x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Arsenal turn from failures to title favourites in 90 mesmerising minutes

If ever there was a way to send a message to both your rivals and your critics then Arsenal's 6-1 defeat of Everton was a pretty good attempt.

If ever there was a way to send a message to both your rivals and your critics then this was it. In 90 minutes, Arsenal dispelled the notion, bandied about in many pre-season predictions, that they are destined to battle for fourth place this season with a 6-1 walloping of Everton at Goodison Park. In fact, six goals, three in either half and a mesmerising display of passing football against an Everton side in the wrong place at the wrong time would suggest that Arsene Wenger's side are more likely to be focusing on the teams who finished above them last season.

The Frenchman rightly played down the significance of the mammoth scoreline, but Arsenal's potency in front of goal - there were five different scorers - was particularly impressive, considering the club sold their leading front man Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester City in the summer. "We have lost two good players, two great players [in Kolo Toure and Adebayor] in the summer to Manchester City, but when great players leave that allows space for other players to come in and prove they are good enough," said Wenger.

"People have been writing us off. But what is important is not what others say, but what we do. "From being told we were not competitive before the game to now being told that we are super-favourites is strange. But it is right to say that this is just the first game and we aim to continue to give our best. "Everybody in our team can score goals and everybody likes to go forward so when things go for us, anyone can score."

From the moment Brazilian midfielder Denilson curled home a 25-yard effort after 26 minutes, it was one-way traffic. Arsenal were running rings around an Everton side shorn of their playmaker, Mikel Arteta, who is yet to recover from a serious knee injury. Defenders Thomas Vermaelen, on his debut, and William Gallas headed home free-kicks as the Gunners went in three up at the break. Particularly relevant though was the contribution of Cesc Fabregas. With so much resting on the young Spaniard this season, he turned in a true captain's display, setting up two and scoring the fourth and fifth goals, slipping the ball under Tim Howard just two minutes into the second period before a run and shot from the edge of the box made it five.

He celebrated by holding up an shirt with the name of Jarque on it, the Espanyol captain and fellow Catalan who died of a heart attack last week. Another poignant moment was a goal for the Croatian striker Eduardo, on his first league start for 18 months following his horrific double leg break, before Louis Saha's consolation. For Arsenal, there is no time to bask in the glory of this demolition of potential rivals for a Champions League spot - they face Celtic tomorrow in the final qualifier for this season's competition.

"It is a big game for us and we know we need a positive performance," added Wenger. For Everton manager David Moyes, a Europa League qualifier at home to Croatian side Sigma Olomouc on Thursday gives his men the chance to forget this mauling quickly. "You deal with it and you move on so we'll look it at it and try to do better next time. We have to pick ourselves up quickly," he said. twoods@thenational.ae