By Randy Osae
A rampant Arsenal saw off Blackburn and regained temporary top four status with solo contributions from Arshavin and a late emergence of Emmanuel Eboue.
Nothing else could beat Arshavin to stealing attentions with his first of many. But a dazzling Eboue did add talking points and so did an amusing Bendtner.
An Italian excursion three days ago forced Wenger’s hand on the team sheet. William Gallas, Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue and Robin van Persie were handed rests with Johan Djourou, Andrey Arshavin, Alex Song, and a stronger-shouldered Walcott all starting.
Exertions from Wednesday night were likely to take a toll on Wenger’s men if they took a habitual patient route to goal. They didn’t in fact.
Merely two minutes in, Walcott raced and swept a low cross in from the right. It was the ‘Andrey’ romance that bundled it home – as a tangling Andrey Arshavin and Andre Ooijer left Paul Robinson beaten.
The Emirates Stadium’s announcer had been desperate – just like everyone else – to reward Arsenal’s new signing with his premier goal, but replays clarified the back of Blackburn’s defender had touched the ball last before entering the net.
El-Hadji Diouf, was the visitors’ main thorn in Arsenal’s flesh – especially that of Almunia, with the Senegalese being booked for lunging into Arsenal’s stopper who remarkably dove to tip out Pedersen’s dangerously looping header later on.
It was then turn for Nasri’s agonies. The French youngster struck the post with a well-taken free-kick before being denied by a spluttering Robinson from eight yards out later on.
Had Sagna, Djourou and Almunia not pounced onto a free Pedersen right in front of goal, missed chances at the other end would be least of their concerns going into the interval.
To begin a lively second-half, Walcott dashed past his marker and went within scoring range, but horribly shot astray.
The pace of the soon 20 year-old proved a rekindling factor in Arsenal’s attack as he sprinted and cut back a fine pass for Bendtner who could barely guide the ball.
Arsenal had smartened after the break to end the contest quick. They were all over Blackburn, but Bendtner was the prime culprit of wastefulness here.
The Dane was again fed in by Walcott, but hesitated to shoot when one-on-one with Robinson who punched away his final act. Bendtner suffered that same fate when another ball arrived in the area with Rovers’ defenders stranded. Again, he was dull to react.
He was becoming a liability with Arsenal still stuttering to kill off Blackburn.
Arshavin though, had seen enough profligacy and so intended to be the solo slayer. The Russian received a pass on a very bare left side of midfield, headed straight towards goal, ghosted past Simpson on the byline before firing into the top corner of the net from a point-blank but acute range.
That was genuinely his first goal for Arsenal.
With Vela already penciled in for substitution, Bendtner still had time to blaze the ball into the stands after another opening in Blackburn’s defense. He had been a liability and paved way with some flattering applauds from fans. Walcott also joined the bench with Eboue on, but the English winger had different reason to cheer up – it was job well done for him.
His replacement narrowly missed out on poking home Arshavin’s searching low drive into the box. Eboue never looked confident enough to flick the ball into the net on that occasion, but with two minutes left, he made amends in a similar case – stabbing Arshavin’s saved but uncleared effort right home.
And all of a sudden, with two goals in three appearances, Emmanuel Eboue was flying high in confidence.
Soon, Vela was thwarted in the box and the Ivorian was first to grab the ball. Eboue was much desperate than Arshavin to be the showman, and he converted the spot-kick with awe.
Everyone was cruising today.