Sean Dyche’s side — who won the reverse fixture just over three weeks ago — frustrated the Gunners for 40 minutes before a quick-fire double from Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli put the hosts in firm control.
Captain Martin Odegaard slotted home a third on 71 minutes before Martinelli added a late fourth as Arsenal cruised through the second half to establish a clear lead at the summit over Manchester City.
1. Arsenal take charge of the title race
This was Arsenal’s long-awaited game-in-hand, one of ten Premier League matches postponed in September following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The prize was clear: open up a five-point lead to firmly put the pressure back on Manchester City in the title race.
Everton initially frustrated the Gunners but what will please Mikel Arteta most here is how they continued to play their football and won this game in the manner of so many before Wednesday. Oleksandr Zinchenko‘s regular forays from left-back into midfield have been a pivotal factor in Arsenal’s campaign to date and the Ukrainian player’s 40th-minute run created the overload where he could thread a pass through for Bukayo Saka to convert the opener. The second featured the sort of youthful dynamism that has epitomised their season to this point and after the break, they turned what could have been a fraught evening into a canter which had fans cheering every pass and singing about being top of the league.
If Manchester City thought their victory here a fortnight ago would derail their title rivals, Arsenal have given them the most emphatic answer.
2. Saka and Martinelli turn on the style again
The kids really are alright. Bukayo Saka became the second youngest Arsenal player after Cesc Fabregas to reach 50 Premier League goal involvements on Wednesday. After Gabriel Martinelli joined Saka in scoring his tenth league goal of the season, Arsenal became the only club to have two players surpass that milestone this season. No other player aged under 22 has got more than five goals in the Premier League.
One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Gunners’ ability to last the pace in the title race is whether their attacking players can keep up the sort of goalscoring form that has propelled them to the top of the table, particularly in the absence of Gabriel Jesus.
Saka, Martinelli and Martin Odegaard — who scored his first goal since Jan. 15 — were once again on top form here. The January addition of Leandro Trossard enabled Martinelli to take a breather which appears well-timed given his return to form. Significant challenges remain but Arsenal have every chance of thriving if their young guns continue to play with such endeavour.
3. Everton’s lack of goals is Dyche’s biggest problem
Everton competed well here for 40 minutes, matching Arsenal’s three-man midfield in a way that created the sort of staccato contest aimed at disrupting the home side’s rhythm. But from the moment they fell behind, the lack of goal threat was painfully clear for all to see. Everton had scored the fewest number of goals in the Premier League (17) and it is difficult to see that record improving markedly until Dominic Calvert-Lewin returns from a hamstring injury.
Dyche has not yet clarified a timescale for his comeback, however, and his biggest headache will be aligning Everton’s greater defensive resilience with a sustained threat in the final third. Neal Maupay was ineffective for long spells and with only teenager Ellis Simms on the bench as a recognised striker, Dyche opted to play Demarai Gray through the middle for the final half an hour to little effect.
Since starting his reign last month with a 1-0 win over Arsenal, Dyche has galvanised a disparate group but their hopes of survival appear to rest on grinding out results by the narrowest of margins.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Bukayo Saka, FW, Arsenal.
Continues to drive Arsenal’s title charge with combination of creativity, end product and tireless work rate.
BEST: Gabriel Martinelli, FW, Arsenal.
Another fine evening for the Brazilian who has put his recent dip in form firmly behind, netting the winner at Leicester City last weekend and now two more here.
BEST: Oleksandr Zinchenko, DF, Arsenal.
Hugely influential in this type of fixture, helping Arsenal break down opponents by drifting into midfield.
WORST: Neal Maupay, FW, Everton.
After having an early shot beaten away by Aaron Ramsdale, Maupay was anonymous and looked exhausted when substituted after only 61 minutes.
WORST: Seamus Coleman, DF, Everton.
Unable to cope with Martinelli and looked off the pace throughout.
WORST: Amadou Onana, MF, Everton.
Won just 38.5% of his duels and incapable of stemming the tide as Arsenal dominated the second half.
Highlights and notable moments
Bukayo Saka’s goal before half-time broke down what had been a solid defensive effort from Everton. Hard to stop that shot from such an angle.
What a shot! What a goal for Arsenal! 😱
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) March 1, 2023
After the match: What the managers and players said
Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta, on the result: “Once we scored the first goal, the game unlocked. We needed a magic moment and Bukayo produced that. After that we grew and deserved to win the game.”
Everton coach Sam Dyche, on the relegation battle: “We’re not naive. I knew it wasn’t all rosy when I came. There’s plenty of work to do, I know that. Every game is a big time. I’ve told the players that. We’re not a million miles away from the previous performances.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
– Bukayo Saka is the first Arsenal player with multiple 10-goal campaigns in the Premier League before turning 22 years old. Other Premier League players to do that are Robbie Fowler (4x), Michael Owen (4x), Wayne Rooney (3x), Chris Sutton (2x), Emile Heskey (2x), Romelu Lukaku (2x) and Dele Alli (2x).
– Saka and Gabriel Martinelli (both 21) have each scored 10 Premier League goals this season. No other player under 22 has scored more than five goals in the Premier League this season.
– Saka has become the sixth-youngest player in Premier League history to reach 50 goals plus assists in the competition, after Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler, Cesc Fàbregas and Chris Sutton.