Unai Emery finally gave Lucas Torreira his debut, and the Uruguayan starred as Arsenal took down Everton at Emirates Stadium. Goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made the difference in a well-contested match.
Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang again proved their doubters wrong as they both scored on the way to a 2-0 home win for Arsenal against Everton. The Gunners out-possessed the Toffees, but clinical finishing made the difference in Sunday’s match.
The visitors did not arrive quietly: they pressed Arsenal’s back line early and often, forcing Granit Xhaka into making a couple early mistakes on his 100th appearance for the club. The Switzerland international completed 81.2 percent of his 101 pass attempts, a slightly worse percentage than he usually posts. Luckily for his side, he only committed one foul in the presence of Jon Moss, who has already sent him off twice in his relatively short stay in England.
Richarlison caused the most problems for Arsenal’s back four in the first half hour. He created space himself in dangerous areas on multiple occasions for free shots, but he could not take advantage of his efforts on the ball. Lucas Digne put a free kick on goal half an hour into the match, which Petr Cech parried with ease.
Ex-Gunner Theo Walcott almost bagged a goal against his former club in the 37th minute when Gylfi Sigurdsson sent him behind the Arsenal defense, but Cech, one of the team’s best players in the match, denied the speedy winger.
Arsenal opened the scoring in the 56th minute through a beautiful, curving finish into the top right corner of the net. The hosts had strung a number of passes together in the final third, and Lucas Torreira, in his full league debut, lifted his boot higher than his 5-foot-6 frame should allow in order to keep the ball for his side after a Tom Davies tackle.
Aaron Ramsey recovered the ball a few yards outside of the box, passed it onto Lacazette’s right foot, and the Frenchman took a perfect first touch and curled the ball into the upper 90.
Aubameyang doubled Arsenal’s tally in the 58th minute and sealed the game on an easy finish resulting from a well-executed counter-attack. Mesut Özil found himself dribbling into the Everton penalty area after recovering a smart long ball from Hector Bellerin, and the German squared the ball to Aaron Ramsey outside the six-yard box. The Welshman slipped, but Aubameyang was on hand to finish the move and seal the three points for the north Londoners.
Defensively, the visitors sat in a 4-4-2 formation with Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin up top. Sigurdsson played in a central playmaking role when Everton went on the attack, and Richarlison and Walcott dropped in from the wings to support Calvert-Lewin.
Tom Davies and Idrissa Gana Gueye held down the double pivot when the Toffees attacked, but Marco Silva had his team defend conservatively with two banks of four.
For the Gunners, Emery used Xhaka and Torreira as a double pivot with Aaron Ramsey and Mesut
Since the Welshman had more attacking freedom than Xhaka, Arsenal sometimes ended up using a 4-2-3-1 with Aubameyang on the left and Lacazette as a No. 9. Arsene Wenger never gave Ramsey much freedom to attack, and the longtime Gunner flourished in his attacking midfield role.
The duo of Torreira and Xhaka mitigated his defensive responsibility, so he had the opportunity to make forceful runs forward. Lacazette found Ramsey with an inch-perfect through ball which he crossed toward Aubameyang, whose resulting header almost caused a penalty for the Gunners.
The hosts’ performance vindicated what many supporters have said after each match this season.
Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be key components in any success the club has this season, and they have too much talent for either to sit on the bench each week.
They played together without any awkwardness, similar to how new signing Torreira stepped into the starting XI this week. The Uruguayan impressed in the five substitute appearances he made before this match, and he continued in that vein of form on Sunday.
Torreira won a tackle and an interception, completed 85.9 percent of his passes, and provided a smart play that led to the Gunners’ first goal.
Man of the Match: Petr Cech
The legendary Czech goalkeeper proved why Emery has stuck with him despite the summer addition of Bernd Leno. The 36-year-old made a number of impressive stops that helped the team keep the first clean sheet of the Emery era.
Most of his work came in the first half, but his early success set the tone for the rest of the match and helped diminish Everton’s confidence.
A long time has passed since he had such a thoroughly impressive game, but now he has proved his new coach right in this situation. If he keeps up this sort of form, Arsenal fans will not see Leno in the Premier League for a while.