Fabregas leads a masterclass in art of football

Everton 1 Arsenal 6: City target Joleon Lescott fails to marshal his defence as Everton are twisted and turned by Arsène Wenger's team
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The Independent Online

This was an aberration partly created by the fact that money, the prospect of oodles of it at Mammon City, sorry, Man City, had "twisted" the mind of Everton's Joleon Lescott so comprehensively Arsenal had merely to pick their way through the rubble of a team that finished fifth last season.

At least this was the theory of Everton manager David Moyes, who is understandably agitated that his opposite number at City, Mark Hughes, has been so publicly bombarding Lescott with the possibility of previously unimagined riches.

However, none of this should deflect us from the beauty Arsenal found in that rubble. It was a trail of diamonds. It was the football that they have sometimes come to represent as lonely practitioners of a lost art but one which they have declared, through their coach, Arsène Wenger, and some performances of defiant splendour, they would not be likely to abandon at the point of a gun.

"There's only one Arsène Wenger," chanted the Gunners on the terraces, and if there was any ambivalence in the cries it had surely dissolved by the time Cesc Fabregas, who has known a few entreaties from the most glamorous club in Europe, his old one, Barcelona, concluded a masterclass in midfield fluency with two virtually unopposed goals.

Fabregas's mind remains, apparently, gloriously untwisted, and certainly seemed set in a perspective far removed from the pell-mell search for the biggest possible contracts when he raced to the touchline after scoring one of his goals and held up a shirt bearing the name of his fallen friend and team-mate in Spain's Under-21 team, Dani Jarque, who died of a heart attack last week.

Later, he made clear there would be no excessive mourning for his former team-mates Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Touré, who both took the City gold which Lescott plainly finds so dazzling. "We are a team," declared Fabregas, "and you either want to be part of it or not. If you don't, it is best you go."

Arsenal must now pray that Fabregas will still feel the same next summer, when Barça are expected to make their biggest push for their former youth player. A serious run at the glory this season is obviously crucial to Arsenal's hopes of keeping arguably the most creative young midfielder in world football – and perhaps a lot more feasible if Wenger's latest move for unheralded talent, Ajax's Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen, proves as successful as it appeared to be here.

Vermaelen was as sharp and authoritative in the middle of defence as when he converted a soaring free-kick by Robin van Persie with ridiculous ease.

When William Gallas repeated the feat four minutes later – Denilson had opened the scoring with an exquisitely placed shot – you could certainly feel for Moyes in his outrage – and the humiliation he was suffering as one of the best drilled teams in England shed, one by one, all of its most basic professional principles.

It was indeed a shoddy, unscrupulous business waged by City – and grubbily successful to the point where not only did Lescott put in a transfer request but also pleaded unfit to perform the duties he recently undertook in a four-year contract which, one imagines, would have read like a fantasy to most of the credit-crunched nation.

Still, you could only spend so much time sympathising with Moyes and his club.

There was this other matter of celebrating another manager whose approach to the season had not been exactly serene. Yes, it was difficult when other clubs publicly cherry-picked your leading players, said Wenger, but he had made his decisions and he was happy with them. He smiled at the possibility of Arsenal's potential this season being sharply and upwardly revised, but it was, of course, just one result.

But then sometimes the importance of a single battle is not so immediately obvious. What this one did, surely, was illustrate the shining fact that quite apart from the quality of players like Theo Walcott, Eduardo, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Sami Nasri and Tomas Rosicky, Wenger could pick a starting line-up capable of laying waste to one of the Premier League's stronger teams.

It's true Everton looked much less than themselves, but they might easily have grown from the 26 minutes of more or less parity that came before Denilson drove home the ball so beautifully. That was the announcement of a division of class that was only compounded by Everton's slipshod work at the set pieces. Lescott will never be mistaken for Bobby Moore or Rio Ferdinand on one of his better days, but in his Everton phase he has displayed commitment and concentration. Here, such qualities had dwindled to the point of invisibility.

Of Arsenal there was an altogether different impression. It was a team bound by a sense of excitement in what they were doing. Andrei Arshavin, the revelation of last summer's European Championship, happened to operate mostly in the shadows of Fabregas and Denilson this day but the enthusiasm he has engendered among aficionados of the game's finer points, rarely looked misplaced. One of his last touches, a deftly threaded roll of the ball against a post, was seized up by Eduardo for Arsenal's sixth goal. Arshavin trotted over to congratulate his team-mate happily enough. He looked like a man sensing he had arrived in the right place at the right time.

No doubt it is a little too soon to be too emphatic about the weight of the Russian's insight. However, one thing is certain. Arsenal had never looked more like a team set apart, both in the nature of their ambition and the quality of their game. Quite a number of Everton fans stayed to clap them off the field. It was as though they were saying a bad day for Everton might just prove an exceedingly good one for English football.

Everton (4-4-2): Howard; Hibbert, (Gosling, 58), Yobo, Lescott, Baines; Neville, Osman (Saha, 58), Cahill, Pienaar; Fellaini (Rodwell, 58), Jo. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Vaughan, Duffy, Baxter.

Arsenal (4-3-3): Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy; Fabregas (Ramsey, 72), Song, Denilson; Van Persie (Eduardo, 72), Bendtner (Eboué, 63), Arshavin. Substitutes not used: Mannone, Silvestre, Gibbs, Merida.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Man of the match: Fabregas.

Attendance: 39,309.

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