By Chris Harris at Goodison Park
Alex Iwobi scored his first senior goal as Arsenal kept their title hopes flickering with a classy display at Everton.
Iwobi could have had another while substitute Olivier Giroud had a goal ruled out, and at times Everton could not live with the visitors’ fluent football.
This was a mightily impressive performance which takes the Gunners into the international break on a high.
Arsenal may need to win their remaining eight Premier League games to have a chance of claiming the title. If they play like this, they might just do it.
SETTING THE SCENE
Arsenal arrived at Goodison Park with their Premier League campaign entering ‘must-win’ territory.
Defeats to Watford and Barcelona ended hopes of a cup parade but the title was just about within reach - if the Gunners could build some momentum and put a run together.
Arsène Wenger took encouragement from a fluent display at the Nou Camp and he kept faith with the side that - at times - ruffled Barcelona’s feathers. There was one exception, Francis Coquelin coming in for the injured Mathieu Flamini.
Iwobi was handed his first Premier League start after another precocious performance in midweek, and Welbeck continued up front with Giroud - a regular scorer against Everton - on the bench.
Everton moved into the FA Cup semi-finals last weekend but their Premier League form has been oddly patchy. Four wins in 15 home games had left them in 12th place, but in Romelu Lukaku they had one of the top flight’s in-form strikers.
Arsenal and Everton have attempted the most dribbles and received the fewest yellow cards in the Premier League, so the ingredients were there for a clean, attacking game.
That’s precisely what unfolded - with Arsenal in the ascendancy.
Seamus Coleman flicked a corner against the near post after just 67 seconds and the post was struck at the other end moments later when Welbeck’s direct run took him along the byline. He lost control but Muhamed Besic’s clearance ricocheted off Welbeck and the ball bounced off the upright.
Ross Barkley headed over but the Gunners had that extra bit of quality, playing with fluency and dynamism and working hard to press Everton high up the pitch.
They got their reward when Alexis and Ozil exchanged intricate passes on the edge of the box and the Chilean slid a pass through to Welbeck, who kept his composure to dance round Robles and find the net.
It was a classic Arsenal goal - and a second almost followed. Alexis set up the chance by dispossessing Ramiro Funes Mori and he picked out Iwobi, but the youngster’s sidefooted finish was straight at Robles, who saved at the second attempt.
The grumbling among the home fans told you how well Arsenal were playing, and their next chance fell to Ozil. Again Iwobi was involved, collecting the ball from Ozil and then finding the German with a reverse pass. He let fly but Phil Jagielka came across to block in the nick of time.
Arsenal got what their performance deserved just before the break. Bellerin, on his 21st birthday, lofted a ball over the top for Iwobi to chase, and he held off Funes Mori to beat Robles.
Such was Arsenal’s superiority in the first half, they emerged to face a reshuffled Everton side - John Stones on for Besic and a switch to a three-man defence.
It didn’t make any difference to the flow of the game.
Alexis played in Ozil but his slightly delayed pass saw the German stray offside, much to Wenger’s annoyance on the touchline.
Stones was dispossessed by Welbeck but got back to exert enough pressure to deny the Arsenal striker a second goal. Then Coquelin looped a volley over the bar from the edge of the box following a long spell of possession football.
Nothing was happening for Everton, indeed their best effort for a while was an intended cross from Baines that curled past the top corner.
There was a glimmer of hope for the home side when David Ospina hurt his back in a collision with Gabriel and Lukaku. For a while the goalkeeper’s movement was limited and Everton came alive, Jagielka powering a header just over the bar with Ospina unable to challenge for a corner.
Gabriel blocked a fierce effort from James McCarthy as Everton tried to seize their chance, and a rocky spell for the Gunners ended with an injury to Ozil after Stones, going up for a header, landed on the German’s foot.
On came Giroud and Kieran Gibbs as Wenger for Welbeck and Ozil, and Arsenal looked to see out the job. Giroud soon had the ball in the net when he headed home a corner, but the goal was ruled out for a foul on Jagielka.
And that was that. Arsenal are back in form.
- Koscielny (C)
- Iwobi 85 Goal!
- Ozil 74
- Welbeck 74 Goal!
- Gibbs 74
- Giroud 74
- Chambers 85
- Funes Mori
- Jagielka (C)
- Besic 46
- Barkley 73
- Deulofeu 73
- Stones 46