London: Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick as Arsenal crushed a woeful Blackburn Rovers 7-1 to chalk up their first league victory of 2012 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Thierry Henry, with his first League goal since he returned to the club last month, completed the rout with virtually the last kick of the game after coming on as a 68th minute substitute with teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain netting twice and Mikel Arteta adding the other.
Van Persie opened the scoring after only two minutes and added two more to take his League tally to 22 goals for the season and 28 in all competitions as Arsene Wenger`s men racked up their biggest win of the season and climbed from seventh to fifth in the standings.
Blackburn, who were totally outclassed and reduced to 10 men when Gael Givet was sent off for scything down Van Persie just before halftime, were briefly in contention when Morten Gamst Pedersen made it 1-1 direct from a free kick after 31 minutes.
However, once Van Persie put Arsenal back in front seven minutes later with a close-range effort, the contest was as good as over with Theo Walcott having a superb match and the Rovers defence struggling to cope as Arsenal scored five times in 24 minutes.
Another positive for the Gunners was the performance of 18-year-old Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored his first two Premier League goals against the hapless away side who fell from 18th to 19th and remain deep in relegation trouble with pressure again mounting on manager Steve Kean.
Six other matches were being played on a bitterly-cold Saturday with league leaders Manchester City playing Fulham in a 5:30 p.m. kickoff at the Etihad Stadium.