Arsenal breathe life into title hopes with Everton win
Arsenal ended a difficult week with a first league victory in a month after a 2-0 win at Everton kept their faint title hopes alive.
After exiting the FA Cup and Champions League within the space of four days Danny Welbeck and 19-year-old Alex Iwobi, with his first for the club, scored in the opening 45 minutes at Goodison Park to ensure the Gunners still retain some interest in the pursuit of leaders Leicester.
Having been humbled by Watford and then Barcelona, manager Arsene Wenger, who on Friday defiantly insisted they were still in the title race, would have wanted to see a response.
Fortunately for the Gunners they found themselves faced by the Everton which had won just seven league matches at home in the last 12 months and not the one who dumped Chelsea out of the FA Cup last weekend.
Without Gareth Barry, serving a suspension for his sending off a week ago, Arsenal were allowed to dominate the 40 yards between centre-circle and penalty area with very little in the way of opposition.
It gave the visitors the space to play their little triangles and that led to the breakthrough after just seven minutes, with a 12-pass move culminating in Alexis Sanchez exchanging possession with Mesut Ozil before sliding a through-ball to Welbeck, who perfectly timed his run in behind the defence leaving him with the simple task of beating goalkeeper Joel Robles.
Welbeck had already hit the post, just after Seamus Coleman had done the same at the other end, in a manic 60 seconds just two minutes in.
Sanchez admirably stayed on his feet when the alternative would surely have led to a penalty after both Muhamed Besic and Ramiro Funes Mori had a nibble at him as Everton's ineffectiveness extended to tackles inside their own area but passivity in midfield continued to be the biggest problem and it cost them just before the break.
Full-back Hector Bellerin launched a pass down the right channel to completely expose Funes Mori in a two-on-one situation and while Iwobi may not yet possess all the skills of his mercurial uncle Jay-Jay Okocha but he displayed a similar coolness in the final third, ignoring Ozil on his own in the middle to confidently slot past Robles.
The half-time entertainment was from soul band The Drifters, which could be construed as a less-than-subtle metaphor for Everton's season which now hinges on an FA Cup semi-final in five weeks' time.
It will be a long time to tread water for Martinez, whose status among fans has swung one way then the other in the last couple of weeks with cup victories and league defeats but is definitely on an ever-decreasing downward spiral.
Everton have conceded 28 goals in 15 home, the worst record in the Premier League, and the longer that continues the more precarious his position becomes.
The second half brought a slight improvement from the hosts but Arsenal were more than comfortable in containment mode to secure their first clean sheet in five league games.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Hate it when Arsenal play well .. Not because I hate them it's just that I miss the @piersmorgan #MeltDown...." - Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) still manages to taunt Arsenal fan Piers Morgan despite the Gunners' impressive performance.
Joel Robles: 6
Leighton Baines: 6
Phil Jagielka: 6
Ramiro Funes Mori: 4
Seamus Coleman: 6
Tom Cleverley: 6
James McCarthy: 6
Muhamed Besic: 5
Ross Barkley: 6
Aaron Lennon: 6
Romelu Lukaku: 6
John Stones (for Besic, 46): 6
Gerard Deulofeu (for Barkley, 73): 6
David Ospina: 6
Nacho Monreal: 6
Laurent Koscielny: 7
Hector Bellerin: 7
Francis Coquelin: 6
Mohamed Elneny: 6
Alexis Sanchez: 7
Mesut Ozil: 7
Alex Iwobi: 8.
Danny Welbeck: 8
Kieran Gibbs (for Ozil, 74): 6
Olivier Giroud (for Welbeck, 75): 6
Calum Chambers (for Iwobi, 86): 6
Alex Iwobi: The teenage winger capped a decent performance full of incisive running and penetration with a maiden goal for the club.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
The 12-pass move which saw Alexis Sanchez slide a perfect through-ball for Danny Welbeck's well-timed run for the opening goal.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
The pressure was on Arsene Wenger after exits from the FA Cup and Champions League in the same week but his side were never in danger as they quickly established their possession and passing game to leave Everton chasing shadows. Counterpart Roberto Martinez remains under scrutiny after yet another home league defeat - their eighth - with his tactics again being questioned.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Everton's Jekyll and Hyde persona shows no signs of changing as, a week after dominating and beating Chelsea, they meekly surrendered to an Arsenal side who arrived under significant pressure themselves.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Manchester United v Everton, Premier League (Sunday April 3)
Arsenal v Watford, Premier League (Saturday April 2)
Arsenal striker Welbeck told BT Sport 1: "With the results that we've had it was good today to get back to winning ways.
"It means a big difference going a goal up rather than going a goal down and to get the early goal it was good for us and it set the standard for the rest of the game."
Iwobi said he was happier to win that score on his Premier League debut: "I enjoyed the moment but I'm glad that the team won.
"We are going to take that to the next game. I am enjoying training and playing with him (Welbeck), it gives me confidence. He's helping me out and giving me advice."
Everton boss Martinez was left bemused by his side's showing: "We were second best. I thought Arsenal had more bite and intensity," he said.
"It was so disappointing, the contrast in performance from last Saturday (the 2-0 FA Cup victory over Chelsea) is difficult to explain.
"We never got a platform into the game, we were ineffective, we had second thoughts in every action and Arsenal were, in ever single aspect of the performance, better than us."