Arsenal 4 – 0 Everton
Idrissa Gueye committed his second costly error in the space of four days to effectively put this game at the Emirates beyond Everton’s reach in first-half stoppage time
Everton fell to their ninth defeat in 12 games to remain trapped in the relegation zone following a comprehensive defeat by Premier League leaders Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Sean Dyche’s game plan of containment and counter-attack had been working as intended, from the defensive perspective at least, for 40 minutes but a momentary loss of shape allowed the Gunners in and then just five minutes later, another horrendous and costly error by Idrissa Gueye effectively put the game beyond the Blues’ reach given their inability to score goals of their own.
Mikel Arteta’s men then simply underlined their vast superiority in the second half, sweeping the visitors aside by scoring twice more to extend their lead at the top to five points and leave Everton with a heavily bruised goal difference and in desperate need of victory this weekend in another relegation six-pointer at Nottingham Forest.
Dyche had kept faith with the same players who had started his last two matches in charge, with the exception of dropping Conor Coady to the bench in favour of Michael Keane, who made his first Premier League start of the season. That meant Neal Maupay leading the line once more in the continuing absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Demarai Gray having to be content with a place on the bench alongside Ellis Simms.
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Everton began the contest full of determination and running, with a clear strategy to try and frustrate their hosts while hoping to fashion something either in transition or from a set-piece.
And after a Jorginho effort had floated over the bar following a corner at one end, they had the first shot on target when Maupay took advantage of space outside the box to test Aaron Ramsdale with a decent shot that the goalkeeper pushed away to safety from Arsenal’s perspective.
A minute later, the Blues were in on the counter after they won the ball back following an error in the middle from Amadou Onana but Dwight McNeil’s heavy touch in collecting Abdoulaye Doucouré’s pass forced him wide and though he was able to cut the ball across to Maupay, the Frenchman’s attempted heel flick was easily gathered by the goalkeeper.
Everton were doing a good job of keeping Arsenal at arm’s length and they sprang away on the counter again in the 28th minute, momentarily with four players against only two in red shirts but Gueye opted to pass to Doucouré to his left rather than Alex Iwobi marauding down the right and once again Maupay was foiled at the near post as Dyche’s side failed to find a telling final ball.
12 minutes later, the damn broke. Oleksandr Zinchenko spotted Bakayo Saka in space between Keane, who was out of position on the left side of defence, and Vitalii Mykolenko and the England international winger needed no further invitation to turn and lash a shot inside Jordan Pickford’s near post and high into the roof of the net.
If Dyche had been hoping to get to the interval in arrears by just the single goal, an inexplicable lapse by Gueye allowed Gabriel Martinelli to plunder a second in first-half injury time. The Senegalese midfielder dallied on the ball outside his own area and was robbed by Saka who prodded it off his toes to Martinelli who had no problem beating the stranded Pickford.
The goal was initially ruled out by the offside flag but a check by VAR determined that Martinelli had been behind the ball when Saka touched it on and referee Michael Oliver signalled a goal.
Gueye, whose concession of a penalty at Goodison Park on Saturday had allowed Aston Villa to take a lead they didn’t end up relinquishing, was hooked at the break by Dyche in favour of Mason Holgate in a direct change that deployed the centre-half in defensive midfield but the destination of the points was already beyond doubt.
Leandro Trossard might have made it 3-0 in the 57th minute but miscued Ben White’s cross from the right while McNeil, arguably the top performer in Blue on the night, forced a good save from Ramsdale with a powerful shot and the rebound from the keeper’s parry evaded the onrushing Doucouré allowing Arsenal to clear.
Seamus Coleman and Maupay were replaced by Ben Godfrey and Demarai Gray on the hour but the Gunners extended their lead with 20 minutes left when Trossard jinked down the home side’s left and crossed for Martin Odegaard to side-foot home.
Then, after Pickford had done brilliantly to deny Eddie Nketiah after the striker had been put clean through with a ball over the static defence, Nketiah got to the byline and zipped a low cross to the near post where Martinellu stabbed it home to complete the rout.
Substitute Fabio Vieira floated a late shot that dropped over the bar while Gray forced one last save from Ramsdale and Tom Davies, on for Doucouré in the 79th minute, failed to turn in the loose ball.
Overall, it was a miserable night for Everton who were always on a hiding to nothing and who suffered another heavy defeat for the club on this ground. Arsenal became the first club in English league football to beat a single opponent 100 times with his latest triumph over the Toffees but Dyche will only be concerned about Sunday’s trip to the City Ground.
A win there would be only Everton’s second away from home this season but it would keep them in touch with their rivals to beat the drop and provide a massive shot in the arm for the battle ahead over the remaining 12 games.
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