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6 April 2014
• Goodison Park, Liverpool
Referee: M. Atkinson
• Attendance: 39504
S. Naismith 14'
R. Lukaku 34'
Arteta 62' (own goal)
Arsenal look to take a significant step to ending their nine-year trophy drought when they take on Wigan in the FA Cup semi-final next Saturday while Everton hope to make it seven successive league wins when they travel to Sunderland. Thanks for joining me, Max Bentley, on this live commentary. Until next time, goodbye.
Arsenal fans will take some comfort from the fact that they have an easier run-in than Everton and with games against West Ham, Hull, Newcastle, West Brom and Norwich to come, only five wins will do. Roberto Martinez's side face Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Southampton, Manchester City and Hull in their remaining matches. It promises to be a tense finale.
Where do Arsenal go from here? Their Champions League destiny is no longer in their hands and you have to question the tactics of Arsene Wenger as his side fell to yet another heavy defeat on their league travels. It appears that lessons are not being learned and Arsenal face a serious risk of missing out on the top four for the first time in 17 years. Is it time for the great man to step down?
FT: Everton 3-0 Arsenal. Goals from Steven Naismith, Romelu Lukaku and an own goal from Mikel Arteta put Everton in the driving seat for the final Champions League spot. Roberto Martinez's men were terrific throughout and they outplayed a lacklustre and toothless Arsenal side. Everton are now just one point behind Arsenal with a game in hand after beating the Gunners for the first time in 15 meetings.
90' + 3'
GOAL DISALLOWED FOR ARSENAL! It just is not Arsenal's day as Sanogo is controversially denied his first Arsenal goal after converting Sagna's pass forward. The linesman adjudged that the French striker had strayed narrowly offside.
90' + 2'
Sanogo is determined to make a name for himself up front for Arsenal but the young striker is immediately surrounded by three blue shirts as soon as he receives the ball. Arsenal's attacking frailties in the transfer market are being seriously exposed once again.
Yellow Card Mikel Amatrian Arteta
Tempers are beginning to boil over in the closing stages and Arteta, who has endured a miserable return to Goodison Park, is booked after a scuffle with Barkley. The Everton midfielder is fortunate to escape punishment after the referee failed to spot his shove on the Spaniard.
COLEMAN TO THE RESCUE! Arsenal continue to push for a consolation but Everton are determined not to be denied another clean sheet. Chamberlain cuts inside from the left again dangerously but his goalbound effort is superbly blocked by Coleman's brave interception.
Romelu Lukaku is the next to receive a standing ovation from the Everton fans as he is replaced by fellow loanee Gerard Deulofeu. Will he be at Everton next season?
OFF THE BAR! Oxlade-Chamberlain has been relatively quiet since coming on but he cuts inside from the left before thumping an unstoppable shot beyond Howard's reach and against the woodwork. That was a fine effort from the England international.
Rosicky has been in fine form for Arsenal in recent games but he sums up their performance by taking a heavy touch outside the box when the chance was there to shoot. Chamberlain then goes down inside the box under pressure from Barry but the referee waves away Arsenal's penalty appeals.
Ramsey is looking to make something happen for Arsenal in the closing stages but his searching ball is just too far ahead of Sanogo before he then suffers a breakdown in communication with Rosicky. It's quite remarkable to think that this Arsenal side topped the Premier League table for so long this season.
Steven Naismith receives a standing ovation from the Goodison Park faithful as he is replaced by Aiden McGeady for the final ten minutes. It's been another impressive display from the former Rangers forward.
Everton are in no rush to score a fourth goal here and they effortlessly keep possession inside the Arsenal half with a few chants of 'Ole' from the crowd. Arsene Wenger looks like a beaten man in the dugout. It seems Arsenal will have taken just 13 points from their previous 11 league games.
Arsenal continue to probe for a goal but Sanogo scuffs his shot wide of the far post after he was played through by Cazorla. However, it would not have counted as the linesman's flag was raised for offside.
Arsenal fans will be furious with their side's display this afternoon and you have to question their approach to the matches against the big sides. Arsenal have accumulated only 13 points from a potential 33 against the top seven and it looks set to be another heavy defeat on the road. Is their patience with Arsene Wenger running out?
There is so much energy to this Everton side and Coleman has the fans on their feet when he deceives Cazorla with a superb piece of skill. Everton have not finished above Arsenal since the 1987/88 season but there is a growing belief amongst Evertonians that this is their year.
Arsene Wenger decides to make his final substitution as Yaya Sanogo replaces Olivier Giroud. The travelling Arsenal fans are certainly happy about that decision. Can the youngster score his first goal for the club?
