Euro 2020 Special

100 Up for the Gunners: Arsenal Become Founding Member of New Club

In beating Everton at the Emirates on Wednesday night, Arsenal not only extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to five points, but they also created a unique piece of history.

They became the first side in the history of the English Football League (irrespective of the division, to have beaten the same opponent 100 times.

That was the 204th league meeting between the two, and the 62nd since the Premier League was founded in 1992.

In part, their record can be explained by the fact that they have both played in the same division for much of their history. Both have been ever-present in the Premier League era, Everton have not played outside the top tier of English football since 1954. And, in the case of the Gunners, it is much longer than that, their stay dating back to the end of World War 1.


Gunners get their revenge

This match was the Gunners’ game in hand on their nearest title rivals Manchester City, and was due to have been played earlier in the season but was rearranged following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The two sides had met less than a month ago at Goodison Park, in what was Sean Dyche’s first game in charge of the Merseyside club. And he made a winning start with his team outmuscling the Gunners in midfield, pinning back their wingers, and then relying on set-pieces to threaten at the other end, the route by which they eventually scored the only goal.

They tried the same tactics at the Emirates, and, for much of the first half it seemed to work, as they looked to disrupt the rhythm of the home side.

Their game plan fell apart though when Bukayo Saka collected a through ball from Oleksandr Zinchenko and lashed the ball past Jordan Pickford with his weaker right foot. Saka then caught Idrissa Gueye dithering on the ball and set up Gabriel Martinelli to poke home. It was ruled offside initially, but this time the VAR officials drew the lines in the right place and the goal stood.

With the pressure off, Arsenal dominated the second half and added two more goals through captain Martin Ødegaard and Martinelli with his second. Everton were well-beaten and would have been glad to keep the score down to just four.


Fight for survival

If Everton are to maintain their Premier League status for another season and ensure that this fixture remains on the calendar, then Dyche is going to have to address their problems in front of goal.

Nobody in their team has scored more than three goals this season and main striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is back on the treatment table again.

The defeat leaves them one point behind 17th-placed Leeds, but they have played a game more, and they have a significantly worse goal difference.

Their next fixture is a trip to Nottingham Forest on Sunday, and they need to start picking up points fast.


Can Arsenal sustain their challenge?

As for Arsenal, they next play Bournemouth at home on Saturday. Whilst there are no easy games in the Premier League, they will be looking to pick up another three points because then their schedule gets more crowded with the return of the Europa League.

Whether they have the squad to cope with playing three games a week for the rest of the season remains to be seen, and they have some difficult away games to come – they still have to travel to Anfield to play Liverpool, to the Etihad to face Manchester City, and to Newcastle.

The bookmakers still make Manchester City the favourites to win the title, and there are good reasons for that. Pep Guardiola’s side have won it four times in the past five seasons, and they know what is needed in the final weeks of the campaign when the pressure really begins to ramp it.

They also have the top scorer in Europe, Erling Haaland, who is on course to break all Premier League records, whilst Arsenal share their goals around more.

However, even if they fall short this time, Arsenal are close to achieving their first objective already, which was to qualify for the Champions League again after a six-year absence from the competition.

And they are also beginning to build a team capable of challenging for the title again on a regular basis.




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