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Arsenal send strong message with dominant win over Everton




Arsenal are now five points clear at the top of the Premier League after a dominant 4-0 win over Everton at home.

The Gunners came into the tie knowing a win would give them some breathing room as Manchester City chomp at their heels waiting for a slip-up. The Emirates faithful were in full voice ahead of kick-off, as they have been all season.

Everton arguably had the better of the opening exchanges, with Sean Dyche’s men managing to prevent a trademark Arsenal fast start. That was until Bukayo Saka turned it on.

The England ace picked the ball up on the turn inside the penalty area and lashed beyond Jordan Pickford at his near post. While no goalkeeper enjoyes getting beat in that area, there was very little the Everton shot-stopper could do.

Arsenal”s second came about in bizarre circumstances, with Saka stealing the ball from Idrissa Gueye before Gabriel Martinelli scored for the third game running. It was subject to a lengthy VAR check, but once deemed a valid goal the celebrations were as buoyant as expected.

Martin Odegaard put the game beyond any doubt with Arsenal’s third 20 minutes from time. Martinelli’s second and the Gunners’ fourth was simply the icing on the cake.

Victory against the Toffees and a rare win for Arteta over counterpart Sean Dyche means Arsenal can breathe a small sigh of relief; they’ve made their game in hand count.

As a result, the Gunners now sit five points clear of nearest challengers and reigning champions Manchester City. Few would have predicted this title race before a ball had been kicked this term, let alone that Arsenal would be leading it as late in the season as March.

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With the stakes at their highest and the white-hot spotlight of City’s glare firmly on them, Arsenal made no mistake.

25 games played each, 13 more before a winner is crowned, more drama is all but guaranteed but the Gunners can take comfort in the fact they finally seem to be able to play under the weight of title-winning expectation.

As for Everton, the loss leaves them lingering in the relegation zone having now played a game more than some of their survival rivals.

Martinelli’s purple patch continues

The Brazilian has had to deal with his fair share of critics since the resumption of club football after the World Cup, but his persistence and hard work is starting to pay off.

Martinelli has now scored in each of the last three games, which in turn takes his tally for the season to double figures in the league this season.

His first strike of the game displayed all the things that make Martinelli the player he is – quick-thinking, a rapid turn of pace and composes finishing.

Faced with an onrushing Pickford, Martinelli calmly guided his effort beyond the Everton ‘keeper to give Arsenal a two-goal cushion. He notched his brace with a close-range jab through the ‘keeper’s legs late on.

It appears the 21-year-old is finding form at just the right time.

Zinchenko pulls the strings

To call Oleksandr Zinchenko a left-back would be doing the Ukrainian a disservice. The former Man City man takes up positions all over the pitch and exudes quality in every single one.

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It was Zinchenko who played the pass for Arsenal’s opener, guiding a perfectly weighted through ball into the path of Saka whose finish was the kind he has put away all season.

For the majority of the first-half, it was Zinchenko was at the centre of all things positives for the hosts. He was able to break lines through two means; his dazzling dribbling or his supreme passing ability.

It was the latter of the aforementioned two that came to the fore to break the deadlock.

Thomas Partey put in a dominant, combative display once he was brought on at half-time ( Image: Getty Images)
Jorginho and Partey share the minutes

For those who thought Jorginho would be used sparingly following his deadline day arrival, Arteta’s selection tonight proved the Italian is at the Emirates to do more than just make up the numbers.

Given Thomas Partey was introduced off the bench against Leicester, many would have assumed the Ghanaian was fit to feature from the start this time around. It came as somewhat of a surprise to see Jorginho keep his spot in the middle of the park.

In the reverse fixture earlier this season, Everton midfielders Amadou Onana, Abdoulaye Doucoure and former Gunner Alex Iwobi got plenty of joy.

Things got off to a bad start when Jorginho had his pocket picked by Onana to bring about Everton’s first chance, but Neal Maupay backheeled his effort straight at Aaron Ramsdale.

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In truth, the Italian was a tad below the level he has shown over the last few weeks and was hooked in place of Partey at half-time. The former Atletico Madrid man looked a tad more in control as he kept things ticking over.

This dynamic could be a common feature of Arsenal’s look as the season goes on.

Everton were well-prepared to deal with everything Arsenal threw at them at Goodison Park last month and that may have played into Arteta’s decision-making on Wednesday night.

With that being said, they may not have expected the Arsenal boss to start Leandro Trossard in place of Eddie Nketiah for the second successive game.

It was a tactic that actually worked a treat against the Foxes and Trossard gave the Everton backline much to think about as well. However, he wasn’t as married to the ‘false nine’ role as he was on Saturday.

Instead, the ex-Brighton man chopped and change with Martinelli throughout, meaning the Brazilian often took up central positions while Trossard could be found on the left-flank.

However, it was Trossard’s influence out wide that helped Arsenal notch their third. The Belgian cut the ball across the face of goal for Odegaard to convert.

One of Trossard’s key assets seems to be the fact that he can’t really be tied to one single position, he floats, thus creating an issue for the likes of James Tarkowski and Michael Keane, who couldn’t really pin him all night.