Arsenal are not giving up hope of a comeback just yet however and Cazorla calls Howard into action with a swerving shot from the left corner of the box. It seems that Yaya Sanogo is about to join the party.
Arsene Wenger decides to make a double change as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey replace Lukas Podolski and Mathieu Flamini. Can the Welshman - who enjoyed a superb first half to the season - shake off his rustiness and help Arsenal get back into this contest?
Arsenal are completely at sea in defence and Barkley again finds space inside the box before fizzing a dangerous cross along the face of goal. Arsene Wenger is preparing to make two changes.
Everton have their tails up here and Barkley nearly inflicts more misery on Arsenal, only to see his low drive well held by Szczesny. It looks set to be another heavy defeat on the road for Arsene Wenger's side. When will they learn?
Own Goal Mikel Amatrian Arteta
3-0 EVERTON! It's been all Arsenal in this second half but it is Everton who score the crucial third goal. Sagna is the culprit as he is sloppily caught in possession by Barry. Szczesny does well to prevent Naismith taking the ball around him but Mirallas is there to follow in the rebound under pressure from Arteta. In fact, I think that may have gone in off the Spaniard.
The Arsenal players are beginning to show their first signs of frustration and Giroud vents his frustration to Martin Atkinson when he feels he should be awarded a free kick. It's been another disappointing display from the France striker so far. Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain continue to warm up on the touchline.
It's been a superb second-half response from Arsenal but they need to take advantage of this attacking pressure. Monreal drifts a cross towards the back post but Vermaelen's header is too central and Howard claims.
ANOTHER CHANCE FOR ARSENAL! Everton are beginning to show some nerves at the back and Cazorla seizes on a mistake by Stones. The Spaniard looks to pick out Flamini on the edge of the box but his pass lacks precision and Flamini pokes the ball wide of the target on the stretch.
CHANCE FOR ARSENAL! Sagna's superb pressing forces Mirallas back towards his own goal and the Belgian takes a heavy touch which gifts the ball to Giroud inside the box. However, the France striker cannot take advantage as his low strike is well saved by Howard. Huge let-off for Everton and Mirallas.
Arsenal continue to crank up the pressure and Everton attempt to take the sting out of their attack by enjoying a sustained spell of possession inside their own half. Roberto Martinez's side know there is no need to push forward and go gung-ho for the third goal.
Arsenal work the ball well from right to left and Monreal escapes down the wing brilliantly for the first time in the game but cannot pick out a teammate with his cross into the middle. Cazorla then feels he should have a penalty when his cross hits McCarthy's arm but the Everton midfielder's arms were down by his side and the referee waves play on.
It's been a slow start to the second half but it is Arsenal who are doing the early pressing. An early goal for the visitors would make for an intriguing second half.
The two sides re-emerge from the tunnel for the second half and Arsenal, unchanged, get the game back underway. Can they give their travelling supporters something to cheer about?
Roberto Martinez will be telling his Everton players to carry on with their level of spirit and performance. If Everton win today, it will be the first time in 11-and-a-half years that they have won six successive league matches and their chances of qualifying for the Champions League are looking increasingly likely by the week.
Arsenal have looked completely lopsided in the first half and the balance in their team just is not working. Cazorla has been ineffective while the double pivot of Arteta and Flamini simply cannot cope with the quick pressing and distribution of the Everton midfield. Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both warming up and I would not be surprised to see Arsene Wenger make a change here.
Lukaku is the first Everton player to score 13 Premier League goals in a season since Yakubu scored 15 in 2007/08. (BBC)
HT: Everton 2-0 Arsenal. Goals from Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku give Roberto Martinez's side a deserved lead at the break. The Toffees are chasing a sixth successive league win and they have been terrific against a lacklustre and toothless Arsenal side. Everton will close the gap on Arsenal to just a solitary point with a game in hand as things stand and the Champions League momentum has shifted drastically into Everton's favour. Big half-time team talk ahead for Arsene Wenger.
45' + 2'
Arsenal threaten at the end of the break when Podolski picks up the ball on the left. However, his teasing cross is just too far ahead of Giroud and Howard makes the save. That is the final action of the first half.
45' + 1'
It just is not clicking for Arsenal at the moment and Giroud sums up their frustrations when his poor first touch ends a sustained spell of attacking pressure. Arsene Wenger has some serious decisions to make at the break if Arsenal are going to salvage anything from this one.
Yellow Card Mathieu Flamini
Flamini is no stranger to a yellow card and the French midfielder picks up a booking for a mistimed lunge on Naismith. That will rule him out of Arsenal's next two games, including the FA Cup semi-final tie with Wigan next week.
