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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea