Everton 3-0 Arsenal - Toffees on course for Champions League football
Everton, through their priceless vibrancy and desire, assumed control over Champions League qualification. Arsenal suffered another harrowing defeat at the Premier League's most challenging arenas.
It seemed as if the Gunners had become so accustomed to Europe's elite competition that they took it for granted, insipid and out-classed. They lacked any ambition, motivation and commitment - Everton will fully merit their place amongst the continent's powerhouses if they can keep their nerve in their next seven games.
Roberto Martinez's men were the hungrier of the two sides, determined to secure Champions League football for the first time since 2005. They were as vibrant as Arsenal were languid, ensuring a crucial victory in comfortable fashion.
Lukaku was a constant menace, rewarded for his excellence with a superb individual goal. McCarthy and Barry were commendably disciplined while Mirallas, Naismith and Barkley provided threatening support to Lukaku. Play like this and they will feature in next season's Champions League.
Yet, Goodison Park must not get carried away with this highly encouraging win. The Toffees host Manchester United and Manchester City - Arsenal have the easier run-in, but they have the game in-hand.
The critical pressure intensifies on Wenger. A recent poll revealed the supporters were losing their patience with the Frenchman - win the FA Cup or qualify for the Champions League. Succeed doing neither and the curtains close, they said.
Martinez's fashionable lack of fear has been the platform for their success this campaign, and the Toffees started with an offensive line-up, with Osman, Naismith and Mirallas supporting Lukaku. Wonderful balance has served Everton well this season and the aggressiveness of Barry and McCarthy complimented the technical players before them.
Vivacity reigned through the hosts' ranks. Osman's audaciously dipping effort alarmed Szczesny but after a collision with Sagna, resulting in a deserved caution, the skipper was forced off, with Ross Barkley assuming his deeper role.
Everton were aggressive to keep Arsenal's technical prowess at bay. Naismith followed up on Osman's rash challenge with a similar one on Arteta, diving in obliviously. The Scot somehow evaded a booking.
Arsenal paid for their apathy. After Szczesny had superbly thwarted Lukaku with an out-stretchered boot, Naismith reacted first to strike home into the gaping goal.
It epitomized proceedings. Everton were first to every ball and unstintingly committed to the cause, chasing each and every loose ball.
The goal arrived as a result of Cazorla's failure to track the surging Baines, who delivered the cross which led to the opening goal.
Giroud was unable to guide home Sagna's deflected cross. The Frenchman cut a frustrated figure, irritated at the unsatisfactory nature of the service provided to him.
Mirallas's drive was excellently stifled by Szczesny before Stones amended for his unfortunate slip with a courageous block to deny Giroud.
Arsenal could not cope with the speed and desire in which their opponents competed. Mirallas sprung forward and slipped in Lukaku, who after skipping past several disinclined Gunners contingent, drove the ball into the bottom right hand corner beyond the despaired reach of Szczesny. 2-0 - this was easy.
Arsenal were, however, resurgent after the interval. Howard produced a brilliant stop to thwart Monreal as the Gunners experienced their best period in the game.
Everton had their eyes firmly set on a crucial victory. Stones, as Podolski scampered down the left flank, intervened sensationally, forcing a goal-kick against the Germany international.
After surviving moments of inexperience from Mirallas and Stones, Everton proceeded to add to their tally and extinguish any hope of an Arsenal comeback.
Mirallas inexplicably robbed Sagna, and after an exchange with Naismith, rolled home into the empty goal under the attentions of Mikel Arteta.
Ramsey's made his first appearance since Boxing Day, returning from a hamstring injury at Flamini's expense.
Chamberlain was also introduced as his late show of vibrancy and Ramsey's encouraging return totalled to the only positives for Arsenal. The England midfielder struck the crossbar, with his impressive cameo appearance prompting the question of why Wenger benched his No.12.
To conclude a wholly miserable afternoon, Vermaelen crashed into the advertising hoardings. Arsenal, once again, crashed into damaging oblivion.
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