Arsene Wenger needs to address Arsenal's right-hand side at the half-time interval because time and time again, Everton are finding space to exploit the defence. Naismith once again gets in behind Sagna but the France defender reacts superbly to win back possession in a dangerous area. Cazorla is simply not giving Sagna enough support down the right.
GREAT SAVE BY HOWARD! Arsenal are looking to pull one back before the half-time whistle and they nearly find it when Podolski latches onto a loose ball on the edge of the box. The Germany international powers a half volley into the ground and Howard is forced to react quickly to tip it over the bar.
LUKAKU GOES CLOSE! The Belgian striker now has 13 goals in 25 league appearances for Everton and he confidently tricks his way beyond the challenge of Flamini before thundering a shot inches past the post. Everton are looking good value for their lead here.
Arsenal can have no excuses about the result so far but they look to make immediate amends when Rosicky finds space on the edge of the Everton box. The Czech Republic midfielder looks to bend a shot into the far corner but McCarthy epitomises Everton's battling spirit by making a superb block.
Assist Kevin Mirallas
Goal Romelu Lukaku
LUKAKU MAKES IT 2-0! It's a shambles at the back for Arsenal as their defence is again sliced open all too easily. Mirallas takes advantage of a slip by Arteta and he feeds Lukaku on the right who bursts beyond the feeble challenges of Monreal and Vermaelen before thumping a shot beyond the helpless Szczesny. It's a huge mountain for Arsenal to climb now.
CHANCE FOR ARSENAL! The visitors have a chance to snatch the equaliser when Stones fails to clear Cazorla's corner from the right. However, he just manages to recover in time to block Giroud's shot.
MIRALLAS GOES CLOSE! Everton continue to turn the screw in attack and Mirallas unleashes a fierce shot from the edge of the box which is well tipped away from the bottom left-hand corner by Szczesny. The Polish goalkeeper has been busy so far.
GOOD SAVE FROM SZCZESNY! Arsenal continue to be exposed down their right-hand side and this time it is Barkley who gets in behind Sagna, testing Szczesny at his near post with a firm low drive. Arsene Wenger does not look too amused in the dugout.
Arsenal continue to build patiently from the back but they are lacking pace and ideas in the final third, with Giroud crossing a ball straight into the nearest Everton defender. I expect that we may see the introduction of Aaron Ramsey at some point if the game continues in this fashion.
Arsenal have only taken 13 points from a possible 33 in their games against the current Premier League top seven this season.
This game is really stretched at the moment and after there is no Arsenal shirt gambling in the box to meet Monreal's inviting cross, Everton attack straight down the other end. Flamini's sloppy pass allows Mirallas to get his shot away on goal but fortunately for Arsenal's Frenchman, it is straight at Szczesny.
Giroud has been much-criticised by Arsenal fans in recent weeks although he does well to get in front of Distin to meet Sagna's teasing cross on this occasion before sidefooting an effort inches past the post.
CHANCE FOR EVERTON! Roberto Martinez's side continue to threaten down the left-hand side and Baines' low cross picks out McCarthy at the back post, whose effort is deflected by the boot of Naismith straight into the gloves of Szczesny. A let-off for Arsenal.
Everton are working incredibly hard in the middle of the pitch, refusing to allow any of the Arsenal players time to settle on the ball in midfield. Cazorla needs to be careful of the attacking endeavour of Baines who has made several promising runs down the left for Everton.
Only Manchester United (30) have earned more points away from home than Arsenal (29) this season. Can the Gunners bounce back?
Arsenal look to respond immediately to falling behind and Cazorla exchanges some neat passes with Arteta around the Everton box before he picks out Podolski. The Germany international has looked lively in the opening stages but he is once again denied as McCarthy makes a crucial last-ditch block.
Goal Steven Naismith
NAISMITH GIVES EVERTON THE LEAD! Goodison Park erupts as Naismith scores his fourth league goal of the season. Baines is at the heart of it as his cross picks out Lukaku, who had got the wrong side of Monreal. The Belgian's low effort is well saved by Szczesny but Naismith reacts quickest to convert the rebound.
Arsenal have settled well in the early stages and they are furious that Naismith is not cautioned after a late challenge on Arteta. The first goal is so crucial here.
GOOD EFFORT FROM FLAMINI! The French midfielder scored a rare goal in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City last weekend and he calls Howard into action for the first time with a stinging drive from the edge of the box which the American shotstopper gathers at the second attempt.
Roberto Martinez is forced to make an early change as Ross Barkley, who is not quite 100 percent, replaces the injured Leon Osman. The England World Cup hopeful has been terrific in both previous matches against Arsenal this season.
