Apr 062014

The ECHO looks at the big talking points from an emphatic win for the Blues

It’s ‘advantage Everton’ in the race for fourth

Arsenal weren’t just beaten at Goodison Park this afternoon – they were blown away.

It was – as the ECHO’s Dave Prentice predicted last week – a nightmare on Gwladys Street for Arsene Wenger, the Gunners’ heaviest loss to Everton in the Premier League era.

The Blues are now just a point behind Arsenal with a game in hand, having won their last six Premier League games in a row. Fourth place is there for the taking. 

The one-sided nature of the contest will surely have damaged Arsenal’s already brittle confidence. If anything, Roberto Martinez’s team resembled some of Wenger’s trophy-winning sides from the (increasingly distant) past – a fast, vibrant attacking unit playing football from the back. The moment Seamus Coleman ran down the wing doing keepy-uppys summed up the hosts’ dominance. Samba football from Everton’s right-back.

There are six games to go for Everton – and it is the Merseysiders, not the team from North London, who are now favourites to land that final Champions League slot.

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Everton 3 Arsenal 0

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Roberto Martinez outwitted Arsene Wenger

The Blues boss is a relative managerial rookie compared to the vastly experienced Arsenal manager. But Martinez won the tactical battle here, hands down.

The Blues ditched their usual 4-2-3-1 system and went for something similar to 4-3-3, a fluid formation with Romelu Lukaku – usually deployed down the middle – switched over to the right side.

The Belgian terrorised Gunners left-back Nacho Monreal, who endured another shaky afternoon on Merseyside having been targeted by Liverpool at Anfield earlier this year.

Thomas Vermaelen, playing as Arsenal’s left-sided centre-back, was equally uncertain up against his fellow countryman Lukaku. The on-loan Chelsea striker’s goal came as a result of being deployed out wide. He was allowed to cut inside on his favoured left foot and hammered an unstoppable shot into the Park End net.

Not even the early loss of skipper Leon Osman to injury could stop Everton. Martinez waved Ross Barkley off the subs’ bench and the England man slotted in seamlessly.

Martinez had all the answers, while Wenger was guilty of making a major selection gaffe in leaving Alex Oxlade Chamberlain on the bench. He looked Arsenal’s best player when he came on.

Chelsea’s loss is Everton’s gain

It is worth remembering that Romelu Lukaku – the striking spearhead in Everton’s push for a top-four finish – is on loan from a side struggling to find an attacking focal point.

With Lukaku in their side, Chelsea might have already won the title.

The best striker on the Stamford Bridge club’s books is on loan at Goodison – and today he took his tally for the season to 13, the best by an Everton player in the Premier League since Yakubu scored 15 in 2007-08. He had four shots, made one key pass, completed 100% of his take-ons and won two headers. Everton have only lost once this season when Lukaku has found the net. He’s a talisman – and, along with Gareth Barry, surely the loan signing of the season.

Steven Naismith won over his doubters – again

The Scot carried on from where he left off at Craven Cottage. Having inspired Everton’s second-half display against Fulham last week, Naismith was handed only his eighth start of the season today and responded with an energetic performance.

He was in the right place at the right time to stroke home the first goal on 14 minutes, was involved in the sweeping build-up to Lukaku’s second and helped set up the third just after the hour mark, when Mikel Arteta bundled the ball into his own net under pressure from Kevin Mirallas.

Naismith has been seen as a bit-part player during his time with the Blues and it has taken him time to win over the Goodison fans. The evidence of the last game-and-a-half suggests he has plenty to offer during the run-in – not just from the subs’ bench. He was treated to a standing ovation when replaced with nine minutes to go. Rightly so.

Ross Barkley has given Martinez a selection headache

The England midfielder was drafted into the action early to replace the injured Leon Osman and did all he could to guarantee a start for Saturday’s game at Sunderland.

In 80 minutes on the pitch, Barkley had more touches of the ball (69) than any other Everton midfielder or forward. He won all of his aerial battles, made three interceptions, put in three crosses and made more passes (53) than any other Blues midfielder at an accuracy rate of 90.6%. He seemed to cover every blade of grass on Goodison’s rain-soaked pitch.

There were so many contenders for man of the match crown. John Stones was imperious; Leighton Baines an incisive threat down the left; Lukaku, Naismith and Mirallas were also superb. Barkley was also well in the mix.

* Everton 3 Arsenal 0: Blues silence Gunners to grab pole position in Euro race

* Everton v Arsenal – rate each Blue in our online poll

* Re-read: Everton 3 Arsenal 0 as it happened from Goodison

Why is this happening? Find out more about the shortage of Everton home kit.

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