Arsenal bounced back to form with a impressive 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday lunchtime to keep alive their slim title hopes.
After their recent exits from the FA Cup and Champions League, Wenger’s men were determined to keep in touch with the Premier League’s pace setters and they looked like they had a point to prove as they carved open Everton to register a morale-boosting win – only their second success in eight league and cup matches.
Danny Welbeck and 19-year-old Alex Iwobi, with his first for the club, scored in the opening 45 minutes at Goodison Park to ensure the Gunners still retain some interest in the pursuit of leaders Leicester.
With many pundits stating the Premier League title was a two-horse race, the result leaves the Gunners still in with a fighting – eight points behind Leicester – who travel to Crystal Palace later on Saturday.
Without Gareth Barry, serving a suspension for his sending off a week ago, Arsenal were allowed to dominate the 40 yards between centre-circle and penalty area with very little in the way of opposition.
It gave the visitors the space to play their little triangles and that led to the breakthrough after just seven minutes, with a 12-pass move culminating in Alexis Sanchez exchanging possession with Mesut Ozil before sliding a through-ball to Welbeck, who perfectly timed his run in behind the defence leaving him with the simple task of rounding goalkeeper Joel Robles.
Welbeck had already hit the post, just after Seamus Coleman had done the same at the other end, in a manic 60 seconds just two minutes in.
Sanchez admirably stayed on his feet when the alternative would surely have led to a penalty after both Muhamed Besic and Ramiro Funes Mori had a nibble at him as Everton’s ineffectiveness extended to tackles inside their own area but passivity in midfield continued to be the biggest problem and it cost them just before the break.
Full-back Hector Bellerin launched a pass down the right channel to completely expose Funes Mori in a two-on-one situation and while Iwobi may not yet possess all the skills of his mercurial uncle Jay-Jay Okocha but he displayed a similar coolness in the final third, ignoring Ozil on his own in the middle to confidently slot past Robles.
The half-time entertainment was from soul band The Drifters, which could be construed as a less-than-subtle metaphor for Everton’s season which now hinges on an FA Cup semi-final in five weeks’ time.
It will be a long time to tread water for Martinez, whose status among fans has swung one way then the other in the last couple of weeks with cup victories and league defeats but is definitely on an ever-decreasing downward spiral.
Everton have conceded 28 goals in 15 home, the worst record in the Premier League, and the longer that continues the more precarious his position becomes.
The second half brought a slight improvement from the hosts but Arsenal were more than comfortable in containment mode to secure their first clean sheet in five league games.
Danny Welbeck has netted two goals in his three Premier League away games since his return from injury.
Welbeck has now scored four Premier League goals against Everton, his joint-best return against any side (along with Aston Villa).
Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in three goals in his last three Premier League appearances (1 goal, 2 assists).
Alex Iwobi scored on his first Premier League start, the first Arsenal player to do so since Joel Campbell last October.
Hector Bellerin has provided three assists in his last two Premier League games after managing just two in his previous 46.
The Spaniard has also assisted three of the Gunners’ last four PL goals.
Everton have conceded more home Premier League goals than any other side (28), and it’s the most they’ve ever conceded in any 38-game PL season.
Arsenal enjoyed only their third victory in their last 10 away Premier League games (D4 L3).