Yellow Card Leon Osman
Osman picks up an early booking after he cynically scythes down Sagna, injuring himself in the process. I'm not sure he will be able to continue here.
Everton are keen to push forward themselves however and Vermaelen gets a crucial toe on Naismith's cross to take it away from Lukaku before Coleman's shot is well blocked by Arteta. The Everton fans appeal for a penalty but the referee rightfully waves play on.
Arsenal have settled well in the early stages and they certainly do not seem to be suffering from any prematch jitters. Rosicky wins the ball well from McCarthy in the midfield but Arsenal cannot take advantage as Podolski again drags a shot wide of the post.
It's now Arsenal's turn to come forward and with Everton defenders backing off, Podolski needs no second invitation to shoot and his low drive flashes wide of the target. In fact, Podolski has scored with 33% of his attempts on goal in the last two seasons - the best record of any player with 10 or more goals.
OSMAN GOES CLOSE! It's almost the perfect start for Everton as Osman controls a throw-in before striking a speculative dipping shot towards the Arsenal goal. However, fortunately for Szczesny it bounces inches wide of the far post.
Arsenal will be hoping for a better start than when they last came to Merseyside. Arsene Wenger's side found themselves 4-0 behind against Liverpool after just 20 minutes two months ago.
Referee Martin Atkinson blows his whistle and Everton, in their traditional blue jerseys, get the ball rolling. Can they boost their Champions League chances with a sixth successive league win? Let's find out...
You can sense both the excitement and the tension in the stands as captains Leighton Baines and Thomas Vermaelen lead out the respective sides at Goodison Park. Everton's biggest game of the season is just minutes away.
STAT: Arsene Wenger has won 23 of his 35 Premier League matches against Everton, at least four more than he has won against any other Premier League team.
If Everton win today, it will mark the first time that they have recorded six consecutive league wins in 11-and-a-half years. Everton's last league triumph against the Gunners came courtesy of Andy Johnson's stoppage-time winner in a 1-0 home victory back in March 2007.
Arsene Wenger has steered Arsenal to Champions League football in each of his 16 full seasons in charge and it seems almost unthinkable for Arsenal fans that the record will not continue. Arsenal have a good recent history against the Toffees, losing just once in their last 15 league meetings. The two sides drew 1-1 at the Emirates Stadium in the reverse fixture earlier this season before Arsenal dumped Everton out of the FA Cup a month ago with a 4-1 triumph.
Arsenal subs: Viviano, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Sanogo, Jenkinson, Kallstrom, Bellerin.
ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal; Arteta, Flamini; Cazorla, Rosicky, Podolski; Giroud.
Everton subs: Robles, Hibbert, McGeady, Deulofeu, Barkley, Garbutt, Alcaraz.
EVERTON (4-3-3): Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry, Osman; Mirallas, Naismith, Lukaku.
ARSENAL TEAM NEWS: The big news for Arsenal fans is that Aaron Ramsey returns to the squad for the first time since picking up an injury against West Ham on Boxing Day. The Welshman starts on the bench as Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta - against his former club - retain their spots in midfield after last weekend's 1-1 draw with Manchester City. There is a change at the back for Arsenal however as Nacho Monreal replaces the injured Kieran Gibbs while Lukas Podolski is again preferred to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
EVERTON TEAM NEWS: Roberto Martinez makes two changes to the team which earned a fifth successive league win at Fulham last weekend. Ross Barkley has not recovered from the knock which forced him off at half-time and he is replaced by Kevin Mirallas, who scored from the bench. Steven Naismith, who also scored as a substitute against Fulham, replaces on-loan Barcelona youngster Gerard Deulofeu. Phil Jagielka remains sidelined with a hamstring problem so John Stones makes his sixth successive start alongside Sylvain Distin in the heart of defence.
Roberto Martinez's side are just four points adrift of Arsenal in the table but they do have a game in hand. The Gunners inflicted relegation on the Spaniard's Wigan last season and victory today - which would put Everton's Champions League destiny in their own hands - would act as the perfect revenge. The Toffees have lost only once at home in the league all season (a 1-0 Boxing Day defeat to Sunderland) and there is a real belief on Merseyside that they can beat anyone at Goodison Park.
At the beginning of March, Arsenal were just one point off the Premier League summit and harnessed realistic ambitions of lifting the title for the first time in a decade. However, fast forward just one month and it is déjà vu for Arsenal fans as their side again face a scrap for the final Champions League spot after winning just one of their five league games in March. And the problems do not end there for Arsene Wenger's side as today they face an in-form Everton outfit, hoping to steal away that invaluable fourth-place finish. The race is on!
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