Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick as Arsenal recorded their first Premier League win of the year by thrashing Blackburn Rovers 7-1 at the Emirates Stadium, their biggest victory in all competitions since October 2007.
Morten Gamst Pedersen may have cancelled out Van Persie's opener but the Arsenal captain ended up completing a treble, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added two goals, while Mikel Arteta and Thierry Henry also scored. Rovers were not helped by Gael Givet getting sent off for a rash tackle on Van Persie, although they were trailing at that stage of the match.
Van Persie's goals moved Dennis Bergkamp out of Arsenal's top ten leading goalscorers, with the Gunners captain now on 123 strikes for the club. Arsene Wenger had considered resting Van Persie but, after failing to win a league match in 2012 before this game, the Arsenal manager included the Premier League's top goalscorer.
After the game, Wenger praised the contribution of teenage winger Oxlade-Chamberlain. "Alex was not ready earlier in the season but he has made a big step in the last months, he produces team play and is not only going forward but contributes to the build up and defending," the Frenchman said.
"He has improved very quickly and he is a fighter as well in his personality. He plays like a guy who had talent in September but is much more mature now."
Van Persie strikes early
It took Netherlands striker Van Persie just 79 seconds to open the scoring with the 100th league goal of his career. Radoslav Petrovic's poor clearance fell for Francis Coquelin, who slipped a ball through to Theo Walcott down the right flank.
Walcott's low cross found Van Persie unmarked and the Gunners skipper had the simple task of tapping past Paul Robinson and into an empty net. Blackburn, set up to contain the hosts, needed to attack but struggled to impose themselves on the game with just Anthony Modeste up front.
Modeste was almost on the end of a cross, but was inches away from the ball and ended up with a booking for crashing into Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal looked likely to increase their lead. Oxlade-Chamberlain, who started despite a slight concern over his knee, went wide from the edge of the penalty area with their next chance.
Laurent Koscielny almost scored when Per Mertesacker nodded Tomas Rosicky's corner into his path, while Van Persie also went wide with a delicate chip. But Rovers shocked Wenger's team in the 32nd minute through Pedersen's spectacular free-kick.
Koscielny gave away the set-piece when he allowed the ball to bounce and eventually held Modeste, earning the France defender a booking. Pedersen took full advantage, sending his effort into the top corner, with Szczesny getting a touch but failing to prevent an equaliser.
Arsenal were ahead again with a couple of goals just before half-time. Van Persie notched another, tapping home from another low Walcott cross. Alex Song had set up the goal with a precise pass for England winger Walcott.
Oxlade-Chamberlain added the third when Van Persie sent him through with a reverse pass after Rosicky had been fouled in the build-up but advantage was played. Robinson rushed out but Oxlade-Chamberlain touched the ball around him and finshed into an unguarded goal.
Givet goes off
It got worse for Blackburn when Givet was given a straight red card for a two-footed tackle on Van Persie, with the defender apologising to the player and Wenger as he left the pitch. Thomas Vermaelen also hit the post from close-range before the interval when Arteta's cross was flicked on by Rovers substitute Grant Hanley.
Arteta's goal came six minutes into the second half, a volley deflected in after the visitors failed to clear a corner. Oxlade-Chamberlain's second goal was set up by Walcott's mazy run followed by a simple pass to his team-mate, who finished into the near post.
And Van Persie completed his hat-trick when he met Coquelin's cross at the front post and sent his finish into the top corner of the net. Van Persie unselfishly set up Henry's goal deep in stoppage time, with the substitute's finish deflecting in off Scott Dann from close range.