There is no sugar-coating the final scoreline. No way to brush it off as harsh. Arsenal beat Everton 5-2 on Sunday with its most complete 90-minute performance of the season, and if anything, the three-goal margin was kind to the defeated and deflated hosts.
Arsenal ran circles around Everton at Goodison Park, and recovered from an early mistake to claim the three points it deserved in emphatic fashion. Nacho Monreal canceled out Wayne Rooney’s opener in the first half, and Mesut Ozil effectively won the match with a leaping header early in the second.
Alexandre Lacazette put the game to bed with just over 15 minutes to go after Everton’s Idrissa Gana had been sent off for a second yellow card. His yellows were another offshoot of Arsenal’s excellence. The Toffees couldn’t touch it. Aaron Ramsey extended the lead to 4-1 late on. Alexis Sanchez got his goal in stoppage time.
It was fitting that all four of Sanchez, Ozil, Lacazette and Ramsey wrote their names on the scoresheet, because it was those four who bamboozled Everton with their movement. They flummoxed the beleaguered hosts with their crisp passing and collective understanding. The 90 minutes were easily the best of their season.
The opening 10 minutes might have been Arsenal’s best 10 of the season too. Ozil played Ramsey in after just three minutes, but the Welshman placed his shot wide of Jordan Pickford’s far post. Pickford then smothered Lacazette’s close-range attempt after some fantastic Arsenal buildup play.
On 11 minutes, with the Gunners still well on top, Everton provided a soccer dictionary definition for “against the run of play.” Arsenal tried to play out of the back, but Granit Xhaka dallied on the ball in his own defensive third. His touch when facing his own goal was heavy, and he was overrun by Gana.
Gana won the ball to Rooney, who picked his head up, picked out the top corner, and struck a shot reminiscent of his famous goal against Arsenal at the same end of Goodison Park 15 years ago.
But Rooney’s moment was a first-half outlier. Arsenal enjoyed two-thirds of possession, and managed an incredible 17 shots, and nine shots on target. No other Premier League away side has managed more than five on target in a first half this season.
Xhaka played almost as a single-pivot in midfield in front of Arsenal’s back three. Ramsey had free reign to explode forward and join the attack. The wing-backs, and especially Hector Bellerin, did too. Everton center backs Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka seemed overwhelmed by the constant flow of attacks.
Those attacks didn’t yield anything meaningful for almost 40 minutes. But in that 40th minute, the Toffees were slow to react to a rebound, and Monreal beat Pickford:
Ronald Koeman reconfigured his team at halftime, as he’s often had to do this season. Everton has been desperately poor. On most days, poor is a synonym for dull. On Sunday, it meant something much worse. The Toffees were cut to pieces straight from the opening whistle, and now find themselves in the relegation zone after nine matches.
Koeman’s substitution didn’t help. He replaced Williams, who had been booked in the first half, with Tom Davies. He moved to a back four. Everton was slightly better for 15 minutes out of the dressing room. But not much.
The hosts were still inexcusably open, and Sanchez crossed to Ozil to give Arsenal a deserved lead. Gana picked up his second yellow 15 minutes later, and gave his teammates the cruel punishment of having to contain this rampant Gunners team for the remainder of the game while at a numerical disadvantage.
On the third goal, Lacazette might as well have had the whole penalty box to himself, and easily beat Pickford:
Ramsey was provided with a near-replica of his first-half chance, and this time he made no mistake for the fourth:
Another Arsenal error allowed Oumar Niasse to make it 4-2. Petr Cech, similar to Xhaka earlier, dawdled on the ball in his own penalty area, and the Everton striker stripped it off him.
But Sanchez showed no mercy as the Goodison clocked ticked down and as its stands emptied. He bagged Arsenal’s fifth, and completed the rout.
After last week’s late loss at Watford, Arsene Wenger needed a response from his players and he got just that.
Koeman, on the other hand, got anything but. His team is tactically fractured, structurally flawed, and as a result, Koeman’s seat is hot. Arsenal’s relentlessness stoked the fire that has been burning underneath it.
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.