Title-chasing Arsenal opened up a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League as Gabriel Martinelli’s double eased them to a 4-0 thrashing of relegation-threatened Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
The hosts were initially frustrated by struggling Everton, but goals by Bukayo Saka and Martinelli shortly before half-time put them in command as they took maximum advantage of their game in hand over Manchester City.
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Captain Martin Odegaard made it 3-0 with a close-range finish in the 71st minute before Martinelli grabbed his second goal of the evening to complete the rout.
A third victory in succession since losing at home to City lifted Arsenal to 60 points from 25 games with City on 55.
Everton, who now have only one victory from their last 27 league visits to Arsenal, had actually looked capable of taking something from the game.
But once the visitors fell behind a 14th league defeat of the season became almost a formality and they remain third from bottom with 21 points having played a game more than the teams around them.
While Everton are haunted by the looming prospect of a first relegation from the Premier League, Arsenal are beginning to envisage a first title since 2004, although they still have to visit Manchester City in April.
“I am delighted with the win and the way we played after the first 25 minutes. We had some difficulties at the start,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.
“Once we scored the first goal, the game unlocked. We needed a magic moment and Bukayo produced that. After that we grew and deserved to win the game.
“We played really well in the second half and could have scored more.”
Everton stunned Arsenal in Sean Dyche’s first game in charge in February and for 40 minutes they did an extremely effective job at nullifying them again.
But they caved in with half-time looming.
Dangerman Saka had been relatively quiet but he burst into life to make the breakthrough. Given far too much time to turn after receiving a pass from Odegaard on the right edge of the penalty area, he smashed an angled shot into the roof of the net.
Everton’s Idrissa Gueye then gifted Arsenal a second on the stroke of half-time. The Senegal midfielder was caught napping by Saka, who nicked the ball away from him before poking a pass to Martinelli to slip a shot past Jordan Pickford.
The visitors thought they had been spared by an offside flag, but a VAR decision overturned it and Arsenal went in at half-time to chants of “we are top of the league” from the home fans.
With only 17 league goals all season it looked a tall order for shot-shy Everton to salvage anything and they offered next to nothing after the break.
Odegaard fired in his side’s third from Leandro Trossard’s cut back and Martinelli confirmed the gulf between the sides late on by tapping in from Eddie Nketiah’s assist.