Premier League - RVP hits treble in Arsenal romp
The Dutchman opened the scoring in the second minute with his 100th career league goal, adding a second to put Arsenal back in front after Rovers had levelled through Morten Gamst Pedersen’s free-kick.
The superb Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain grabbed the first of his two goals, opening his Premier League account just before Gael Givet was shown a straight red card for a reckless lunge on Van Persie.
Mikel Arteta added a fourth for Arsenal early in the second half, while Oxlade-Chamberlain – who along with fellow winger Theo Walcott had been a nightmare for Rovers – made it 5-1 with a cool low finish after his fellow ex-Southampton trainee’s mazy run.
Just after the hour mark Van Persie completed his treble with a blasted finish into the roof of the net, taking his season tally to 22 in the league – more than last season’s top scorers Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez had managed by the end of the campaign.
There was time for an emotional seventh as Thierry Henry came off the bench to score his first Premier League goal in five years.
Arsenal had failed to win any of their previous four Premier League games, and some fans had planned a protest by placing black bin-bags on the customary empty seats at the Emirates.
That failed to materialise and the Gunners responded brilliantly with one of their most incisive displays of the season.
They dominated the first half and took the lead almost immediately as Van Persie tapped in at the far post from Walcott’s lovely low cross.
Walcott’s assist arose from a dreadful clearance by Radosav Petrovic and some shoddy defending by Martin Olsson, a theme that would return to haunt Rovers throughout the match.
Arsenal continued to control the match with Rovers’ only real opportunity a lofted David Dunn ball that Anthony Modest flew in to meet: Wojciech Szczesny got there first and the on-loan French forward was harshly booked for his endeavour.
The hosts, meanwhile, went close through a missed Per Mertesacker header, two blocked Tomas Rosicky shots and a lovely turn and chip from Van Persie that almost caught out Paul Robinson but drifted wide.
So to say Rovers’ equaliser on the half hour was against the run of play would be an understatement: Laurent Koscielny was drawn into a foul on Modeste, for which the Arsenal defender was booked, and Pedersen – not for the first time this season – curled an exquisite free-kick from the edge of the box that Szczesny got a faint touch on but nestled in the top left.
Arsenal responded superbly though and it was 2-1 within seven minutes as, once more, Walcott was given the run of the right by Olsson, who sleepily allowed the England winger to get on to Alex Song’s through-ball: in a carbon-copy of the opener, Walcott slid a low cross in for Van Persie, who gobbled up his 21st league goal of the season with another tap-in.
It was 3-1 soon afterwards as Arsenal started to run rampant: Van Persie was involved again, but provided a wonderful assist as his dancing feet and angled through-ball released Oxlade Chamberlain, who rounded Robinson and finished with aplomb for his first Premier League goal.
Again though poor defending was at play – this time Bradley Orr, a deadline-day signing who came on as a substitute for the injured Jason Lowe, letting Oxlade-Chamberlain through far too easily.
There was time for more drama as Givet was given his marching orders for a rotten challenge on Van Persie, who thankfully was only shaken when the Frenchman launched into a video nasty two-footed scissors-lunge as the pair contested a loose ball.
That pretty much ended the match as a contest and afterwards Arsenal continued to seek revenge for their defeat at Ewood Park earlier this season.
Thomas Vermaelen – enjoying the attacking responsibilities afforded to his full-back role – hit the post from an Arteta cross and early in the second half it was 4-1 as the Spanish midfielder rifled in a low deflected shot after Rovers failed to clear a corner.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s second came almost immediately afterwards, Rovers unable to cope with a Walcott run from the right before the England winger laid it up for the future England winger to control and place a low finish.
On 61 minutes it was six as Van Persie blasted a superb first-time finish into the roof of the net after Francis Coquelin got forward from right-back to place a low cross to the Dutchman.
And, in stoppage time after a stop-start cameo in which he showed an air of class but the occasional rusty touch, Henry exploited a slip from Grant Hanley to exchange passes with Van Persie before knocking in a low finish off Scott Dann’s outstretched leg.