Arsenal clawed themselves back into the race for Champions League football with a vital 3-2 win over Everton on Sunday.
The Gunners found themselves behind after just 50 seconds at the Emirates thanks to a Dominic Calvert-Lewin goal, following yet more shambolic defending, but goals from Eddie Nketiah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put Mikel Arteta’s side ahead.
Further confusion in the Arsenal defence allowed Richarlison to equalise on the stroke of half-time, but Aubameyang once again delivered the goods just after the break. The Gunners had to ride out an Everton storm and can thank Bernd Leno for some big saves as the resisited late pressure to finally claim all three points.
So, what did we learn from Sunday’s breathtaking encounter?
1. Quick start
The last thing you want to do is give an in-form side confidence and something to hold on to but that’s exactly what Arsenal did when they allowed Calvert-Lewin to open the scoring after just 50 seconds — the fastest goal the Gunners have ever conceded at home in the Premier League.
Again, it was another example of Arsenal’s shambolic defending from set-pieces as Gylfi Sigurdsson delivered a ball into the box and Sead Kolasinac ran inexplicably deep to track Yerry Mina, while the rest of his teammates remained high. David Luiz’s poor header heaped even more pressure on the Arsenal defence and Calvert-Lewin took full advantage, firing home with an overhead kick.
Dominic Calvert Lewin's goal was the fastest goal Arsenal have ever conceded at home in the Premier League.
50 seconds. 😳 pic.twitter.com/Pqkf2jYawN
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 23, 2020
A frantic first-half saw the two sides head in level at 2-2 but if Everton’s opener was quick, Arsenal’s goal after the break was something else.
Straight from the kick-off, the Gunners worked the ball to Nicolas Pepe on the right flank, with his in-swinging cross finding the head of Aubameyang, who had completely ghosted Djibril Sidibe to get himself free.
The ball officially hit the back of the net 22 seconds into the second-half, showing that, in fact, both sides need to work on their concentration.
2. Saka ignites the Gunners
The opening quarter of Sunday’s game game was almost completely dominated by Everton, with Carlo Ancelotti‘s men opening the scoring, controlling possession and posing a genuine attacking threat every time they came forward.
That all changed, however, when Kolasinac departed in the 18th minute with what appeared to be a shoulder injury after a collision with Djibril Sidibe. The Bosnian was replaced by young Bukayo Saka and from there, fortunes swung in Arsenal‘s favour.
Saka has impressed greatly in his new-found left-back role recently, providing assists in Arsenal‘s last two games against Newcastle United and Olympiakos. The teenager was at it again here, swinging a wonderful cross in for Nketiah’s equaliser mere minutes after coming on, and providing a real thrust down the left flank for Arteta.
Saka’s performance level dropped slightly after the break with a few questionable passes and slips in possession, but he did enough here to once again show what an exciting talent he is.
3. 4-4-2 does the trick again
Okay, so Everton didn’t get the result they wanted here and their wait for a Premier League away win over Arsenal now extends to a colossal 24 games, but the Toffees certainly warranted a share of the spoils with a stylish performance.
Since the departure of Marco Silva, first under Duncan Ferguson and now under Ancelotti, Everton have deployed a 4-4-2 formation to great effect.
With three goals conceded, its defensive merits weren’t on show on Sunday but once again, Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison found the net, making it nine goals in the last seven games between the two of them.
Everton have cried out for a natural goalscorer since the departure of Romelu Lukaku and now, it seems, they have two of them and as a result, the Merseysiders have scored in every single game so far under Ancelotti.
4. Arsenal make huge European stride
With Manchester City banned from European competition for the next two years, fifth place is potentially going to represent the final Champions League qualifying spot. At the start of play, Arsenal were on 34 points, seven behind fifth-placed Manchester United, while Everton were just ahead of them on 36 points. This was a massive game in the European race.
The Gunners have been known to fluff their lines in these crunch matches in the past, but not this time. They had to work hard for it, but Arteta’s men were able to get the three points they so desperately craved — largely thanks to some impressive attacking prowess — and have taken a significant step toward securing their place at Europe’s top table next season.
Everton, in turn, have been dealt a huge blow in their dreams of a Champions League campaign, although they still remain just five points behind fifth — hardly an insurmountable climb with 11 games still remaining.
Would you believe that only Arsenal sit alongside Liverpool as the last remaining unbeaten teams in the Premier League since the start of 2020?
5. Aubameyang finally catches Vardy
Despite not scoring a single goal since December 21, Jamie Vardy’s remarkable early-season form has kept him atop the Premier League Golden Boot standings — until now.
Aubameyang‘s double didn’t just deliver a vital victory for Arsenal here, it also moved him onto 17 goals, level with Leicester‘s marksman and ahead of Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero on 16.
Arsenal are the only Premier League team still unbeaten in 2020 across all competitions.
The Mikel Arteta effect. 🔴 pic.twitter.com/CmnskAgyj3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 23, 2020
Aubameyang shared the Golden Boot with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane last season, but the former Borussia Dortmund man will be hell-bent on securing that award all for himself this time around as he seeks to deliver Champions League football for Arsenal for the first time since he joined in 2018.