Rampant Gunners in 7th heaven
There can be little doubt which of the FA Cup finalists is feeling more confident. Twenty-four hours after Manchester United lost at home to Chelsea, Arsenal gave an awesome reminder that they can play a brand of football unmatched by anyone.
Everton Â— the fourth best team in the land, remember — were lucky to lose by seven.
The touch, movement, speed and passing of Arsenal’s game were scintillating, blowing away Everton in the Premiership’s largest victory of the season. For Arsene Wenger, this was perfect preparation for the Cup final and not just because his team are back to their best.
Sol Campbell played 90 minutes, giving a competent but sometimes rusty performance that improved as the game went on. More vitally, given the defensive solidity even without Campbell, Thierry Henry looked lively after coming on for the second half and had a role in three strikes.
It was Dennis Bergkamp, though, who attracted most adulation from the crowd on the end-of-season lap of honour. He said before this that he was annoyed not to have been told whether he will be here next season. Wenger ought to have had a contract waiting for him in the dressing room.
Bergkamp was imperious, conducting much of Arsenal’s play and showing that, even at 36, he can play the deep-lying striker role better than almost anyone. His passes led to the first three goals and he scored the sixth. He was not alone in catching the eye, though. Edu signed off Highbury on a high, capping a strong performance by tucking away a penalty. Robert Pires scored twice to take his season’s tally to 17, Jose Antonio Reyes buzzed with menace and Robin van Persie showed his growing talent before going off at half-time.
Everton spent much of the game just chasing . “It’s been a great week for Everton Football Club,” David Moyes said. “No criticism of the players, but tonight as a manager I’m totally embarrassed with what happened.” This was Everton’s heaviest defeat since 1949.
His mood struck an understandable contrast with Wenger’s. Arsenal are not just bursting with goals, but looking more secure at the back. Campbell cannot assume he will dislodge Philippe Senderos for the Cup final, with the Swiss performing well again alongside him here as Kolo Toure stood down.
Everton ought to have taken the lead, with Mikel Arteta shooting weakly at Jens Lehmann in the third minute, but soon Arsenal were in command. Bergkamp’s perfect pass set up Van Persie to open the scoring and he then picked out Reyes, whose cross enabled Pires to find the net with a looping header after his initial effort had been parried by Richard Wright.
Arsenal’s next goal epitomised the coordination in the team, with Edu and Van Persie involved before Bergkamp set up Patrick Vieira to clip a shot over the keeper.
The arrival of Henry for the second half, after a five-game absence, ensured no respite for Everton. The striker was full of ideas and energy. Henry’s attempted pass hit Lee Carsley and set up Pires to score. Then his chip struck Carsley’s arm for the penalty, which Edu tucked away, and, after Bergkamp robbed David Weir to score, Henry crossed and Mathieu Flamini scored from Reyes’ knock-back.
Everton will end with a negative goal difference if they lose their final game and have conceded 14 goals to Arsenal this season. — Â