Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin fired Arsenal to a 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers in a frenetic encounter at Ewood Park yesterday.
Walcott put Arsenal ahead in the first half and, although Mame Diouf equalized for Rovers soon after, Russia winger Arshavin struck early in the second half to maintain the Gunners’ unbeaten start to the season.
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce had warned Arsenal that his side would adopt the exact same tactics that helped them to a 2-1 victory at Ewood Park on the last day of last season.
On that occasion, Rovers physically dominated the visitors to force the win, but this time it was Arsenal who came out on top as they refused to be cowed by Allardyce’s words or his team’s physical approach.
The first opportunity fell to Abou Diaby after just three minutes when his volley looked to be going in until Blackburn’s Vince Grella cleared off the line.
Cesc Fabregas then did the same thing at the other end of the field when Ryan Nelsen’s powerful header beat Manuel Almunia.
The Arsenal goalkeeper performed much better just 15 seconds later when he brilliantly clawed away an El Hadji Diouf scrambled effort at his back post.
After 15 minutes, Chris Samba went close as he used his height to power a Morten Gamst Pedersen corner toward goal, but it went just over the bar.
However, Blackburn were then stunned when Arsenal scored from a brilliant team move that was finished off magnificently by Walcott in the 20th minute.
Arshavin found Robin van Persie with a simple ball and his turn and perfect pass to Walcott gave the England international space down the right wing to cut back in and beat Rovers goalkeeper Paul Robinson with a low shot into the far corner.
However, the lead lasted just seven minutes. El Hadji Diouf charged down the left wing and found Mame Diouf inside the six-yard box and, after Thomas Vermaelen and Gael Clichy allowed him too much room, on loan Manchester United striker Mame tapped into an empty net.
Arsenal’s cause was then damaged further by the loss of van Persie, who had to be substituted after a clattering challenge from Grella after 34 minutes.
Wenger was upset by the strength of the challenge, although referee Chris Foy took no action.
After the interval, Arsenal regained the lead in fortunate fashion after 51 minutes.
Bacary Sagna’s cross from the left wing found Fabregas on the penalty spot, but he shot against Walcott.
However, the ball fell nicely for Arshavin and he drove past Robinson to make it 2-1.
The goal was Arsenal’s cue to pour forward in search of a killer third and Maroune Chamakh should have at least hit the target when well placed, but he fired wide.
Blackburn’s first opportunity after the break fell to Nikola Kalinic after Vermaelen gave away possession, but he shot well over.
Arsenal continued to get forward when they could and a Walcott effort from long-range just went over the top of Robinson’s crossbar with 13 minutes to go.
With nine minutes remaining, Dunn squandered a chance as he shot straight at Almunia, while Michel Salgado also blasted over.
Blackburn had two penalty claims turned down when El Hadji Diouf was impeded in the box and Arsenal then broke immediately to the other end, but Jack Wilshere missed from close range.