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Bukayo Saka dominates as Arsenal take eight-point lead in title race





Bukayo Saka scored twice and provided an assist in a brilliant performance to help Mikel Arteta’s side extend their lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

The Gunners were clinical in the final third, with Gabriel Martinelli firing them in front before Bukayo Saka found space in the box to stroke in a second before half-time. Palace hit the post through Wilfried Zaha and threatened on the break, but their miserable run continued, with the decision to sack Patrick Vieira not paying immediate dividends.

Granit Xhaka made it 3-0 with a scruffy finish from Leandro Trossard’s incisive through ball to put Arsenal in complete control. Palace midfielder Jeffrey Schlupp did at least score their first Premier League goal for a month by smashing in a loose ball from a corner, but Saka lashed in Kieran Tierney’s cutback to make it 4-1 soon after.

Palace are just three points above the relegation zone despite being in 12th place. By contrast, Mikel Arteta’s side have now notched up 69 points to reach their same points tally as last season in 10 games fewer. Here are the talking points from the match at the Emirates Stadium.

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Martinelli has become a figurehead for Arsenal in recent weeks. With Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah both sidelined, the Brazilian has stepped up to the plate to provide goals with regularity.

Still only 21 years old, Martinelli is now established as a top-class Premier League striker, with his goal here taking him onto 13 for the season – only Erling Haaland (28), Harry Kane (21), Ivan Toney (16) and Marcus Rashford (14) have more.

Despite the huge burden of starting week-in, week-out, Martinelli still looks razor sharp inside the box. His finish showed just how dangerous he can be, with a good first touch, a quick change of direction and a devastating finish undoing Palace.

Like Martinelli, Saka is still only 21 years old, but his talent – and importance to Arsenal – belies his youth. He was absolutely electric against Palace, providing the cross for Martinelli’s goal, making it 2-0 with an assured finish from Ben White ’s cute pass and adding gloss with a second goal from Tierney’s pass.

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Saka’s consistency is such that he now has 12 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season and has reached double figures for both statistics for the first time in the same season. The achievement is underlined by the fact that he’s the first Arsenal player to do so in a Premier League season since Alexis Sánchez in 2016/17.

Only Haaland (33) and Kane (23) have more Premier League goal involvements than Saka (22) in the Premier League this season. Meanwhile, only Lionel Messi (13), Kevin de Bruyne (12), Neymar (11) and Randal Kolo Muani (10) have more league assists in Europe’s top five leagues. His 12 league goals means he has overtaken his tally for last season, despite playing 10 games fewer, directly matching his team’s upward curve.

William Saliba had played every minute of Arsenal’s Premier League season before Sunday. The Frenchman’s injury in the Europa League defeat by Sporting on Thursday came as a major blow to the Gunners.

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Rob Holding came on for Saliba earlier in the week and he took his place against Palace, lining up alongside Gabriel Magalhaes to form a fresh centre-back partnership. The unfamiliar sight made some Arsenal fans uneasy – and there were some worrying signs early on.

Holding was guilty of diving in unsuccessfully to try and win the ball early on, with Zaha then hitting the post after cutting inside White. The 27-year-old was afforded a lot of time on ball by Palace and looked assured with it.

As Palace’s threat faded, Holding became more comfortable and passed his audition as Saliba’s stand-in. Jakub Kiwior was brought on to make his Premier League table and make an immediate impression with a strong challenge when left one-on-one with Zaha, so there is pressure on Holding’s place.

Palace are in the worst form of any side in the Premier League. Their position of 12th in the league table does not nearly tell the whole story: they are in danger of being relegated this season.

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Haaland hits five as Man City ease into Champions League quarters





Erling Haaland equalled a Champions League record with a five-goal haul to ease Manchester City into the quarter-finals at RB Leipzig’s expense as a 7-0 win for the English champions secured an 8-1 aggregate victory on Tuesday.

Haaland also set a new club record for goals in a season of 39 in the process as Pep Guardiola’s men reached the last eight for the sixth consecutive season.

City are yet to go all the way in the Champions League, but they have never had a striker of Haaland’s quality to make the difference in the latter stages before.

At just 22 he now has 33 goals in 25 appearances in Europe’s premier club competition.

The weather was more akin to Haaland’s homeland on a snowy night in Manchester, but City did not freeze under the pressure and kept their Champions League dreams alive.

The tie was delicately balanced after a 1-1 draw in eastern Germany three weeks ago, but a Leipzig side depleted by injury never looked like a match for their star-studded opponents.

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Guardiola had kept Kevin De Bruyne in reserve for City’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in the Premier League at the weekend and on his return to the starting line-up, the Belgian was back to his best.

Ilkay Gundogan should have opened the scoring after just three minutes from De Bruyne’s inviting cross.

Haaland’s searing pace then created a chance out of nothing from Nathan Ake’s long ball, but Janis Blaswich raced out from his goal to block.

Leipzig did have cause for complaint over two controversial calls that had a massive impact on the game before half-time.

