Everton 1 - 6 Arsenal

Harsh lesson at School of Science

August 15, 2009
By Richard Jolly
(Archive)

They are used to applauding players off at Goodison Park, to acknowledging the honest efforts of wholehearted players. At one of the Premier League's most intimidating venues, they are rather more accustomed to baiting than clapping visiting teams.

Tim Howard
GettyImagesTim Howard howls in anger after William Gallas makes it 3-0 prior to half-time

Yet it is a measure of Arsenal's excellence - one of many - that as the victorious side headed for the tunnel, the Everton crowd, stunned into silence for much of the match, granted Arsene Wenger's team a generous ovation. Among others, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song acknowledged it and responded in kind.

Where once they appreciated the 'School of Science', now the Evertonians recognised a team barely out of school. The Who's 'The Kids Are Alright' has been played on the PA at the Emirates Stadium, but there are occasions when they are exceptional. And this was one of them.

It was a surreal occasion, a day when those who could divert their attention from the pitch were looking through the record books. Everton's heaviest home defeat since 1958? Check. Arsenal's biggest away win in the Premier League? Check, equalling a 6-1 triumph at Middlesbrough. It was easier to conclude Arsenal are top of the table, albeit at such a formative stage of the season. Play like this and they stand a chance of staying there.

"From being ruled out by everyone before the game to now being super favourites is two extremes," said Arsene Wenger dryly. Yet this was sublime vindication for a manager whose reluctance to spend and whose faith in his young players is often questioned.

Because when Arsenal win, it is not just a triumph of a team. It is a victory of an ethos, of financial husbandry and a perfection in passing, three points and six goals for Wenger's idealism. There are days when they render talk of trophies irrelevant, occasions when the quality of their football suffices. This was one of them.

"It was a good team performance," said Wenger, providing an early contender for the understatement of the season. "I feel overall there is still room for improvement, not on the scoreline but in what we did today."

What they did began with a wonderful finish from Denilson, whipping the ball past Tim Howard from 25 yards. So far, so typically Arsenal. What followed had a novelty value. Set-pieces have been a frailty for them, a source of strength for Everton. Instead, after a Leighton Baines corner resulted in Denilson clearing off his own line from Marouane Fellaini, Arsenal scored twice from free kicks.

First Robin van Persie delivered and Thomas Vermaelen headed in and then Cesc Fabregas chipped the ball for William Gallas to apply the final touch. Both central defenders had scored within a matter of minutes; Everton's usually organised defence proved much harder to see when the unmarked duo struck.

Fabregas provided a second-half brace, the first from van Persie's path and the second following a solo run that began in his own half and, remarkably, did not draw a single challenge from an Everton player. Eduardo added a sixth before Louis Saha's injury-time goal for Everton.

That Eduardo was among the substitutes was one reason Wenger felt one criticism of his players was incorrect. He added: "If you see that Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott were missing and Philippe Senderos stayed at home, we have quite a big squad."

The decisions to sell Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure to Manchester City have been queried. While Wenger was respectful, more could be read into Fabregas' comments. "We want players who are committed, who want to be together throughout the season," said the Arsenal captain.

One such is Vermaelen. Denilson, Fabregas and van Persie all prospered and it may seem perverse to single out a defender in a 6-1 win, yet this was an auspicious debut for the Belgian. While he endured occasional difficulties with the awkward Fellaini - who does not? - two assured challenges on Leon Osman when the game was goal-less suggested a defender whose reading of the game and timing of a tackle should make him a genuine asset.

Wenger said: "I am pleased with his contribution because he has shown that in the air and on the ground he has everything you need to play in the Premier League. He has adapted very well."

David Moyes' defence may be disrupted by Manchester City, should they sign Joleon Lescott. This, however, was not a day to recommend any of the Everton back four. "Disappointing performance, disappointing result and a disappointing day all round," said the manager.

"The defending was terrible from the set-pieces. We'll need to do better; I'll need to do better, to coach them better. That was the same team that finished fifth last season and got to the FA Cup final so the players have got to take on some responsibility."


MAN OF THE MATCH: Cesc Fabregas - Arsenal provided several outstanding candidates, but Fabregas' afternoon included a pair of goals and a brace of assists.

EVERTON VERDICT: This was unlike Everton. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering they began last season in apparent disarray. While additions are required, Moyes' capacity to rally his small squad is proven. He claimed there were no positives though Steven Pienaar never flagged.

ARSENAL VERDICT: It was sublime stuff at times. It has long been suggested that Arsenal struggle away from home, especially against the more physical teams; they certainly didn't today. Now the challenge is to reproduce that performance more often.