Wenger's Arsenal sends message to title rivals

BLACKBURN, England, Aug 29, 2010 (AFP) - Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal's 2-1 victory over Blackburn will force other teams in the Premier League to respect their title ambitions.

Goals from Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin helped to overcome a physical Rovers outfit at Ewood Park on Saturday.

It was all so different on the last day of last season when Arsenal were beaten 2-1 by the same opponents.

Blackburn Rovers' El Hadji Diouf (L) vies with Arsenal's Alex Song during the match between Blackburn Rovers and Arsenal on August 28, 2010. AFP

However, a delighted Wenger insisted his side's victory underlined that they can become genuine Premier League contenders this season.

"If you have ambitions in the league you want to win at Blackburn," Wenger said.

"Because if you don't win then your ambition will not be respected by other teams so it was an important test for us.

"We scored a great goal and after that we were a bit too nervous about how to play Blackburn.

"In the second half we were calmer, kept the ball well on the ground and controlled the game much better.

"It was just a question of time in the last 15 minutes it is always a test and you need luck and we had the right commitment.

"But if you don't score the third goal you are always under threat from a team like Blackburn.

"Last year we had bad memories here and we know they play the kind of game that we don't like so we didn't have the confidence to deal with that but in the second half we did much better."

Arsenal opened the lead after 20 minutes when Walcott superbly rifled past Paul Robinson after some fine build-up play by Arshavin and Robin van Persie as they carved Blackburn's defence open.

However, Rovers then did the same to the visitors just six minutes later when the Dioufs - El Hadji and Mame Biram - combined to excellent effect for the equaliser.

El Hadji charged down the right wing and Mame ghosted unmarked into the six-yard box to tap into an empty net.

It was Mame's fourth goal in just two encounters for Rovers after scoring a hat-trick against Norwich in the League Cup during the week and he looked sharp throughout the match.

After Diouf’s equaliser, Arsenal showed more composure on the ball and this was underlined shortly after the break when Arshavin won it as the Russian picked up a loose ball in the penalty area and calmly slotted home.

However, the goal did not break Blackburn's spirit and they could have earned a point but Michel Salgado, Chris Samba and David Dunn all missed good chances late on.

After a great start to the Premier League with an opening day win against Everton, Sam Allardyce's side have now lost two successive games.

"We are disappointed we didn't get a result but at the end of the day we played quite well," Allardyce said.

"The game is about results and we have lost two on the trot so we have put ourselves in a difficult position.

"Although performances have been good, we only have three points and that puts us under pressure.

"I'm disappointed we didn't get something out of it because from my point of view the first half was our opportunity to get our noses in front even after going a goal down.

"And because we didn't take those chances we paid the price, because at some stage Arsenal will take control."

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