Everton vs. Arsenal: 6 Things We Learned
Roberto Martinez's team outfought, outthought and utterly outwitted Arsenal in every single area of the pitch in their thouroughly deserved victory.
The victory for the Toffees means the race to finish fourth in the Premier League and qualify for the Champions League is well and truly on. Everton are now just one point behind Arsenal, who have only won three of their last 10 Premier League games.
The game started at a frantic pace, with Everton tearing into Arsenal right from the off. It was clear Martinez's team had targeted Mikel Arteta as a weak link and they dispossessed him more than once in the one-sided affair.
Their opening goal came from the boot of Naismith after he latched onto a loose ball after Lukaku's initial shot was blocked. Once in pole position, Everton never looked back and ratcheted up the pressure with every meaningful pass.
Their second goal came as no surprise to anyone.
Martinez outfoxed Arsene Wenger by starting with a 4-2-3-1 formation, but instead of Lukaku staying central, he drifted out to Arsenal's left. There, he took full advantage of Nacho Monreal's schoolboy defensive positioning.
Mirallas picked up the ball in midfield and immediately looked out to the left to find Lukaku in space. The on-loan Chelsea player drove at the center of Arsenal's defense as they backed off in panic. He then unleashed an unstoppable drive into the bottom corner to give Everton an unassailable two-goal lead.
The most important thing about the second goal, though, was Lukaku's celebration. He immediately ran to Martinez to celebrate. If one reads body language, then Lukaku's celebration can be read as the striker wanting to stay at Goodison after his loan finishes.
Arsenal looked punch-drunk and looked to their manager to change the tide of the game. Wenger, however, could do nothing as his team were second-best in every area of the pitch by a long margin.
The second half continued in the same vein with Everton dominating and dictating the game. James McCarthy—superb in midfield—gave Arsenal's much vaunted midfielders a Masterclass in how to dictate the game. He was ably joined by Naismith, who covered every inch of the Arsenal half and numerous other heroes.
The third goal was only a matter of time and when it did come, the old stadium erupted in a roar that has not been heard since the halcyon days of the mid-'80s.
Mirallas drove at Arsenal's wafer-thin center and set Naismith free, but Wojciech Szczesny's mistimed save knocked the ball back into his path. As he reached to tuck it away, the hapless Arteta got there first and guided it into the back of the net.
If the game was over at 2-0, it was well and truly over at 3-0.
The result leaves Everton one point behind Arsenal in the race to finish fourth, but with a game in hand and a much tougher run in.
However, given Arsenal's form of late, they have no easy games left.
Here, Bleacher Report offers six things we learned from Everton vs. Arsenal...
Mobility in Central Midfield the Key to Winning the Game
Regardless of who Arsenal are playing against, they will always be at a disadvantage when Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini play together in central midfield.
The defensive-minded pairing are slow to react to second-balls and need to receive the ball in plenty of space. Arteta is the more cultured of the duo, but tends to take too much out of the ball and often delays making his pass for vital fractions of a second.
Flamini, on the other hand, knows he is limited at the highest level and is a far swifter passer of the ball, if not as creative.
The problem Arsenal faced against Everton stemmed from this pairing. Steven Naismith is an incredibly hard-working player and has evolved greatly under Roberto Martinez. Following Leon Osman's replacement due to an eye injury, the Scot dropped into the space Arteta likes to fill.
If and when Naismith was not there, Gareth Barry moved up. Between the pairing they closed the slow Spaniard down ruthlessly. In contrast, when Flamini picked up the ball, Everton dropped off as the Frenchman was incapable of hurting them.
The end result was Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski being little more than mere spectators.
Arsenal tried to counteract this by moving the ball into wider positions, but James McCarthy—very much dictating the tempo of the game—kept the central battle going.
The Irishman has been an unsung hero for Everton this season. Today he was exceptional and controlled midfield like a veteran.
Arsenal's Frail Mentality Was Badly Exposed
As soon as Steven Naismith opened the scoring, the game was as good as over for most of Arsenal's players.
