What is it with Arsenal's centre backs?
The last Premiership game at Highbury ended with Pascal Cygan on a hat-trick and the crowd singing his name from stands. The Frenchman's brace had trebled his tally of goals for the club.
Tonight, it was Sol Campbell's turn to go from gamekeeper to poacher. The England defender guided in headers from Jose Antonio Reyes' free-kicks in the 10th and 30th minutes as Arsène Wenger's side coasted to victory against an Everton side who could muster little. They were the England defender's ninth and 10th goals in his 170th appearance since switching North London clubs.
Still, no matter the scorer or the opposition, this was a competent, confident performance by Arsenal. It lifts them to seventh in the Premiership table, one place below of Saturday's opponents - West Ham.
Wenger's men are still not at their best this season but they are starting to find their feet.
The manager made only one change from the side that had beaten FC Thun so dramatically on Wednesday. Jens Lehmann's suspension only counts in the Champions League so he returned to take his place between the posts. Manuel Almunia dropped to the bench. Robin van Persie, sent off against the Swiss side, resumed his partnership alongside Jose Antonio Reyes in attack.
When Everton had last come to Highbury in May they were buoyed by recent qualification to the Champions League. They left with a 7-0 defeat. They arrived at Highbury tonight second from bottom in Premiership, out of the Champions League and odds-on to exit the Uefa Cup aswell. Clearly, confidence was low.
Despite that, the visitors had conjured up the first chance after five minutes when Marcus Bent dragged a shot wide. It was as close as they would come throughout the entire game.
In the seventh minute, Robert Pires crossed for Cesc Fabregas to slide over. Three minutes later the home side took the lead. Reyes was blocked off on the right. The Spanish striker took the free-kick himself and lofted a lovely ball onto the head of Campbell who had timed his leap on the edge of the six-yard box. Nigel Martyn rushed out to punch clear but could not bundle his way through a ruck of players. All Campbell had to do was guide his header into the far corner.
The home side started to look ominously confident. In the 25th minute, the rampant Reyes swept ball into the path of Van Persie on the right of the area. He cushioned the ball with his left foot and cracked a shot against the outside of the post with his right.
On the half hour, Arsenal got a second. The supplier and scorer were the same, only this time Reyes' free-kick was flung over from the left and Campbell's far post header was powered rather than placed. However the end result was the same.
Arsenal had actually scored the goal with 10 men. Robert Pires had limped off a few minutes earlier following a challenge from Phil Neville. He failed to re-appear and, with the crowd still celebrating the second, Alexander Hleb came on.
It was a perfect time for the tricky Belarus midfielder to arrive. Arsenal had their tails up and were looking to add to their lead before the break. Hleb's clever ball set up Ljungberg at the far post. Then Toure, Arsenal's other centre back, nearly got in on the act. He nodded narrowly wide then backheeled Ljungberg's low across just beyond the far post.
If anything Arsenal got even stronger at the start of the second half. Cole flashed a shot across the bows while Van Persie and Reyes stung the keeper's hands. Everton were reduced to pot-shots.
In the 70th minute, Toure just failed to convert a right-wing free-kick and Ljungberg hooked the rebound again the bar.
In truth Arsenal coasted for the remainder of the game. They went forward when they could but were always mindful of the counter-attack. They should not have worried. There was little urgency from Everton and even less guile.
In the final few minutes, Wenger brought on Alexandre Song for his full debut. The 17-year-old stationed himself in central midfield as the home side comfortably cruised home.
- Campbell Goal! Goal!
- Pires 29
- Fabregas Yellow Card
- van Persie 66
- Reyes 85 Yellow Card
- Song 85
- Hleb 29
- Bergkamp 66
- Hibbert Yellow Card
- Arteta 85
- Cahill 67 Yellow Card
- Bent 80
- Nuno Valente
- Kilbane 80
- Davies 85
- Ferguson 67