Arsenal, Manchester City

Arsenal beat Everton to move ahead of Manchester City

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.

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.

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.”

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