Leaders Arsenal crush Everton to go five points clear

Arsenal's Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard is mobbed by teammates after scoring the team's third goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Everton at the Emirates Stadium in London on 1 March, 2023AFP

Gabriel Martinelli starred as Arsenal moved five points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 4-0 rout of struggling Everton on Wednesday.

Bukayo Saka broke Everton's stubborn resistance late in the first half before Brazilian forward Martinelli doubled Arsenal's lead at the Emirates Stadium.

Martin Odegaard bagged the third and Martinelli wrapped up Arsenal's biggest victory since October on a night that could serve as another landmark moment in their surge towards the title.

It was essential for Mikel Arteta's side to win their game in hand on second-placed Manchester City as the title race approaches its climax.

With 13 games left, the victory keeps Arsenal in pole position to win the title for the first time since Arsene Wenger's 'Invincibles' in 2003-04.

"Once we scored the first goal, the game unlocked. We needed a magic moment and Bukayo produced that. After that we grew and deserved to win the game," Arteta said.

"It's a statement that we're here and want to continue to do this."

After wobbling during a run of three league games without a win that culminated with City knocking them off top spot with a 3-1 win at the Emirates, Arsenal have bounced back impressively.

Three successive wins since the City defeat have taken the Gunners to 60 points, which is their joint-highest total after 25 Premier League fixtures, along with that famous 2003-04 campaign and 2007-08.

"I'm delighted when I see the team play the way we want to. This league is a different story," Arteta said.

"We had big proof of that at Goodison. I'm really happy with the maturity and quality we showed."

Arsenal's Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Martinelli celebrates scoring the team's second goal with Arsenal's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (L) and Arsenal's Italian midfielder Jorginho during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Everton at the Emirates Stadium in London on 1 March, 2023

Sean Dyche started his Everton reign with a shock 1-0 win against Arsenal at Goodison Park on February 4.

But Everton have lost three times and won just once since then, leaving them sitting third bottom of the table.

Everton have played a game more than all the teams around them at the bottom and remain the league's lowest scorers this season with just 17 goals.

Unless Dyche can fix their malaise, Everton are in grave danger of playing in the second tier for the first time since 1954.

Arteta was rewarded for naming the same team that won 1-0 at Leicester on Saturday, with Leandro Trossard again selected in attack instead of Eddie Nketiah.

In a rare spell of Everton pressure, Aaron Ramsdale had to save from Neal Maupay twice in quick succession, but both times the striker's efforts lacked the power to truly test the keeper

Slick Saka

Arteta had insisted everything was "fine" between Gabriel and William Saliba despite the Arsenal centre-backs' heated confrontation on the pitch following the Leicester game.

Gabriel certainly looked unaffected by the fuss when he slid across with a perfectly timed block to stop Maupay from unloading a shot.

Everton's rearguard action lasted until the 40th minute when Saka opened the floodgates.

Oleksandr Zinchenko's pass found Saka in the Everton area and the 21-year-old held off Vitaliy Mykolenko before smashing a fierce strike into the top corner for his 11th goal this season.

Arsenal's English midfielder Bukayo Saka scores the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Everton at the Emirates Stadium in London on 1 March, 2023

Maupay almost mustered an immediate reply for Everton with a long-range blast that whistled just wide.

Despite that escape, Arsenal were firing on all cylinders and Martinelli increased their lead in first half stoppage-time.

Saka was the provider this time as he seized possession from the dozing Idrissa Gueye and found Martinelli, who slotted home from close-range for a goal that was confirmed after a VAR check for a tight offside claim against the Brazilian.

Odegaard put the result beyond doubt in the 71st minute when Arsenal's captain beat Jordan Pickford with a deflected strike from Trossard's cross.

There was still time for rampant Arsenal to net again in the 80th minute as Nketiah's cutback was tapped in by Martinelli at the near post.