LONDON, October 5 – Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal are capable of mounting a sustained challenge for the Premier League title this season after his side routed Blackburn 6-2 at the Emirates Stadium.Wenger became Arsenal’s longest serving manager on Thursday with 13 years service and Sunday’s eye-catching display was the ideal way to mark the anniversary of his arrival in north London.
The Gunners, without a trophy since 2005, were widely written off as title also-rans in pre-season following Wenger’s decision not to spend big to replace Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure after their exits to Manchester City.
But his faith in his young squad is being rewarded and Arsenal are now in fourth place – six points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand.
Wenger said: "There is a real togetherness about the team. They are enjoying themselves and playing some wonderful football. I think we are strong.
"We scored six goals and their ‘keeper had a great game. We are in a strong position this season, despite the fact that we have lost two games.
"The fact that we feel we should have got something from both games against Manchester United and Manchester City makes us believe even more. I hope they can sustain what they are doing at the moment."
Blackburn took a shock lead early on when Steven N’Zonzi’s header from Paul Robinson’s 60-yard punt looped over Vito Mannone.
Thomas Vermaelen fired Arsenal level from the edge of the penalty area before David Dunn’s deflected effort briefly restored Blackburn’s advantage.
Then Cesc Fabregas took over. His subtle passing on the edge of the area led to wonderfully taken goals from Robin Van Persie and Andrey Arshavin.
Fabregas thumped in a volley from the edge of the area for Arsenal’s fourth and provided the flick for substitute Theo Walcott to score with virtually his first touch, before Nicklas Bendtner rounded off the celebrations in perfect style with a powerful shot from the egde of the area.
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce claims Peter Walton should be removed from the Premier League’s refereeing panel for his failure to award his side a penalty with the match still in the balance.
Northamptonshire official Walton failed to award what Allardyce insists was a blatant penalty for Vermaelen’s challenge on Dunn three minutes after half-time, with Arsenal holding a 3-2 advantage.
Just 24 hours after Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson slammed Alan Wiley for not being fit enough to refere at the top level, Allardyce set his sights on Walton.
"They are fully professional now so if they are not good enough, we should find someone who is. That decision wasn’t good enough for me and it had a major effect on the course of this game," Allardyce said.
"In the big pressure pot that is this league you have got to get the major decisions right otherwise you don’t stay in this league too long – not as a manager or a player. So as a referee you have to be judged the same.
"It doesn’t even itself out over a season, that is the problem. I am in the billion-pound business.
"It is the multi, multi-millions pounds I keep getting reminded about every day of the week about by everybody and the fact we can’t afford to go out of the Premier League.
"It could could bankrupt the club and major decisions like that could take you into the relegation zone and if you are going to get relegated, you want to get relegated by your team not doing the job properly – not by major decisions like that not going for you."