Arsenal 6 – 2 Blackburn
By Ian Hughes
Fabregas is congratulated by Rosicky after making it 4-2
Arsenal produced a performance of flair and invention to hammer Blackburn.
Rovers struck first when Steven Nzonzi headed in from Paul Robinson’s free-kick before Thomas Vermaelen lashed in a 20-yard drive to level.
David Dunn made it 2-1 to Rovers with a deflected shot before Robin van Persie coolly slotted home from 12 yards.
Andrey Arshavin’s low shot put Arsenal ahead before Cesc Fabregas volleyed in, Theo Walcott slotted home and Nicklas Bendtner’s drive sealed the romp.
It was the perfect start for Arsene Wenger as he entered his era as the longest-serving Arsenal boss – he celebrated 13 years in charge of the club in midweek.
And all the hallmarks of Wenger’s influence on the Gunners were on display as they put on a masterclass of attacking brilliance and creativity – but they also showed glimpses of defensive frailty.
Wenger praises ‘clinical’ Arsenal
While Fabregas was at his imperious best, running through the full range of his passing – and scoring with a sweet strike – there was also hesitation at the back from Arsenal and a susceptibility to the long ball.
And Rovers took full advantage of that early on when keeper Robinson launched a free-kick from within his own half and Nzonzi out-jumped Vermaelen to loop in a header.
But Arsenal look more resilient this season and while they might have folded against a Sam Allardyce side in the past, they quickly regained their composure.
They almost equalised when Fabregas headed against the bar and Arshavin’s cross-cum-shot zipped narrowly wide before they got the leveller through Vermaelen.
The centre-back might have been at fault – along with keeper Vito Mannone – for Rovers’ opener, but he made up for that with a fierce drive into the bottom corner from outside the box.
As Arsenal threatened to completely dominate, Fabregas twice tested Robinson, who made smart saves.
And from Robinson’s second stop, Rovers stunned Arsenal by launching a counter-attack that ended in Dunn scoring via a defection off William Gallas.
Arsenal’s response was almost immediate, as Fabregas slid a pass between two defenders for Van Persie to take one touch and rifle a low shot into the bottom right corner.
Fabregas was involved again when the Gunners took the lead for the first time, another precise pass from the Spaniard playing in Arshavin to slot in.
The creator almost turned scorer when he met Tomas Rosicky’s superb cross with a header but Robinson made another fine save and Pascal Chimbonda scrambled the ball clear.
But as Arsenal threatened to run riot, they almost undid their good work again but Vermaelen fortunately got away with a challenge on Dunn that should have handed Rovers a penalty.
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And while the visitors were thoroughly outclassed for long spells, they did still have their chances.
Martin Olsson’s fierce volley was pushed away by Mannone and, later, Vermaelen headed David Hoilett’s volley against his own post.
Before that Van Persie could have added to Arsenal’s lead had he headed the ball rather than chesting it down and allowing Robinson to smother.
Opportunities kept on coming for Arsenal, though, and it was fitting that their fourth goal was scored by the outstanding Fabregas, who volleyed in with the outside of his boot.
The breathtaking demonstration of the Gunners’ free-flowing football showed no sign of abating and Abou Diaby shot narrowly wide before Alex Song’s point-blank header was kept out brilliantly by Robinson.
Walcott hopeful of England call-up
Moments later, Fabregas’ sublime lay-off invited substitute Walcott to shoot and the England winger, making his first appearance of the season after injury, cracked home a fine shot.
Fellow substitute Bendtner had a chance to score Arsenal’s sixth but could not convert a one-on-one chance.
However, the Dane did get on the score sheet when he let fly with a thumping drive from outside the box that flew in off the post.