Everton vs Arsenal match report: Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi inject life into Gunners' title bid

Everton 0 Arsenal 2

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The Independent Football

At half-time The Drifters stood on the Goodison Park pitch and sang Stand By Me. During the 45 minutes either side, Arsène Wenger stood in the technical area and oversaw an Arsenal victory which, he will hope, carried the same message.

Knocked out of the FA Cup and Champions League in the past week, and seemingly out of the title race, Arsenal had arrived on Merseyside with arguments over the future of Wenger intensifying. The debate will not go away – and the chants from the away end urging Stan Kroenke, the club’s majority shareholder, to “get out of our club” underlined a broader discussion – but at least his team stopped the rot with this  comfortable win achieved with first-half goals by Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi.

Wenger was noticeably animated in his celebration of Welbeck’s opening goal and he voiced his satisfaction afterwards. “We had our backs to the wall today,” he said, “and I am pleased we responded under pressure  because the character of my players was questioned. If we didn’t win today we know we are out of [the title race].

“If we don’t believe, nobody will do it for us,” the Frenchman added, refusing to dismiss their title challenge after seeing a display which, for 45 minutes at least, was excellent. If they tired later, after their Wednesday exertions losing at Barcelona, they still had far too much for a disjointed and strangely subdued Everton. 

After surviving a second-minute scare when Seamus Coleman prodded a corner against the near post, Arsenal took control and scored their opening goal after seven minutes. A fluid preamble of 13 passes ended with Welbeck breaking on to Alexis Sanchez’s ball behind the Everton back line and rounding Joel Robles before scoring.

Roberto Martinez’s home side had no answer to the speed and sharpness of the visitors’ passing and movement, and though Sanchez had a penalty shout ignored after  Mohamed Besic took a nibble at him, Arsenal got their second goal three minutes before half-time through the lively Iwobi. 

The 19-year-old Nigerian international was making his first League start in a wide attacking role after playing the full 90 minutes at Camp Nou. Now he had his first senior goal. Breaking on to Hector Bellerin’s ball down the right, he held off Ramiro Funes Mori and drilled a shot  beneath Robles. Iwobi flashed another shot wide moments later and looked a threat throughout. “He’s been at our club since the age of eight,” Wenger said . “I took him in training in pre-season and liked what he did and he’s improved very quickly.”

As for Everton, if last weekend saw the very best of them with the biting, bustling performance at a buzzing Goodison that did for Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final, this was the opposite as they fell meekly to an eighth home League defeat this season. They defended poorly and Martinez said: “It was disappointing we didn’t overcome the absence of Gareth Barry. We looked like a team that played on Wednesday.”

Everton: (4-2-3-1) Robles; Coleman, Funes Mori, Jagielka, Baines; Besic (Stones, h-t), McCarthy; Lennon, Barkley (Deulofeu, 73), Cleverley; Lukaku.

Arsenal: (4-2-3-1) Ospinal; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Elneny, Coquelin; Sanchez, Özil (Gibbs, 75), Iwobi (Chambers, 86); Welbeck (Giroud, 75). 

Referee: Mark Clattenburg 

Man of the match: Iwobi (Arsenal)

Match rating: 6/10