Arsenal showed they weren’t quite dead and buried in the title race with an impressive, professional win over Everton at Goodison on Saturday afternoon.
Arsene Wenger revealed that he is still more than a little displeased with Theo Walcott by leaving him on the bench and picking Alex Iwobi but for the most, the side was as expected.
It was a team full of industry, movement and skill with enough bite to hold strong in the middle of the park, making previous Arsenal teams this season look even more toothless with how they went about dealing with Everton.
It was a fast start from the hosts as they hoped to take advantage of any sluggishness in the Arsenal side and were almost rewarded after just a minute as they hit the outside of the post from an early corner.
Less than a minute later, Arsenal hit the woodwork as Danny Welbeck rampaged through the Everton defence. As they tried to clear it, the ball rebounded off a defender and then Welbeck and off the outside of the post.
We seemed set for a breathless afternoon.
It was Danny who opened the scoring six minutes later with a quite beautiful and pure Arsenal goal. A pass from Alexis was played back to him by Ozil before he slid it though the heart of the Toffee’s defence. Welbeck collected the ball, took it around the keeper and slotted it home – all after Arsenal had kept the ball for what seemed like an eternity.
Lovely, incisive stuff that has been missing from this side for some time now.
It’s also worth noting that Alexis has three assists and one goal in the last five games. Terrible form, eh?
It was also Welbz’s third goal in just five league appearances which isn’t bad for a striker whose worst attribute is his finishing. Not bad at all.
Arsenal dominated the rest of the half, playing beautiful football and nullifying Everton’s main threat. It was a lot more comfortable than any of us were expecting and we were also denied a stonewall penalty but didn’t get it because Sanchez tried to stay on his feet. He eventually went down when he was fouled a second time, but by then it was too late and he was getting nothing.
They did manage to double their lead before the break and it was Iwobi on his first Premier League start who received the ball over his shoulder as Arsenal countered. He controlled it, held off the Everton defender and slotted coolly between the keeper’s legs.
He’s currently on around £850 a week while Theo earns c£130,000.
Everton changed to a back three/five for the second half in a bid to stop Arsenal’s attacking threat but the Gunners kept coming.
Arsenal dominated possession while the home fans became more and more agitated as they watched a quite awful performance from their team.
Only one side across Europe’s top five leagues have conceded more goals at home this season than Everton (Troyes) and they conceded nine without reply last weekend. It was easy to see why as they allowed Arsenal to move around them with ease.
Mark Clattenburg tried to help by allowing them to block and palm off without punishment as their chosen way of dealing with the Gunner’s threat but nothing seemed to be capable of stopping Arsenal pushing forward in search of a third.
The main concern came when David Ospina was injured. Going down for a ball, both Gabriel and Lukaku slid into him with the Arsenal man looking like he delivered the most painful blow to his back. Lukaku got all the blame and Dave struggled on.
Shortly after, Mesut Ozil was injured when John Stones landed on his ankle. He was replaced immediately by Kieran Gibbs while Giroud replaced Welbeck.
Theo continued to sit on the bench.
Arsenal were unable to increase their lead, although Giroud did net as the whistle blew, Everton benefitting from the softest of fouls in the box while they’d gotten away with cardable offences all afternoon.
They did keep Everton out and that’s all they needed to do.
Alexis Sanchez has earned a rest https://t.co/6TTKJKokZz
— Farmer Jones (@thefarmerjones) March 19, 2016
What was clear in this game was an improved work rate from the Arsenal side.
The players that we have often complained about not being interested (mainly Theo) were on the bench and the men who came in (Iwobi and Welbeck) brought a new energy to the side with Iwobi being named Man of the Match by BT.
I wondered if Arsenal would turn up for this game in the same way they had midweek (despite the result, the performance was much improved).
Now do it in the next game too.