The feel good factor returned to the Emirates this afternoon where Arsenal thrashed a 10-man Blackburn Rovers 7-1. Arsenal dominated from the start, with Robin Van Persie opening the scoring shortly after one minute. As is the norm for Arsenal though, they allowed Blackburn to equalize with their first shot, a fantastic Morten Gamst Pedersen free-kick right into the top corner. Van Persie restored Arsenal’s lead before unleashing the exciting Oxlade-Chamberlain to make it 3-1 before half-time. Steve Kean’s team talk was then made worse when Gael Givet was shown a straight red-card for a reckless challenge on Van Persie.
The second half saw the return of the Arsenal that many of their fans have been craving. Quick, decisive passing saw them leave the Blackburn players chasing shadows whose cause was not helped by being a man down. Arteta smashed home Arsenal’s fourth for his sixth goal against Blackburn. Walcott then ran at the Blackburn defence and fed Chamberlain who scored his second from just two shots on target. Substitutes disrupted the flow, but the impressive Coquelin burst down the right flank to feed Van Persie who turned his cross into the net with a quick change of feed and a deft finish. Thierry Henry made it seven after Van Persie teed him up and it was the icing on the cake for Arsenal fans.
Arsenal’s defence went largely untroubled the whole game, their cause aided by the absence of Yakubu. Coquelin started at right back, winning the most tackles of any player on the pitch with 5 and winning 10 ground duels, level with Hoilett. Coquelin performed well against the talented Canadian and kept him quiet throughout the game. He was aided by the terrific form of Walcott who kept Olsson pegged back. Arsenal’s attack was far more potent with a fully fit attacking fullback in the side and Coquelin managed to contribute terrifically.
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Coquelin is most comfortable in the midfield and as these attacking stats show from his performance today he would not be out of place there. His education at right-back of learning to work in a tight space and when to attack of hold back will be vital to his development.
One of the most noticeable improvements was in the midfield pivot for Arsenal. Ramsey received a much-deserved rest and Rosicky took his place for the full 90. The Czech was in fine form for Arsenal in the first half with his quick pass and movement mentality. He was helped by the narrowness of Blackburn’s defence, which allowed Chamberlain and Walcott to run at them and get in behind, giving something for Rosicky to aim at. An element of carelessness did drift into his play however, giving away possession 17 times with the majority unsuccesful passes, but his willingness to press in midfield allowed him to win it back four times in the middle third and once in Blackburn’s.
It was Song and Arteta who really impressed however. Song’s performances have faded of late, but today fans were reminded of the attacking ability he can bring to the side, most notably in his pass for Walcott to tee up Van Persie’s second where he took out the entire Blackburn defence. In fact, he attempted seven through balls the entire game, more than any Arsenal player this season. Winning possession seven times in midfield, Song hadn’t taken Arsenal’s domination as an excuse to shirk his defensive abilities though.
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Mikel Arteta put in a a performance of the highest standard in the middle of the park, finishing the match with a goal and as the player who made the most passes on the pitch with an amazing 94% accuracy, as well as 100% long ball accuracy. His ability to retain possession when Arsenal are in the opponents half is a great asset to have but it was his experience which proved vital today. In previous seasons when Arsenal have dominated a game they have tended to lose their heads and get carried away with trying to score. Arteta’s willingness to play the simple pass to a further advanced player and defend when Arsenal lose possession ensured none of that happened today.
The front trio for Arsenal had been rather flat in recent matches and they improved their game immensely today. Walcott and Chamberlain on the wings gave Olsson and Lowe all sorts of problems with their direct running. Chamberlain netted two from two shots on target and completed five succesful dribbles while Walcott got three assists.
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It was a welcome return to form for Walcott and he is now on seven assists, level with the likes of Mata, Silva and Bale. The two wingers were a lot less isolated in this match as they had been and took full advantage of this. Van Persie clearly enjoyed it aswell, securing a hat-trick from three shots on target and two assists. His link-up play with Walcott and Chanberlain was excellent, the most notable example being his delightful through ball for Chamberlain’s first goal. The striker was never dispossessed in the entire game and completed the most final third passes 30 and a 77% accuracy. With 22 goals so far this season, he has now scored more than any player in the entire 10/11 season, a remarkable feat.
Arsenal will hope to continue this form and Blackburn will just look to regroup and move on. The return of Yakubu to the side will give them some much needed threat in attack and after this game Steve Kean will surely have to reinstate Samba to the starting line-up.
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