Artful Arshavin off the mark as Gunners find their range

Arsenal 4 Blackburn Rovers 0

Sam Allardyce prepared for this game by putting his players into the deep freeze. By the final whistle he must have wished he had left them there. Two more injuries had been acquired, to add to an already wounded squad, and four goals were shipped, damaging both the goals-against column and his players' confidence.

Arsène Wenger can sympathise. An unfortunate run of injuries, and subsequent crisis of confidence, wrecked his team's title challenge but the players are coming back, and so is the belief. Arsenal remain in two cup competitions and, with this win, eased their way back into the Champions' League qualifying places for the first time in 2009. Although Aston Villa can regain fourth place today the Gunners look to have found an ominous vein of form.

They have also found a player. Andrey Arshavin overcame the half-time insertion of four stitches into an open ankle wound to orchestrate the second-half slicing up of Rovers, and adorn it with a glorious goal.

The Russian international has been on an intensive fitness programme since squeezing through the transfer window and his new sharpness, allied to the return of Theo Walcott, was too much for Rovers. Having forced a second-minute own goal from Andre Ooijer, Arshavin settled the match soon after the hour mark. The substitute Emmanuel Eboué struck twice in the final three minutes.

Late goals can be flattering. In this case they reflected the balance of the match, and more scores would have arrived earlier but for the finishing of Nicklas Bendtner. "The pressure came off the team after [beating] Roma," said Wenger. "We played with more freedom. We are on a long, consistent run now. That's why I believe this team can go from strength to strength at the end of this season."

Allardyce said: "When you come here you need all your best players available; we did not, and we were not good enough. We have been beaten comprehensively. But the three points at Fulham was critical, so perhaps we can overcome this." Following that midweek win Allardyce had given his players the dubious reward of a stay at a health farm, with treatment including time in a cryotherapy unit. Dressed in little more than knee-high socks, gloves and a ski mask, they were sent into a temperature of -125C. The theory is that it speeds muscle recovery, but to judge from the opening 74 seconds it simply slowed reflexes.

That was how long it took for Ars-enal to take the lead. Bendtner played a pass inside Gaël Givet, Walcott sped on to the ball and his cross rebounded in off Ooijer. Rovers, already without the injured Ryan Nelsen and Roque Santa Cruz, were staring down the barrel, none more so than Givet, who had passed a fitness test but was clearly not fit enough to handle Walcott.

Rovers should have been in even greater trouble midway through the half after El-Hadji Diouf lunged at Manuel Almunia and was fortunate just to be booked. "It was a silly challenge," admitted Allardyce.

Arsenal were in control, but with Bendtner missing chances, Samir Nasri hitting the bar from a free-kick and Paul Robinson making excellent saves from Nasri and Walcott, they struggled to kill the game off.

Thus there was relief as well as joy when Arshavin took a pass from Denilson and drove into the box. Having sent Danny Simpson the wrong way with a shake of the hips he whipped a shot into the roof of the net. Bendtner, after another miss, was withdrawn.

His replacement, Carlos Vela, picked out Arshavin, whose saved shot was followed up by Eboué; then Martin Olsson tripped the Mexican and Eboué scored from the spot. Cue the PA playing Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" as Arsenal climbed back to fourth.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home