Cesc Fabregas produced a virtuoso display as Arsenal saw off the challenge of Blackburn at Emirates Stadium, where Theo Walcott marked his return from injury with a late strike. The Gunners captain had a hand in all but one of the six goals, getting on the scoresheet himself during the second half as the home side recovered from going behind after just four minutes when Steven Nzonzi headed Rovers into a shock lead. Arsene Wenger's young side once again showed their character to recover and record a third successive Premier League victory, a sixth in all competitions, which reduces the deficit on the sides above them and with the benefit of a match in hand. Before kick-off visiting Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was given a warm reception by the Emirates Stadium faithful, the Barcelona forward having admitted he would one day love to return to his old club in some capacity perhaps even as Wenger's eventual successor. Rovers, though, had not read the script and took the lead on three minutes. Goalkeeper Paul Robinson sent a long free-kick from deep inside the visitors half into the Arsenal penalty area. Nzonzi got up above Thomas Vermaelen and flicked the ball goalwards, which looped over Vito Mannone the first goal conceded in 359 minutes since the Champions League game in Liege. At least going behind meant Arsenal would need more urgency in their attack. Belgian Vermaelen then more than made up for his error in judgement when firing Arsenal level on 16 minutes. Robinson made a couple more good saves before Rovers went ahead once more. Franco Di Santo got away down the right, and fed the ball through to David Dunn on the other flank. The midfielder cut back into the area, and his shot cannoned off William Gallas' leg and wrong footed Mannone. The lead did not last long though, as in the 33rd minute Van Persie latched onto Fabregas' defence-splitting pass and dispatched a low strike into the far corner. Arsenal maintained their pressure and completed the turnaround on 36 minutes. Fabregas was again the provider, this time playing Arshavin into the left side of the penalty area and the Russian drilled in an angled drive. Blackburn had a strong claim for a penalty at the start of the second half. Dunn dribbled into the box, but despite looking to have been caught by Vermaelen's outstretched leg, the referee waved play on. Fabregas finally got his goal following more patient build-up on 57 minutes. Rosicky hooked a loose ball back along the edge of the Rovers penalty area and it dropped just right for the Arsenal captain, who crashed a half-volley past Robinson. To their credit, Rovers refused to lie down and another determined run from Dunn tested Mannone, the keeper making a parry to beat away the midfielder's shot from 18 yards. Walcott, hoping to make an impression on England manager Fabio Capello, was introduced for the final 22 minutes replacing Rosicky. Rovers hit the woodwork when Vermaelen deflected substitute David Hoilett's shot into the ground onto the post. Diaby drilled an effort just wide following Fabregas' clever back-heel, before Walcott marked his return with a goal on 75 minutes when he side-footed home Fabregas' pass following a quick counter by Arshavin. Fabregas was given a standing ovation after he was replaced by Bendtner, who should have scored when clean through on 80 minutes, but shot straight at Robinson. Walcott had another effort scrambled off the line by Gael Givet before Bendtner fit again after suffering minor injuries in a car crash smashed in a sixth from 20 yards.
* PA Sport