With Arsenal’s title hopes on the line, this was a must win game for the team…and their under fire manager.
So a storming start, aided and abetted by some shocking Everton defending, was exactly what Arsene Wenger needed to ease the pressure of an horrendous, career-defining week. Danny Welbeck opened the scoring early on before Alex Iwobi netted his first Premier League goal. More after the cut…
Our reporter David Maddock takes a look at some of the key issues to emerge from the game, which was vital to both managers’ prospects. Here are five things we learned:
1. Van Gaal is a football genius
He must be, because it takes a genius to work out that Danny Welbeck isn’t good enough for Manchester United, when the rest of us mistakenly think he is. After all, why keep an England striker who was the inspiration behind Arsenal’s stunning resurrection here, when you can craft a new squad that relies on youth team strikers? Paul Scholes has said it many times recently, United have let go far better players than their subsequent replacements. Welbeck is the perfect example of that.
2. Toffees fail to learn lesson
Roberto Martinez doesn’t seem to learn his own lessons. Last week against Chelsea, stung by recent results and criticism, he finally took heed of some of his senior players, and tightened up defence significantly, playing a far more sensible, compact game which ultimately laid the foundation for victory. So what does he do against an Arsenal side that loves an open contest and hates a scrap? Try to take them on at their own, open game; obviously. It was disastrous. Arsenal had four chances in the first breathless eight minutes, and when they took one, it was a long way back from the Blues.
3. What’s the story, Funes Mori?
They weren’t helped by some typically erratic defending by Ramiro Funes Mori, with Martinez continuing to baffle in his insistence on selecting the Argentine defender ahead of John Stones. He’s flaky in the air, and he gives the the ball away too much – Arsenal’s second goal a perfect example of that. Stones must be equally baffled why he’s not playing. And probably more determined that ever to leave in the summer.
4. Gunners tighten things up
Surprisingly, Arsenal were far more secure at the back, which is a minor miracle given their efforts in that area in recent weeks. They dealt with the physical threat of Lukaku better than anyone in recent weeks, though Everton’s insistence in virtually ignoring their goalscorer rather played into the visitors’ hands. Sometimes, you wonder if managers want to win football matches, or merely prove how tactically astute they are?
5. Wenger proves his doubters wrong
To be fair to Wenger, that is not a criticism you can often aim his way, no matter the flak he’s taken recently.This performance showed exactly why those calling for his head are premature in their hysterical response to what was always going to be a difficult few weeks for a side who were left in three gruelling competitions. Here, they were simply miles ahead of an Everton side who many say are equipped to challenge for the top four, if not higher. It was men against boys at times, and certainly, Wenger won the battle of the managers. Comfortably. Which raises the question, if he is sacked, who would make a better replacement?