For a few minutes before heading back to Holloway Road, Arsenal supporters savored this trip down Easy Street. They reminded themselves who is at the top of the league.
They serenaded the return of Emile Smith Rowe. Behind Aaron Ramsdale’s goal, a fan made a drum roll between each pass and Ole’s shout.
Down below, Arsenal beat Everton 4-0 and all that was left to do? It prolongs the pain in Sean Dyche’s side.
It was a change of mood. Just an hour earlier, the air was toxic and tense in North London.
Dyche had hardly left the tunnel when they began to hurl insults at him.
Arsenal had been frustrated by Everton before Oleksandr Zinchenko changed everything
It was Zinchenko’s fantastic assist for Bukayo Saka that saw Arsenal win 4-0.
The frustration began to boil over in the opening minutes, as Everton ducked, battered Arsenal at half-time, and took every opportunity to play this game at their pace.
As the poison rained down, a member of the visiting bank even turned to dish out a few words of his own. Everton were on sale and were doing great. Arsenal was in disarray; they struggled to carve out a clear opening for 40 minutes.
And then everything changed.
Oleksandr Zinchenko, a wealthy left-back, found himself close to the right flank after picking up the ball in central midfield and fending off a couple of challenges. He stood there, caught a pass from right-back Ben White, faked going in before slipping the ball to Bukayo Saka’s feet.
Suddenly, Everton’s excellent defensive form had cracked and with three devastating touches, Saka had finished off the ball.
Simple as that, brilliant as that. Ridiculous as that. Zinchenko is meant to be a reverse winger. This was more like watching football through a mirror.
That goal, five minutes before half-time, eased Arsenal’s rhythm and opened the floodgates. Then, 10 minutes into full time, Zinchenko closed the show. Another nice through ball put another teammate behind.
Zinchenko could be Arsenal’s most crucial weapon as teams test his patience
This time, Eddie Nketiah fed Gabriel Martinelli for the Brazilian’s second goal of the night. Cue the drum roll and the songs and the return of Smith Rowe. Arsenal moved five points clear of Manchester City and their game in hand had passed without a hitch.
How different it might have been without Zinchenko’s itchy feet.
“We needed a magical moment there and Alex and Bukayo produced it, and then I think the team grew,” manager Mikel Arteta said.
‘He (Zinchenko) brings something different to the team. His mentality and his ability to do certain things allows us to be unpredictable and create a lot of threat every time we have possession of the ball.
He’s played those types of games against low blocks 200 times and that’s very helpful…you have to produce those magic moments and take that initiative. Having that mentality (of): “I’m going to do it on the court, I’m not going to wait for someone else to do it.”
Arteta has bristled over recent suggestions that his team is having trouble breaking through deep defensive lines. But make no mistake: a month after beating Arsenal, Dyche’s Everton once again made the league leaders look pretty normal for 40 minutes.
Sean Dyche’s side were well in the game before Saka’s goal opened the floodgates
No player had more passes or key touches during Wednesday’s game than Zinchenko.
Opposing teams have undoubtedly realized the importance of displacing Martin Odegaard and doubling down on both Saka and Martinelli.
Unfortunately, taming a wild left-back isn’t that simple, at least not without opening up space elsewhere. And so, in this title fight, when more teams test Arsenal’s patience, Zinchenko could prove to be his most crucial weapon.
He came in full time on Wednesday night, no player having made more key passes than Zinchenko (two). Nobody had more touches than the Ukrainian: his tally of 110 was more than double that of any Everton player.
Only William Saliba (108) made more passes than Zinchenko (95) and, with Arsenal enjoying nearly three-quarters of possession, the 26-year-old spent most of his time in midfield, controlling the ball. game and directing the attack of Arsenal.
Compare that to Jorginho, who came off after 45 minutes of wayward passes and self-flagellation. And with Kieran Tierney, whose late cameo bolstered some vital points: he’d beat just about any Premier League team. In traditional terms, he is arguably still Arsenal’s best left-back. But this side doesn’t really play with you. And that helps explain why they’re five points ahead.