Ox in the box offers Wenger a real poser

Arsenal 7 Blackburn 1

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The Independent Online

It is an eternal dilemma for a manager realising he has at his disposal a dazzling young talent: using him to the best benefit of the team without over-playing him. As old a hand as Arsène Wenger admits that Arsenal have not always been able to find the right balance and a vicious circle can develop – Jack Wilshere playing too much for club and country made him susceptible to injury, which meant using Aaron Ramsey more than was desirable.

For Saturday's demolition of woeful Blackburn Rovers, Wenger was able to rest Ramsey at last, "because I thought he had played too many games". Now he must decide when to take the exciting teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out of the firing line after four successive appearances in which he has grown in confidence and awareness of those around him.

The temptation in the first half of the season must have been there to give him more than Carling Cup games and the occasional Champions League appearance but Wenger held firm and Gervinho's period at the African Cup of Nations has offered an opportunity at the right time.

The other requirement, of course, is to keep the player's twinkling feet on the ground, especially after he has scored his first two Premier League goals; one with excellent movement and control, the second with opportunistic shooting.

"It's very difficult to manage because people understand very quickly what kind of influence the players have and you want to win the game, so you play them," Wenger said. There will be obvious parallels with Theo Walcott, who was equally good while making three goals on Saturday, though Oxlade-Chamberlain's physique is much stronger.

On song – and with Alex Song's passes – they can be a formidable pair of wingers, supplying in turn Robin van Persie, whose second hat-trick of the season gave him 28 goals for the campaign and a place in Arsenal's all-time top 10 scorers. Whether Van Persie stays may still depend on the team managing a Champions League place.

Walcott's representatives, meanwhile, hope to find a date this month for negotiations on a new contract. As to the man whose goalscoring for the club seemed to have finished five years ago at 226, Thierry Henry has returned to add two more. Saturday's was supposed to be his last kick at the Emirates before returning to New York Red Bulls after away matches against Sunderland and Milan, but the possibility of extending the loan to take in the home game against Tottenham on 26 February cannot be discounted. Asked about Henry's future by the reporter whom Harry Redknapp admitted in court to having lied to, Wenger said with a smile: "I always tell you the truth. I do not always give you the complete truth!"

How Blackburn could do with any of the aforementioned players. Instead they must concentrate on building bridges with their disenchanted centre-back Chris Samba, without whom they lacked character as well as defensive nous.

Match details

Arsenal: SZCZESNY 6/10; COQUELIN 8; MERTESACKER 5; KOSCIELNY 7; VERMAELEN 7; SONG 7; ARTETA 7; WALCOTT 8; ROSICKY 6; OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN 8; VAN PERSIE 8

Blackburn: ROBINSON 4; MARTIN OLSSON 3; GIVET 4; DANN 4; LOWE 5; HOILETT 5; NZONZI 5; PETROVIC 5; PEDERSEN 6; DUNN 5; MODESTE 6

Scorers: Arsenal Van Persie 2, 38, 62, Oxlade-Chamb-erlain 40, 54, Arteta 51, Henry 90 Blackburn Pedersen 31

Substitutes: Arsenal Sagna 6 (Koscielny, 68), Henry 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 68), Benayoun (Song, 72) Blackburn Orr 5 (Lowe, 36), Hanley 4 (Dunn, 44).

Booked: Arsenal Koscielny, Vermaelen Blackburn Modeste, Martin Olsson. Sent-off: Blackburn Givet (33).

Man of the match Oxlade-Chamberlain. Match rating 7/10 Possession: Arsenal 58% Blackburn 42%.

Attempts on target: Arsenal 11 Blackburn 3.

Ref A Marriner (West Midlands) Att 59,643

mikel arteta

Scored in his third match against Blackburn this season. He scored for Everton on the opening day, then for Arsenal at Rovers

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