Firstly, VAR spotted a handball against Benjamin Henrichs that led to a penalty that neither the City players nor the crowd even noticed.

Denied record chance –
Haaland fired low to Blaswich’s left to maintain his perfect record from the spot for City with his sixth penalty of the season.

Two minutes later it was 2-0 as Haaland teed up De Bruyne, who smashed a shot against the bar, and then showed his speed and strength to power home a header from the rebound.

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Leipzig could have been gifted a route back into the tie when Ederson sprinted from his goal to wipe out Konrad Laimer.

But rather than send the Brazilian goalkeeper off, Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic did not even award a free-kick.

Any doubt over the outcome was ended with the final action of the first half.

Ruben Dias rose highest to head Jack Grealish’s corner onto the post and Amadou Haidara’s attempted clearance ricocheted off Haaland into the net.

Gundogan’s classy finish into the far corner four minutes into the second half rubbed more salt into Leipzig’s wounds before Haaland started rewriting the record books.

Firstly, he hammered home at the second attempt after Blaswich parried his initial header to match Tommy Johnson’s record of 38 goals for City in the 1928-29 season.

Haaland set a new mark with still three months of the campaign to go when he snaffled up another rebound after Blaswich saved from Manuel Akanji.

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In the process, he moved level with Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano’s record of scoring five goals in a Champions League game.

But Guardiola denied his star striker the chance of another record as he replaced him with Julian Alvarez with 25 minutes remaining.

Instead, it was left to De Bruyne to have the final say as he curled a superb strike into the top corner in stoppage time.

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Arsenal outclass Fulham after Leandro Trossard masterclass performance





Arsenal blew Fulham away with an electric first-half display to claim a priceless 3-0 victory in the title race.

After an even start to proceedings, VAR intervened in the 17th minute after the unfortunate Antonee Robinson knocked a rebound into his own net following sterling work from Gabriel Martinelli. But there was no dispute just a few minutes later as Gabriel Magalhaes towered above everybody else in the six-yard box to break the deadlock from a pinpoint Leandro Trossard corner.

It was two just five minutes later: Martinelli was on the spot to nod home Trossard’s looped cross, leaving the hosts with a mountain to climb. And the versatile Belgian forward was pulling the strings again just before the break; he found the space to pick out Martin Odegaard on the far side of the box and the Gunners captain did the rest with a composed finish.

While it’s probably fair to say that Trossard wasn’t exactly at the top of Arsenal’s New Year shopping list a couple of months ago, the versatile forward has more than proved his worth since his bargain £27million switch from Brighton.

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After impressing in recent weeks, Trossard was once again deployed as a false nine and produced a record-breaking display to put Fulham to the sword in their own backyard.

After floating in the cross that led to Arsenal’s opener, Trossard ghosted into space to tee up Martinelli, who put the finishing touch to a slick passing move that started all the way back in the Gunners’ own half. And he stayed sharp right up until the half-time break when he showed great composure to pick out Odegaard, who sealed the points with an equally classy finish.

Odegaard’s finish means that Trossard has become the first player in Premier League history to register a hat-trick of assists in a single half of an away game. Overall, the ex-Seagulls star now has five assists in his last four games. He looks undroppable on current form.

If last weekend’s dramatic fightback against Bournemouth proved Arsenal have the grit required to end a 19-year title drought, then this performance underlined they have the class of champions, too.

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After an even start to proceedings, Arsenal moved through the gears to leave Fulham trailing in their wake at Craven Cottage.

Arsenal have turned doubters into believers in recent months and the contrasting manner in which they’ve secured back-to-back league wins over the past week is further evidence, if it was needed, that they are going nowhere in the title race.

Manchester City ground out a 1-0 win at Selhurst Park to cut the gap to two points, but Arsenal’s classy first-half clinic has re-established their five point cushion at the summit. Over to you, Pep.

Set-pieces proved to be Arsenal’s Achilles’ heel on Thursday night, but the Gunners opening goal at Craven Cottage came from the same medium.

Gabriel managed to propel himself above a swarm of bodies inside a crowded six-yard box to power a header beyond his former teammate Bernd Leno just minutes after VAR had intervened to wipe out an own goal from Robinson.

Crucially, Arsenal were just as good at defending set-pieces as they were attacking them to thwart a Fulham team that boasts a number of aerial threats.

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Arteta will be enthused, rather than relieved, after he slammed the Gunners’ defensive frailties in midweek. The onus is now on his side to prove this wasn’t a one-off.

Arsenal’s impressive first-half blitz capped a miserable week for Fulham, who succumbed to another derby defeat against Brentford on Monday.

The Whites sorely missed the steel that Joao Palhinha has provided this term and were cut open time and time before David Coote mercifully drew proceedings to a halt after Arsenal’s third strike.

Fulham have exceeded all expectations after winning the Championship title and are still in with a chance of capping a memorable season under Marco Silva with an unlikely European place. But they couldn’t live with Arsenal, who underlined their title credentials with a classy display.

The return of Gabriel Jesus to the Arsenal bench is a welcome boost to their title hopes – but the Gunners didn’t require his services at Craven Cottage.

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