Arsenal dug deep to secure a narrow but well-deserved win over struggling Everton at Goodison Park.
The Gunners – who replaced England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale with David Raya – have suffered away at Everton in recent years, losing on four of their past five visits.
But the Toffees, still without a Premier League win this season, were desperately short of quality and Arsenal substitute Leandro Trossard broke the deadlock with a classy side-foot finish after 69 minutes.
Arsenal had Gabriel Martinelli’s sweeping first-half finish narrowly ruled out for offside against Eddie Nketiah in the build up, but the home side could not hold out in the second period as Trossard finished off some patient Gunners probing around the box.
Manager Mikel Arteta was clearly elated as his side maintained their unbeaten start to the season and moved back to within two points of leaders Manchester City.
The home side, meanwhile, look destined for a season of relegation struggle and were a far cry from the side who overpowered Arsenal in manager Sean Dyche’s first game in charge in February.
Arsenal joy as Goodison hoodoo ends
Arteta’s beaming smile in front of the visiting fans after the final whistle said it all.
The Spaniard was celebrating a vital victory at a venue where he was adored as a player but where he has endured painful experiences as a coach.
The Gunners have cracked in the past in the hothouse atmosphere of Goodison Park, notably last season when they suffered a damaging defeat on Dyche’s introduction as Everton boss.
There were no such problems here as they controlled matters against a desperately poor Everton side who gave Raya the most comfortable of games on his Premier League debut for the club.
The new signing from Brentford looking at ease with ball at his feet and was able to indulge in some pretty tame catching practice from a succession of aimless Everton crosses.
The early departure of Martinelli, who went off with a hamstring injury moments after seeing his goal ruled out for offside, was a blow but Trossard made his mark with a clever side-foot finish following neat build-up from Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka.
Arsenal may have approached the game with a degree of trepidation given past results here, but this was a test they passed comfortably.
“It was a long time without a win here,” Arteta said.
“We played a great game, we didn’t give anything away. We dominated the game and created numerous chances. The score should probably have been bigger.
“I really enjoyed this. Against Manchester United, I saw my face after and it was a bit of relief. This was enjoyment.”
Desperate times at Everton
Everton’s fans applauded their players off at the final whistle but it seemed out of habit rather than any acknowledgement of quality from Dyche’s players, because there was none at all on display from the home side.
There were also jeers aimed at referee Simon Hooper but the bottom line is that this was a dreadful performance from Everton, lacking in cohesion, creativity or the slightest piece of attacking quality.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was excellent while James Tarkowski and Jarrad Branthwaite made crucial blocks in defence, but this was an otherwise brutal illustration of the gulf in class between the two sides.
These are times of great uncertainty on and off the pitch at Everton, following the announcement that owner Farhad Moshiri has agreed to sell his 94.1% share in the club to American investment fund 777 Partners, which has created more questions than answers for fans.
Even Goodison Park’s traditionally hostile atmosphere lacked the edge that has unsettled Arsenal so often in the past, the noise subdued for long periods with fans perhaps worn down by the constant struggle of having to lift a club which has been managed in a way so unfit for purpose.
Everton’s new £25m striker Beto gave everything in terms of effort, but even the greatest of forwards would struggle to make anything of the lack of service from midfield. He was replaced by Dominic Calvert-Lewin but without anything coming from wide, he suffered the same fate.
With only one point from five games, Everton already looked condemned to another depressing season of struggle to keep their heads above water.
“I thought we would have more points on the board by now but you can’t give the ball away that many times,” Dyche said.
“That link on transition was missing and we weren’t effective enough. We are conceding softish goals.
“Our growth is where we are. There is a reality. Last season nothing was solved. I’ve said there is massive work to be done.”
Source: BBC Sports