It really could have been more. It really should have been more. For the first time perhaps this season, we saw the free flowing football that has been the hallmark of Wenger teams over the decades. The famous Wengerball.
It was also nice to see on the occasion of the manager’s 68th birthday, that his players put in a worthy performance for a manager that has backed and shielded them endlessly.
For the match, both teams decided to go with a three at the back formation. If you ask me, it is getting a little boring now, I mean if every team you go up against uses that same formation, doesn’t it negate the effect of that formation?
That however had no effect on the Arsenal team as they came flying out the blocks from the start of the first half, like a team on a mission. Anyway, shows what I know about tactics.
Almost immediately after kickoff, Arsenal were presented with a golden opportunity when Aaron Ramsey was set free in the Everton box by a delightful pass by Mesut Özil. The Welshman dithered and allowed Jordan Pickford make a spectacular save. A few minutes later, it was Alexandre Lacazette’s turn to be denied by the Everton goalkeeper, this time from a much more tighter angle.
The Everton defenders couldn’t live with Mesut Özil; time and time again, he found swathes of space between their lines and threaded one-touch passes easily to find his fellow teammates. To watch Özil in that form is such a pleasure to behold.
Maybe it was because Alexis, Özil and Lacazette were starting a game for the first time and were imperious in tearing the Everton defence to shreds or maybe because Everton were just atrocious, the result of the match seemed a forgone conclusion from the first ten minutes.
But in typical Arsenal fashion; the team gave a helping hand to a team in the dumps. This time, the beneficiary was an Everton team that had spent heavily in the summer to acquire players but were languishing closer to the foot of the table. A careless passage of play at the back and Wayne Rooney found time and space to score his customary goal against Arsenal.
If it seemed like it would be one of those days for Arsenal, the players didn’t show it. They dug deep and constantly pushed, pressed and harassed the Evertonian players. This team didn’t play like one that could be accused of lacking gumption.
When the equaliser came just before half time, it came from an unlikely but not undeserved source. Nacho Monreal has probably been Arsenal’s most consistent performer over the last few seasons, despite playing in multiple formations and positions. He got his due reward when he gambled and broke into the box, so that when Pickford parried Xhaka’s shot, it found him in the box and he duly dispatched it past the goalkeeper.
Second half was more of the same for the Arsenal. Constantly pushing the home team while Özil pulled the strings. The team didn’t look like one that hadn’t won away all season in the league. And it was the German who scored the go-ahead goal for the Gunners. Alexis broke free on the left and he waited and waited until just the right moment and then lifted the ball into the Everton box for the arriving Özil who headed the ball past Pickford.
A few minutes later, it was Özil’s turn to be the provider. Arsenal broke on the counter well and this time used it to good effect, with the German easily finding Lacazette free in the box to score.
There was even time for Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez to get their names on the scoresheet, sandwiching a Niasse consolation goal when Petr Cech literally took his eye off the ball.
Best Player on the Pitch: Mesut Özil
In a time when the worth of the player to the team has been questioned and rumours linking him to Man Utd next season have sprung up, it was a welcome sight to see Mesut in full flow. When he plays like he did against Everton, he is truly unstoppable. He might be a luxury player but what is life without a little luxury.