Arsenal completed a walk in the (Goodison) Park on Saturday, winning its Premiership opener with a scintillating 6-1 scoreline over Everton to assume the top spot in the league table for this initial round.
On a day that saw six visiting teams win on their opponent’s home grounds, the Gunners were most impressive in romping over a Toffees side that finished fifth in the Premiership last season.
Arsenal’s passing, movement and finishing were in mid-season form on this opening day, putting three past keeper Tim Howard in each half as the points and result were decided early in favor of Arsene Wenger’s side.
Denilson opened the scoring in the 26th minute with a strike from 25 yards out, set up by a nifty run by Nicklas Bendtner and nice layoff by Cesc Fabregas.
And shortly after the goal-scoring Brazilian cleared an Everton header off the line, Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen directed an open header into the net for a 2-0 Gunners lead. A second headed goal off a free kick came minutes before the break, as William Gallas nodded home a Fabregas offering.
A classic Arsenal counter attack just two minutes into the second half sealed things, with van Persie sending in Fabregas who slotted the ball through the keeper’s legs for a 4-0 lead.
The Gunners’ Spanish captain then had space to run half the distance of the pitch before driving a belter from outside the box past Howard in minute 70, with Arsenal supporters already singing “We are top of the league!”
The stunning five-goal differential grew to six two minutes before time, with Eduardo tapping in after Arshavin’s effort had bounced off the post. And although Luis Saha snatched a late consolation goal in injury time, the result still represented Everton’s worst home defeat since 1958, when Arsenal also inflicted a similar 6-1 win at Goodison that year.
Few supporters would have predicted such a scoreline prior to the match, with most looking forward to the season opener yet perhaps also a bit more apprehensive than confident about Arsenal securing such positive results from its tough opening stretch of games.
This Gooner was only able to follow the match in real-time by listening online. But I did get to see the entire match video on tape Saturday night, and like most supporters was fully impressed with a number of Gunners.
It was great to see Song, Denilson and Bendtner all put in excellent performances, as the critics have questioned the manager’s reliance on the roles of these three young players amid Arsenal’s quest for silverware this season.
New boy Vermaelen also put in a fine display on his league debut, confidently dealing with Everton’s forwards and looking strong in the air both in defense and in heading home his own opportunity off a van Persie free kick.
Fabregas started quietly but his influence grew as the match progressed, and the captain looked quite the leader with his second-half brace. Upon his departure, the armband was passed to Eduardo, who looked dangerous late and joined the goalscoring in the final minutes — his first Premiership goal since that terrible injury 18 months ago.
Even manager Arsene Wenger stated to reporters that he was “surprised with the result, especially at Goodison. Everton were not at the level we usually face. The international week clearly disrupted them and their preparation.
“But we showed cohesion, attitude, team spirit and desire to play together, all these things were the reasons that we won,” continued Wenger in the post-match press conference. “We have lost two good players … but when great players leave that allows space for other players to come in and prove they are good enough. People have been writing us off. But what is important is not what others say, but what we do.”
Yet the Arsenal manager also refused to get carried away after the rout, adding: “From being told we were not competitive before the game to now being told we are super-favourites is strange. But it is right to say that this is just the first game and we aim to continue to give our best. We have matured and this is a good basis to continue like that and to show what we want to do.”