Sanchez showing signs of improvement
Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez hasn’t been at his best for a couple of months now, but with the help of some generous Everton defending he was able exert himself during this game. Sanchez was fantastic in the first half and was, along with Mesut Ozil, a key component in linking Arsenal together.
Everton started the match very quickly and it might have been a different game had Seamus Coleman managed to squeeze the ball past David Ospina after just a minute of the game. In the 9th minute, Arsenal took the lead after Sanchez combined superbly with Ozil cutting inside into the space in front of the defence before producing a quality through-ball to Danny Welbeck. The former Manchester United striker took a touch to go wide of Joel Robles and then slotted the ball into the empty net.
However, it was Sanchez’s relationship with Hector Bellerin that caused Everton the most problems, with the Spanish right-back making 20 passes his teammate. When Everton gave the ball away in midfield, it fell to Bellerin and the former Barcelona youngster lofted the ball over the Everton defence and into Alex Iwobi, who raced through to finish past Robles. It was the 19-year-old’s first Premier League start for the Gunners and he showed brilliant composure to put the ball through Robles’ legs with Welbeck running parallel to him.
Sanchez should have had a penalty when he was first tripped by Muhamed Besic and then taken out by Ramiro Funes Mori directly afterwards, but he didn’t let that dissuade him from influencing proceedings.
Stones is due a recall
Everton had conceded just five goals in their last eight games before kick-off and three of them were in a 12-minute period as they went down to 10 men against West Ham. During the eight-game run they even kept five clean sheets and it’s understandable that John Stones has had to make do with a place on the bench for the last couple of weeks; the England central defender missed the whole of February through injury and has had to bide his time before regaining his starting position.
He will surely return to the first XI after the international break though, as the mobility and speed of Arsenal in attack caught Everton’s centre-back partnership out in the opening 45 minutes. Phil Jagielka and Funes Mori suffered from the pace of Welbeck, Iwobi and Sanchez, as Arsenal’s forward players frequently ran in behind.
“We looked like the team that had played on Wednesday and travelled over Europe,” admitted Roberto Martinez afterwards. Stones did appear for the second half and Martinez moved to three at the back, as he looked to eliminate the runs into the channels. It was Funes Mori that struggled the most; he summed up Everton’s first half as a whole when he performed a brilliant slide-tackle on Welbeck in the area to come away with the ball, only to misplace a simple pass away from danger.
The Argentine has done well since making the move to England, but his lack of speed makes simple direct balls behind him a real problem. This was emphasised when Bellerin tried to round the defender, with Funes Mori throwing his arm into the face of his opponent; once again referee Mark Clattenburg waved the Arsenal appeals away.
Gabriel surprisingly deals with Lukaku
When Everton’s powerhouse forward Romelu Lukaku came head-to-head with Arsenal defender Gabriel, it was expected that there would only be one winner. The Belgian has been in a rich vein of form recently and many thought that he would simply brush the former Villarreal centre-back away with ease. Lukaku had scored six goals in as many appearances including a brace against Chelsea, whilst Brazilian Gabriel has looked decreasingly convincing in the last month or so.
But Gabriel came out of this encounter relatively unscathed and didn’t shy away from the physical challenge placed in front of him. In fairness to Lukaku he didn’t have a massive amount of service from his Everton team and had to use his own force to invent opportunities. “Seven days ago, we played with a real intent and with intensity; we had a focus,” said Martinez. “Today, we allowed Arsenal to be a team with very good movement and we were pedestrian.”
After half-an-hour, Lukaku did use his strength to shoulder-barge Gabriel away, but the defender kept on his feet and battled for it a second time when chasing a long ball. Gabriel won 3 out of his 4 defensive duels, also making 6 clearances and 4 interceptions.
Francis Coquelin didn’t start at the Camp Nou in midweek, with Mathieu Flamini given the task of shielding the back four, but he did arrive as a substitute just before half-time. The youngster showed why Arsenal supporters have other concerns rather than to reiterate the general desire to sign a new holding midfielder.
Coquelin made an unbelievable 15 ball recoveries, 12 interceptions and 4 tackles, as he broke up Everton’s ball retention frequently. He didn’t just safeguard his own defensive unit, the Frenchman showed impressive maturity to wisely select when to press up the pitch and when to keep within the shape of the team.
For his part, Martinez lamented the chance to field his own first-choice defensive midfielder, with Gareth Barry absent through suspension after his red card last weekend. “Every time we have a bit of a difficult moment, we look to the experience of Gareth. We reset ourselves, he gives us a clear pattern of play and direction.”
Arsene Wenger's side won for the first time at Goodison Park in four attempts in the league, whilst it was their third win on the road in nine domestic matches. “Mentally we responded under pressure because the character of my players was questioned,” noted Arsenal’s manager at the final whistle.
- Danny Welbeck has scored 2 in his 3 away league games since his return from injury.
- Welbeck has now scored 4 Premier League goals against Everton, his joint-best return against any side (along with Aston Villa).
- Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in 3 goals in his last 3 league appearances (1 goal, 2 assists).
- Alex Iwobi scored on his first Premier League start, the first Arsenal player to do so since Joel Campbell last October.
- Hector Bellerin has provided 3 assists in his last 2 league games after managing just 2 in his previous 46.
- The Spaniard has also assisted 3 of the Gunners’ last 4 league goals.
- Everton have conceded more home Premier League goals than any other side (28), and it’s the most they’ve ever conceded in any 38-game PL season.
- Arsenal enjoyed only their third victory in their last 10 away Premier League games (D4 L3).
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