In 2012, Dennis Bergkamp told Alan Smith, of the Daily Telegraph Arsenal were predictable and lacked a winning mentality.
The Dutchman refused to blame Wenger, but he maintained there are fundamental problems in the Arsenal's mentality.
Mikel Arteta recently stated to the Sun (subscription required) his team needed to discover how to win trophies rather than plaudits.
There is little doubt Arsenal do not possess true character. They are mentally weak, and as soon as their players realized they were in a battle, they gave up.
There will be plenty of soul searching for Arsene Wenger and his team over the course of the coming days.
Unlike the Chelsea defeat, where Wenger dismissed it as an accident, he can not dismiss Everton's utter domination of his team.
His team were less than second-best mentally, physically, tactically and technically.
Despite the scoreline, this loss was far worse than the mauling the Gunners were given by Chelsea.
How Would Arsenal's Season Have Turned out Had They Signed Romelu Lukaku?
Everton's hammering of Arsenal told a lot about the current summer and winter transfer system and how to take advantage of it.
Roberto Martinez signed 10 players, including four loan signings, for Everton for a grand total of £21 million. He accrued £40 million through sales.
Arsene Wenger, on the other hand, signed three players and loaned in two for a total of £42.5 million. The entire spend went on Mesut Ozil.
What Wenger did not do was improve his defensive or attacking choices. Martinez did just that by bringing in backup players. He then consolidated and improved his team's situation by taking Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku on loan from Manchester City and Chelsea, respectively.
It must be noted that Barry was signed as backup to Darron Gibson. The Irishman got injured early on this season to give Barry his chance.
Their impact has been immense and a major factor in Everton's top-four challenge.
Arsene Wenger bemoaned the current loan system to a Premier League press conference, as quoted by MirrorSport, this week.
The Arsenal boss, however, rather than complaining about the system, should embrace it and use it to his club's advantage. The Gunners have a long standing relationship with Barcelona through past transfers between the clubs. They could have easily rivalled the Toffees for the loan signing of Gerard Deulofeu. Would he have been an option out wide where Arsenal are really suffering and looking for a player with pace and penetration?
Everton's players charged around the pitch like their very season depended upon it. They closed the Gunners down all over the pitch and never gave them a moment to settle all day.
Faced with great adversity, Arsenal's response was to play tippy-tappy football and to shirk their personal battles. It is little wonder Everton won every single battle across the pitch.
The players looked fresh compared to Wenger's team who look shell-shocked.
Wenger must therefore answer questions about his training methods, why so many players are out injured, why he failed in the transfer window and why his team look so, so tired.
How would Arsenal's season have turned out if they had signed a player of Lukaku's quality on loan or on a full transfer?
One can suggest, with full certainty, the Gunners would not be slumming it out in the battle for fourth.
Arsenal and Everton Players Looking Forward to the World Cup for Different Reasons
As Arsenal's season continues to fizzle out and as Everton's season rises to an unbelievable crescendo, the World Cup hopes of both clubs' players seem to be changing by the day.
At Christmas, Arsenal were on a high and their German players—Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil—looked on the verge of a memorable season. Just a few short months later and Ozil is out injured and Mertesacker looks more than tired after holding Arsenal's ramshackle team together over the last two months.
Lukas Podolski is little more than a fringe player, Theo Walcott is out until next year, Santi Cazorla is playing all over the place and Tomas Rosicky is being used every week. The Czech international's frail frame cannot handle the constant pace of the Premier League and he will break down sooner rather than later.
Thomas Vermaelen is not playing well, which seems to have affected Bacary Sagna.
Add in injuries to World Cup-bound players like Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs and you can see how and where the Gunners' players will be psychologically affected as they head to Brazil.
Everton do not have the same problem.
Belgians Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas look as strong today as on the first day of the season. Gareth Barry has arguably had his best-ever season and has been a hugely positive influence on Ross Barkley and John Stones. Both are tipped as outside bets for Roy Hodgson's squad.
Leighton Baines will claim the England left-back berth as his own, Phil Jagielka is another certainty for Roy and Bryan Oviedo will be ultra important for Costa Rica, should he recover from injury in time.
