Arsenal smashed Everton 4-0 at the Emirates. The Gunners owed the Toffees that one. Everton had become a bogey club for Arsenal, much to our collective chagrin. When you’re challenging for a Champions League spot (last season) and / or a Premier League title, you cannot afford to drop points to clubs at the bottom.
The Toffees frustrated the Gunners for the opening 35 minutes or so. As much as I dislike Sean Dyche, he has done a good job making Everton more organized and defensively rigid. Unfortunately, sitting deep is a difficult way to play and requires maximum concentration at all times. If you switch off or make a mistake, you’re going to concede.
And that’s exactly what happened for the Arsenal first goal. Bukayo Saka drifted in between Vitalii Mykolenko and Michael Keane and neither picked him up. Alex Zinchenko slipped a clever pass into Saka, he turned well, and blasted it into the top corner at the near post.
A few minutes later, another Everton mistake, another Arsenal goal. Gana Gueye was lazy in possession and Bukayo Saka caught him out. The winger’s touch freed Gabriel Martinelli who scored the semi-breakaway. The goal was initially ruled out for offside, but VAR showed that Martinelli was behind the ball when Saka played it and thus was onside.
With the match at 2-0 before halftime, it felt over. Everton weren’t offering anything going forward. More tellingly, you could see it in how Arsenal were playing and feel it from the home support. The Gunners weren’t letting the visitors back in.
On the tactical side of things, Arsenal adjusted well over the first half. Early in the frame, players were trying to force passes between the lines that weren’t on and into holes that didn’t exist, Jorginho in particular. As the half wore on, they became more patient with the ball, recycling possession, and being more selective with when they went for the killer ball.
Yes, the goals were a bit opportunistic, but you don’t get those chances if you’re sloppily conceding possession and not sticking to your gameplan. Arsenal need more of that clinical, ruthless edge going forward. Mikel Arteta often talks about “taking your chances” when you get them, and his side did that in the first half. The Gunners had three shots in the first half. They scored two of them.
The second half looked more a training exercise than a half of football. The Gunners zipped the ball around the pitch with ease and added two more goals to the tally. Martin Ødegaard got the third, deftly redirecting a great cutback from Leandro Trossard, who had been sprung free by a lovely pass from Granit Xhaka. Gabriel Martinelli got the fourth, steering an Eddie Nketiah pass between Jordan Pickford’s legs.
The first, third, and fourth goals were lovely pieces of football. Arsenal looked like the side they were before the World Cup break. It was fun to watch. ***knock on wood*** The Gunners seem to have recovered from their dip in form at the start of February.
You can’t say enough good things about Bukayo Saka. He scored the opener. His work created the second. He became the sixth-youngest player in Premier League history to 50 goals + assists, behind Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler, Cesc Fabregas, and Chris Sutton. Saka has 19 goal involvements in his last 22 Premier League matches. All eleven of his goals have either tied the score in a match or put Arsenal in front. Arsenal are getting contributions from all over the pitch this season, but Bukayo Saka is the bedrock on which the attack is built.
Saka’s brilliance has helped his teammates to shine. With Gabriel Martinelli at the double, Saka and Martinelli make Arsenal the first team in the Premier League with two 10-goal scorers this season. Martin Ødegaard is one short of that mark, too. And the “Arsenal striker” (Jesus + Nketiah) has nine goals, as well.
I said it after the weekend win over Leicester City, and I’ll say it again now: you don’t keep a clean sheet without solid defending. Gabriel Magalhaes was fantastic. At 0-0, he made a fantastic block / tackle inside the Arsenal 6-yard box that easily could have been an Everton opener. Shoutout to Aaron Ramsdale, as well. He made two big saves in the second half, one on Dwight McNeil and one on Tom Davies at the death to preserve the shutout. The clean sheet (11) takes him one shy of Nick Pope for most in the Premier League this season.
Tonight’s win over Everton makes Arsenal the first club with 100 wins over a single opponent in the league. And the Gunners are now mathematically safe from relegation.
More importantly, it was Arsenal’s game-in-hand over Manchester City. The win takes the Gunners five points clear at the top of the Premier League table. More importantly, if Arsenal match Manchester City from here on in, they will win the league even if they lose at the Etihad at the end of April. 13 cup finals to go. Just keep stacking wins.