And We’re Off… Everton 1 Arsenal 6 (Full Highlights)

Ah, life is sweet this weekend. A few more performances like this and some of the Arsenal Action blog contributors and their ilk will be out of business. Arsenal turned in a sterling performance at Goodison yesterday evening leaving Everton, their supporters, and probably more than a few pundits, shellshocked.

Alexandre SongWenger went with the 4-3-3 we’ve been seeing for most of the preseason and it proved hugely effective in its first Premier League test. Bendtner wide right was able to use his height advantage over Leighton Baines on almost every opportunity. The midfield trio of Fabregas, Song, and Denilson was even more effective. Denilson was able to get forward along with Fabregas largely due to Song’s dominating presence in midfield. His performance really forces us to wonder if the “DM problem” is a problem any longer.

Following the ridiculous article about the “shrinking Arsenal,” both Gallas and Vermaelen dominated in the air both on offense and defense. And not against a bottom-half side, no less. This was a perennial 5th place Everton side, albeit missing Arteta and Jagielka. But to come out and have the two center-backs score headed goals while denying Everton any kind of aerial attack is the best response possible from the club to those ridiculous assertions. Even better, Vermaelen inspired more confidence at the back than Kolo Toure has in a long time. He was aggressive but not reckless and he won almost all his challenges both in the air and on the ground. He made smart decisions about when to come up high and break up play and, even though Everton tried to pump balls over the top, he was able to keep the gap between him and Gallas rather tight.

Thomas Vermaelen

Perhaps one of the most encouraging signs from the match was the team’s desire, hunger, and motivation. Even when they were 4 goals to the good with a half-hour to play, they were still playing as hard as ever. Gael Clichy was chasing and pressuring the ball in Everton’s own half at that point and Sagna chased loose balls as if it were nil-nil. In what promises to be a very tight title race throughout the big 4, goal differential can be key and Arsenal are now +5 after the first week. Blowing the clean sheet is a bit frustrating but it came from a fortuitous rebound after a good save by Almunia and when you’ve scored six at Everton on the opening day it’s hard to complain.

Considering all the players left at home or injured including Rosicky, Nasri, Walcott, Senderos, Wilshere, and Vela, depth appears to be less of an issue than many people think. Of course, if Senderos goes, he must be replaced with a defender of similar stature but, going forward at least, the team is set. At the moment, each position has at least one backup who can get the job done except for one of the center-backs. Silvestre cannot be that player. It is the last issue left for Arsene to address before the end of the month.

Although you can never completely judge a team on one match, the importance of this performance, and more importantly, the result, cannot be overstated. It also sends a clear message to the doubters, both in the stands and in the media, and it shows good resilience following the disappointing performance at Valencia last weekend. But, most importantly, it will have boosted the side’s confidence and belief going into the Champions League playoff at Parkhead on Tuesday.Victoria Concordia Crescit