Each and every Everton player will look forward to the World Cup with glee after a great season regardless of their finishing position.
Can the same be said of Arsenal's players? They will be looking forward to the World Cup to get away from the black hole of gloom that has surrounded the club since Christmas.
David Seaman Is Right: 'Arsenal Should Never Celebrate Finishing Fourth'
David Seaman is, most certainly, the last great 'keeper to have played for Arsenal. Seaman left the club in 2003.
It is no small coincidence Arsenal's lack of a title challenge over the last decade has come during a period where the importance of the goalkeeping position has been a second thought.
In 2010, I even asked if Arsene Wenger was bitten by a goalkeeper as a child? Such was the Frenchman's blindness towards the net-minding situation at Arsenal.
The Gunners' current goalkeeping incumbent, Wojciech Szczesny, has a long, long way to go before he can even dream of tying the Seaman's laces, let alone come close to being as good as him.
This week, the 50-year-old legend told the Daily Mirror Arsenal needs to raise their expectations from just finishing in the top four.
I remember when Arsenal finished fourth and the players were really celebrating. It was a little bit difficult for me to accept that.
We weren’t like that when I was playing. Then, we’d be disappointed if we didn’t win anything.
But maybe the club has changed its thinking, and top-four is now OK. Arsene has been there for eight or nine years without winning anything, but he’s always been in the top four.
If they beat Everton it puts breathing space between them, but if they lose, the pressure is added to the weekend after – the Cup semi-final – so it is a tense time.
Seaman is well-placed to talk about the culture that has developed at his club over the last decade. His comments are hard to dismiss, especially when Wenger's haunting comments from 2012 keep coming back to haunt him.
Facing a huge backlash at the Arsenal AGM in 2012, Wenger tried to sate the crowd by telling them about the club's priorities.
We speak about trophies. For me, there are five trophies - the first is to win the Premier League, the second is to win the Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is to win the FA Cup and the fifth is to win the League Cup.
At this very moment in time, Arsenal are fighting to achieve their third and fourth priorities.
They will do well to hold onto fourth place and deserve to drop out after crushing losses to Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton today.
The manner in how they capitulated in these games tells much about the fragile mindset of the Arsenal dressing room.
Is finishing fourth enough for their fans, though?
Arsenal Should Consider Roberto Martinez as Arsene Wenger's Replacement
On March 14, the Daily Star ran with an exclusive that claimed Arsenal were lining up Everton's Roberto Martinez as Arsene Wenger's replacement.
The likeable Spaniard is credited with assisting in setting up the system at Swansea City before he moved to Wigan Athletic. There, Martinez worked miracles year-on-year by keeping the Latics in the Premier League despite being held back by one of the lowest budgets in the league.
Now at Everton, Martinez has continued that good work of improving upon the superb foundations David Moyes left in place before he exited for life at Manchester United.
Everton were capable of playing in numerous styles under Moyes and comprehensively outplayed Manchester City at Goodison Park last season. At other times, Moyes used a more pragmatic approach.
Under Martinez, Everton have become a footballing side in the best sense of the word. Martinez has given his team permission to play football in every part of the pitch without fear of recrimination from him.
For an example, one only has to remember Kevin Mirallas trying to dribble the ball out of danger when being closed down by Bacary Sagna and Olivier Giroud. The Belgian eventually lost the ball and Arsenal earned a shot from his mistake. However, the point here is that under Moyes, the ball would have been punted into Row Z in a similar situation.
Martinez has coached his team to play the right way and they have a fundamental belief his way is the right way.
Everton have averaged 56 percent possession in the Premier League this term. The exact same as Arsenal before today as per WhoScored.com.
Once upon a time, Arsenal's players observed the same belief in Arsene Wenger.
The 64-year-old is out of contract this summer and Mikel Arteta recently admitted to the Daily Mirror the Arsenal squad have no idea whether he will sign.
Stan Kroenke and Co. could do worse than move to appoint Martinez when Wenger's 17-year-reign runs out in June.