For weeks and weeks, Arsenal fans have spoke of nothing else than having a game in-hand on rivals Manchester City. A win over Sean Dyche’s team, a team who beat them 1-0 only a few weeks ago, would see Arsenal extend their lead at the top of the table to five points.
Mikel Arteta appeared to be full of confidence. The Spaniard named an unchanged Arsenal side from the one that beat Leicester City 0-1 on Saturday.
It’s fair to say that the first half was not an enjoyable one for Arsenal and their fans. Everton set up much like you would expect a Sean Dyche team to set up – which was to park the bus.
Chances were few and far between. The best effort of the half for sometime for the home side was Jorginho’s speculative effort from the edge of the box, in which the former-Chelsea man clipped his shot just over the corner of the crossbar.
Everton seemed to have their most potent threat on the counter-attack. Neal Maupay was granted several chances in the Arsenal penalty area, but was ultimately unable to take full advantage.
It became very obvious that it would require a moment of quality to break the deadlock. And such a moment presented itself in the 40th minute.
The superb Oleksandr Zinchenko was the architect. The Ukrainian international played a slide-rule pass into the feet of Bukayo Saka, who took a touch and then smashed an almighty effort into the top corner, beyond a helpless Jordan Pickford to give Arsenal their opener.
Five minutes later, they had a second.
This time, Everton were their architects of their own downfall. Idrissa Gueye seemed unaware of the presence of two Arsenal attackers and walked back to goal before being tackled by Bukayo Saka, which played through Gabriel Martinelli, who made no mistake in doubling Arsenal’s advantage.
The linesman’s flag was raised for offside, but VAR intervened and the goal stood.
If the first-half was frustration personified, the second was near total domination.
Everton simply couldn’t lay a finger on Arsenal.
For their part, they did still create a chance or two. Dwight McNeil had a shot well-saved by Aaron Ramsdale and Demari Gray went close in the dying embers, but Arsenal held on for the clean sheet.
For Arsenal, it was a chance to add to their lead, and add they did.
A defence-splitting pass from Granit Xhaka was the key. The Swiss’ ball into the path of Leandro Trossard allowed the Belgian international to square the ball for Martin Ødegaard who slotted home the third by way of a deflection.
But Arsenal were not done yet.
Changes were int he offing. Eddie Nketiah replaced Trossard, while Fábio Vieira replaced Granit Xhaka.
Nketiah was at the heart of Arsenal’s attack. After coming close himself, the Arsenal striker laid another one on a plate for Martinelli, who slotted home a fourth to round off the scoring nicely.
Emile Smith Rowe was finally re-introduced. The youngster has missed most of Arsenal’s games this season through injury, but he was happy to be given a fifteen minute-or-so run out.
The final whistle would, no doubt, be a relief for Everton.
It was a tremendous performance from Arsenal. There were shades of frustration creeping into the side in the first half, but they were soon abated.
In terms of performances, it was a very good night all round. Perhaps the best showings came from Gabriel Magalhães and Gabriel Martinelli.
It was yet another classy defensive performance from Gabriel Magalhães. The Brazilian defender was everywhere for Arsenal, and was an essential part of both the defence and the attack. Given the high-line Arsenal play, Gabriel was essential for the team’s build-up play.
He was even called into action to prevent a goal or two too. Everton finished the game with an xG of 1.9, and were largely thwarted by the work of William Saliba and Gabriel, as well as the safe-hands of Aaron Ramsdale.
As for Gabriel Martinelli, the Brazilian was on hand to pick up his fourth goal in three games. Goals against Aston Villa and Leicester City, as well as a new contract, seemed to have breathed new life into the Arsenal man, who took his tally for the season to 11 for the season.
Arsenal will no doubt be delighted by their extended lead over Manchester City. Ultimately, this was the game that had the potential to be a real banana skin for the team, given their previous result, but Arsenal stayed calm and collected and have gotten their just rewards.
The attention now turns to the visit of AFC Bournemouth on Saturday.
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
4.) Benjamin White
12.) William Saliba
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
35.) Oleksandr Zinchenko (Tierney 80’)
20.) Jorginho (Partey 45’)
34.) Granit Xhaka (Fábio Vieira 71’)
8.) Martin Ødegaard ©
7.) Bukayo Saka (Smith Rowe 80’)
11.) Gabriel Martinelli
19.) Leandro Trossard (Nketiah 71’)
30.) Matt Turner
16.) Rob Holding
15.) Jakub Kiwior
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
3.) Kieran Tierney
5.) Thomas Partey
21.) Fábio Vieira
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
14.) Eddie Nketiah
1.) Jordan Pickford
23.) Séamus Coleman © (Godfrey 60’)
5.) Michael Keane
2.) James Tarkowski
19.) Vitalii Mykolenko
27.) Idrissa Gueye (Holgate 45’)
8.) Amadou Onana
16.) Abdoulaye Doucouré (Davies 77’)
17.) Alex Iwobi
7.) Dwight McNeil
20.) Neal Maupay (Gray 60’)
15.) Asmir Begović
22.) Ben Godfrey
4.) Mason Holgate
29.) Rúben Vinagre
30.) Conor Coady
13.) Yerry Mina
26.) Tom Davies
11.) Demari Gray
50.) Ellis Simms