Order was restored on Sunday afternoon as Arsenal beat Everton 2-0 at the Emirates to go back to third in the Premier League.
It may seem odd to call a 2-0 a return to the norm, but it is as far as Arsenal home games are concerned.
Far from a classic, this comfortable victory was exactly what the doctor ordered.
If said doctor was issuing prescriptions he certainly would’ve pencilled us in for a clean sheet and – after his misery against Monaco – an Olivier Giroud goal.
Gladly we got the lot
Arsène Wenger made just two changes to the side which lost to Monaco, with Gabriel Paulista replaceing Per Mertesacker for his Premier League debut and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in for Danny Welbeck
30 minute hangover
Everton came into the game looking confident on the back of another convinving win in Europe in midweek, but lots of possession provided no actual sights of goal. Arsenal dropped off and allowed the Toffees quite sterile possession. With Ross Barkley coming narrow and Romelu Lukaku’s movement leaving a lot to be desired, Arsenal managed to stay compact and organised.
The biggest scare in the first half came as David Ospina raced out of goal to first parry the ball away from Romelu Lukaku, before chasing the Belgian forward down and knocking the ball out for a throw with a sliding tackle. A really lax moment of defending from Gabriel Paulista had let Lukaku charge through, but Ospina saved the blushes of his teammate.
Other than that the main worry in the first half an hour was whether or not the home side would show very much going forward during a sunny afternoon in North London.
Sitting off is a favoured tactic when we lack confidence or really need a result, but you can’t help but wonder why we don’t employ it as more of a default setting. I’ve mentioned before that we can’t press well as a team, and that in itself makes a high defensive line incredibly risky.
There’s nothing wrong with ensuring stability before looking to attack, and this approach on Sunday afternoon certainly paid dividends.
For the first half an hour or so Arsenal lacked any real fluidity, perhaps still nervous and inhibited, but as Everton grew sloppier in possession we responded by using the ball a bit better ourselves. After 28 minutes Giroud missed the first decent chance, under a fair amount of pressure from Jagielka, as he stooped low to head an Alexis Sánchez cross just wide.
Next came a superb moment from Gabriel, who covered Laurent Koscielny and kept up with Lukaku as he pulled away from Kieran Gibbs. The Brazilian made a great sliding tackle just as Lukaku was about to shoot.
Gabriel came away with the ball and just a minute later Giroud had put us ahead.
Mesut Özil’s low corner was diverted in, courtesy of the Frenchman’s unfavoured right foot. Wednesday was a night to forget for Giroud, but he clearly wasn’t going to let it detract from what is becoming an unforgettable season – this was his 9th Premier League goal of the campaign, coming in just his 11th start.
As the second half began Arsenal were again on the back foot, with Luke Garbutt swinging in a couple of dangerous free-kicks. One in particularly looked to trouble Ospina, who only managed to pat it away for a corner after it had travelled all the way to his far post.
That, however, seemed to be all Everton could muster as they attempted to get back into the game.
A quiet second half saw Ospina make just two saves (two more than he was required to make in the first half, I might add), while the home side also never really got going.
The biggest ‘worry’ was what looked like a broken nose for Francis Coquelin.
A clash of heads with Giroud left the midfielder down for a while, and a ball to the face in the closing stages had his nose gushing with blood once more. Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere, and Aaron Ramsey are all close to a return, while Calum Chambers may even get a chance in that role at some point.
For all his tenacity, Coquelin is lacking technically, and Arsenal’s tempo playing out from the back seems to suffer with him in that deep role.
At arm’s length was exactly where Arsenal had Everton for the most part.
In the second half the best chance for the visitors came courtesy of a slack pass from Gabriel, forcing Koscielny to take a yellow card after bringing down Aaron Lennon.
Some of the play was nice but, despite being in control of the match, Arsenal never actually troubled Tim Howard.
Too often the final ball was overhit or delayed for too long. It ultimately took another wonderful moment from Özil to seal all three points.
A long ball from Ospina was glanced on by Giroud, and seized upon by Özil. Looking up from the left channel, Özil picked out a pass that few others would have seen.
Thanks to a healthy deflection, Tomas Rosicky’s effort went past the helpless Tim Howard.
Özil drifted around all afternoon, and managed a few ‘nearly’ moments – one in particular comes to mind, as Oxlade-Chamberlain could have put the German through but delayed the pass and then put it on Özil’s right foot.
Where Alexis will run through walls with his head down, Özil will lift his head up and find an elegant alternative to bypass anything standing in his way.
With the Chilean struggling for form right now his game suffers with his incredible mentality willing him on to do too much.
Arsenal’s conductor’s assist for the man dubbed ‘Little Mozart’ simply showed how his understated class influences games, whether or not everyone realises.