Arshavin weaves his magic
London - Andrey Arshavin repaid a hefty chunk of his transfer fee as the Russian inspired Arsenal to an impressive 4-0 win over Blackburn on Saturday.
Arshavin capped a dazzling individual display with two goals - his first since his high-profile 15 million-pound move from Zenit St Petersburg in the winter transfer window - to kill off Rovers at the Emirates Stadium.
Arshavin's clinical edge was sorely needed for Arsenal and two late goals from Emmanuel Eboue - a close-range finish and a cool penalty - gave the scoreline some deserved polish.
A convincing win lifted Arsenal - who have not lost in the league since the end of November - back into the top four for the first time in over two months.
The Gunners leapfrogged Aston Villa on goal difference, although Martin O'Neill's team can regain their advantage by avoiding defeat to Tottenham on Sunday.
Blackburn's concerns are rather more prosaic. Sam Allardyce's team are just one point clear of the bottom three and, while the Rovers manager will not have harboured high hopes of storming the Emirates, this was an unusually meek performance from the Lancashire club.
Arsenal eased any early nerves with a goal after just two minutes. It was a scrappy strike, although the build-up was typically smooth.
Bendtner's through-ball to Theo Walcott was exquisitely judged for the winger to charge to the by-line and cut back to the near post. Arshavin duly met the cross first time and his effort deflected in via the spread-eagled Andre Ooijer.
Blackburn were frustrated and their annoyance boiled over in the 21st minute when El Hadji Diouf was hugely fortunate not to be sent off for planting his studs into Manuel Almunia's ankle.
Arsenal's annoyance was compounded by their failure to extend their lead. Samir Nasri might have done just that, and more, in the space of 60 seconds towards the break but moments after his 25-yard free-kick crashed against the crossbar, his snap-shot was palmed aside by Paul Robinson.
Rovers were glad to go in trailing by a single goal but half-time did nothing to relieve the siege.
The second period began with a flurry of home pressure, with Walcott dragging wide of the left-hand post and then teeing up Bendtner with a flashing cross, only for the Dane to somehow slice wide.
Bendtner was having one of those days which stretches the patience of even his staunchest defender, and the home crowd were howling after he spurned three chances in as many minutes just past the hour.
He did little wrong with the first, flashing a header just past the post, but there was no excuse for his failure to convert set-ups from Alexandre Song and Denilson moments later, when he had just Robinson to beat.
Those missed opportunities could have cost Arsenal dear against more ambitious opponents; instead Arshavin sealed the points with aplomb in the 66th minute, cutting inside the hapless left-back Danny Simpson and waiting for Robinson to go to ground before lifting high into the net from a tight angle.
That, effectively, was that, although there was still time for Eboue, on as a late substitute, to enjoy himself.
The Ivory Coast midfielder prodded in from two yards after Robinson had saved Arshavin's drive and then converted from the spot after Carlos Vela was fouled by Martin Olsson.