Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference
Final Result: Arsenal 4-0 Everton (Saka 40′, Martinelli 46′, 80′, Odegaard 71′)
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko (Tierney 82′); Jorginho (Partey 45′), Xhaka (F. Vieira 72′); Saka (Smith-Rowe 82′), Odegaard, Martinelli; Trossard (Nketiah 72′)
Michael Oliver was the man with the whistle when Sean Dyche and his Everton side came to the home of football as Arsenal finally got their world famous game in hand out of the way. That came with its own measure of trouble, as well as some measure of revenge, bearing in mind that Everton was the team that dented Arsenal’s 14-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, handing the Gunners their first defeat since September 2022.
The initial part of the game was a scrappy affair with Everton soaking up the Arsenal pressure and springing on the break with some counter attacking football that had little or no threat to the Gunners rearguard. Neal Maupay lead the Everton attack in the absence of the always-injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but his much publicized goal drought, 12 games or so, was mentioned by the commentary team, as well as the jabs they took about his confidence. In all honesty, it was on show, as he failed to connect from an attacking standpoint, and his attempt of a flick from a Dwight McNeil cross was quite laughable.
Arsenal attack was spearheaded by Leandro Trossard, as I predicted, and his swaps on the left wing with Gabriel Martinelli was akin to how the Brazilian connected with Gabriel Jesus when he was fit. When it looked like Everton were about to go into the break level on scores after quite a disruptive display, Arsenal turned on the style and had their starboy to thank for such an emphatic finish. Arsenal’s left back-turned midfielder, Oleksandr Zinchenko, made another of his trademark marauding attacking forays and received the ball at the edge of the Everton area before feeding Bukayo Saka, who timed his run well behind Vitali Mykolenko, using his weaker right foot to smash the ball past Jordon Pickford.
Arsenal doubled their money before the break when Idrissa Gueye had won the ball off Martin Odegaard, but dallied on it before he was robbed by Saka. Martinelli, who was in the center forward position, with Trossard on the left, latched onto the loose ball and placed it past an onrushing Pickford. There was a long VAR check, and Martinelli was adjudged to be onside, much to the delight of everyone at the Emirates Stadium. The last time there was an important VAR check at the Emirates, Lee Mason failed to do his job properly, and we all heard that he resigned following the backlash from that incident.
Martinelli and Saka’s goals also meant that both players were up to double figures in Premier League goals, and Martinelli became the third Brazilian in Premier League history to reach that figure while aged 21 or under. Only Gabriel Jesus (in 2017/18) and Richarlison (2018/19) had achieved the feat earlier. That was also his third goal since returning from the bench, which meant that the Trossard kick on his arse was what he needed to step his game up.
At the start of the second half, Thomas Partey came on for Jorginho, who had a stinker, if we were being honest, and as expected, the Ghanaian lynchpin added some stability to the center of the park. Gueye was also yanked out at the break for Mason Holgate, but I don’t know whether it was tactical, or whether Dyche was pissed off at him for his part in the second goal conceded. Meh.
Trossard’s switching with Martinelli created so much confusion for the Everton backline, and the Belgian almost made it three when Ben White received Saka’s through ball and swung the ball to the far post, but Trossard failed to connect well with the ball and steer his attempted volley on target. His signing, like Jorginho, was a true inspiration that has galvanized the team’s attack in Gabriel Jesus’ absence, and it’s really funny when you remember that Trossard and Jorginho were backup signings following the failed attempts of the first targets, Mykhailo Mudryk and Moises Caicedo.
Everton made a couple of attacking substitutions with their top scorer, Demarai Gray, replacing the ineffectual Maupay, and the visitors almost pulled on back when McNeil was left unmarked at the edge of the area and blasted a shot that was well parried by Aaron Ramsdale. Ramsdale has to be commended for the vital saves he continues to pull up every week, as his concentration levels are always in check, with his team on the ascendancy all the time.
Arsenal put the game beyond doubt when Granit Xhaka put Trossard in behind the Everton defense on the left hand side, and the Belgian’s side-footed cut back from the byline was finished aplomb by Odegaard. That also turned out to be the last involvements for Xhaka and the brilliant Trossard, who were substituted shortly for Fabio Vieira and Eddie Nketiah. Within minutes of his arrival on the pitch, Nketiah was clean on goal when Partey dinked a sumptuous ball for the for English forward and he hurriedly blasted his shot on Pickford’s body. It was already 3-0 so the Arsenal supporters didn’t mind, but if the tie was still level and we needed that ball to be at the back of the net, there would have been a collective groan from the Emirates faithful. The goals have somewhat dried up for Nketiah, but he has to keep at it. Martinelli had gone eight games without a goal, and even got benched, but now, he has four goals in three. That’s football.
Arsenal put the icing on their well baked cake when Zinchenko threaded a sweet pass to Nketiah on the byline who drilled one at the near post for Martinelli that toe poked it under Pickford’s legs before he could even react. That goal was really good because Nketiah and Martinelli haven’t really worked together post-World Cup, like Martinelli and G. Jesus, which affected the Brazilian’s form.
Arteta brought on Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith-Rowe, to give them some minutes as the Emirates went into party mode. Smith-Rowe was almost on the scoring act which would taken Arsenal to five, but the Everton defense was on hand to make some important blocks from the English midfielder and Fabio Vieira that had a sniff at goal too. The party was almost spoiled late on when Gray fired a shot that was goal-bound, bringing yet another save from Ramsdale, but the Arsenal defense had to bail their goalie out and preserve his clean sheet when they stopped Tom Davies’ rebounded effort.
Following the ref’s whistle to end proceedings, the joy was palpable as the Gunners did what was required of them, getting three deserved points, as well as boosting up their goal difference, which may come to the fore in deciding the fate of the Premier League title. Mikel Arteta wasn’t resting on his team’s laurels after the game, stating that there’s more to come, and I must say that I really love the attitude he has instilled on the team, especially with their one-game-at-a-time approach.
Bournemouth visit the Emirates this weekend, while Man City hosts the deflated Carabao Cup finalists, Newcastle. More on the Bournemouth game as we get closer, but its time to smell that fresh air that’s five points ahead at the top, as well as credit the lads for another top performance.
It was emphatic and entertaining.
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