Premier LeagueMatch Report

Arsenal put four goals past Everton to go five points clear at top of table

Everton were back to the flatness that has characterised much of their season

Arsenal 4 Everton 0

As the oles rang out from the Arsenal support with 15 minutes to go, the victory in the bag, Everton looking broken, it was possible to wonder how on earth they had lost to the same opposition at Goodison Park at the beginning of February.

If that was one of the clearest examples in recent times of a new-manager bounce, Everton responding to Sean Dyche, the visitors were back to the flatness that has characterised much of their season, even if they did make life difficult for Arsenal for much of the first half.

Once breached, though, by a scorching Bukayo Saka finish, there was only ever going to be one winner – particularly given Everton’s lack of edge in front of goal. It was all over bar the shouting, and there would be plenty of that from the home crowd, when Idrissa Gueye suffered a meltdown in first-half stoppage time.


Gueye did not notice Saka racing towards him as he dallied in his final third, facing his own goal and, when he was robbed, the ball ran through for Gabriel Martinelli to finish. At first, it appeared that Martinelli might have been offside. He was not. It was not a night when Everton would get away with anything.

Martin Ødegaard got the third, Martinelli the fourth after a cross from the substitute, Eddie Nketiah and, when Aaron Ramsdale denied the Everton substitute, Tom Davies, from point-blank range with the final kick, it represented salt in the visitors’ wounds. There was plenty for Mikel Arteta and his players to celebrate, not least when they looked at the league table. Their lead over Manchester City is up to five points.

It has got to that stage where Arsenal fans have to be peeking at what their team have left to face. For Arteta, though, it must be one game at a time, a gospel of single-mindedness. There was no danger of him becoming caught up in any daydreaming. It was Everton here and nothing else, his mood coloured by what had happened at Goodison.

The battle lines were drawn early, Arsenal on the front foot. It felt like a detail worth noting that the home crowd barracked Jordan Pickford as early as the fifth minute over taking his time on a goal kick. Was it going to be one of those nights? Arteta enjoyed the control with which his team had played in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Leicester and so he stuck with the same starting XI – Leandro Trossard up front instead of Nketiah, Jorginho over Thomas Partey in midfield. For much of the first half, it was plain that patience would have to be a part of the equation, too.

It is easy to suspect that Dyche is no lover of Arsenal; he sees a fancy and entitled London team. Remember his rant after his Burnley had lost here in August 2019 when he raged about diving and cheating? It was not an Arsenal thing, he stressed; he was worried about the game in general.

Dyche, who recalled Michael Keane in central defence at the expense of Conor Coady, was a whirr of technical area energy; cajoling, demanding. In one sense, he did not need to bother. Everybody knew what he wanted – especially his players. It was compact lines in a formation that was resolutely 4-5-1 without the ball; aggression in the challenges, hard running on the defensive cover.

Dyche needed to see counter-attacking punch and there were signs of it during the first half. What Dyche would have been more pleased about as the interval approached was how his team had got men around the ball and stifled Arsenal.

Then everything changed, the breakthrough a bolt through the royal blue, Everton’s concentration slipping for a second but it was all that Saka needed. He drifted inside Vitali Mykolenko and Keane did not step across, the space there for Oleksandr Zinchenko to ping the pass.

Saka took a touch and spun in on goal, the angle tight but the near top corner offering the route to gold. Saka mined it and, when Gueye suffered his aberration moments later, it was difficult to see a way back for Everton.

Arteta introduced Partey for Jorginho at half-time and the equation was simple – keep out the division’s most misfiring attack and chalk off another win. Everton’s woes in front of goal have been extraordinary and it was remarkable to think that their leading scorers in the league at kick-off had just three goals apiece. One was Demarai Gray, left on the substitutes’ bench until the 60th minute; the other Anthony Gordon, sold to Newcastle in January.

Dyche could feel that his team played pretty well in the first half, executing his game plan. And yet when the threat in front of goal is so minimal, they were always likely to have zero margin for error. Oh, for a player like Saka, so fast and incisive. Ruthless, too. Whenever he had the ball, there was danger.

The second half drifted along, Everton determined not to make any more mistakes and leaving their mark with some heavy challenges. Dwight McNeil did wriggle clear to work Ramsdale with a low shot on 62 minutes.

But Arsenal were the likelier scorers of the next goal and they got it when Trossard crossed low and Ødegaard arrived to finish via a deflection off James Tarkowski. – Guardian