutes: Thierry Henry, Bacary Sagna and Yossi Benayoun

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    Thierry Henry scored his first Premier League goal in five years and one day when he netted a stoppage-time seventh against Blackburn Rovers for Arsenal.

    Coming off the bench with 20 minutes to go and his team beyond comfortable, Henry sensed he had a chance to score, but the game quickly went flat after a spate of substitutions.

    The old pace was clear to have deserted Henry as he had a couple of chances to run through on goal, one-on-one with a sole defender, but he got the strike he desired courtesy of a Grant Hanley slip late on and a quick one-two with Robin van Persie, not to mention the aid of a deflection en route to goal.

    Bacary Sagna continued his comeback from injury with a 20 minute spell at left-back and was just  glad to be back out on the football pitch again, though his involvement was minimal except for a couple of crosses from deep.

    Yossi Benayoun also made a fleeting substitute appearance when he replaced Alex Song with a little over a quarter of an hour to go, but as the tempo of the game had dropped significantly by that time was unable to really get involved in the match.

    Thierry Henry - 7/10

    Bacary Sagna - 6/10

    Yossi Benayoun - 6/10