Everton 1 – 6 Arsenal
By Phil Dawkes
Vermaelen (left) was impressive both in defence and attack for Arsenal
Arsenal produced a scintillating opening-day display to hammer a woefully out-of-sorts Everton.
Denilson fired Arsenal ahead with a curling 25-yard strike before new signing Thomas Vermaelen doubled their lead with a header from a free-kick.
William Gallas headed the third before two Cesc Fabregas goals made it 5-0.
Gunners substitute Eduardo was on hand to tap in a late sixth before Louis Saha rolled in the most inconsequential of goals for Everton in injury time.
In the aftermath of this defeat for Everton, questions will inevitably be asked about the mindset of Toffees centre-back Joleon Lescott, who has made it clear he would like to join Manchester City and here formed one-quarter of a very poor home backline.
There will be no need for such soul-searching at Arsenal though as they produced a stunning display of incisive, fluent counter-attacking football to equal the biggest opening-day victory in Premier League history.
For the first 25 minutes the hosts matched their visitors as the presence of 10 midfield players on the pitch, led to shared possession in a congested central third.
In pre-season, Nicklas Bendtner doubled his shirt number but in being asked to play an unfamiliar role as one-fifth of Arsenal’s midfield quintet his usual work-rate was similarly increased, and it was he who fashioned the chance from which his team opened the scoring.
The tall Dane brought the ball down and fed Fabregas, who in turn found Denilson 25 yards out and his first-time shot curled away from Tim Howard’s despairing dive and found the top left-hand corner.
Wenger delighted after Arsenal rout
Denilson proved equally useful at the other end minutes later when Marouane Fellaini muscled himself some room in a crowded penalty area to allow him to head Leighton Baines’s right-wing corner goalwards but the Brazilian was well-placed on the line to punt clear.
It was to be a costly miss for the home side for in Arsenal’s next attack Robin van Persie swung a right-wing free-kick to the far post where Vermaelen had found space round the back to double the visitors’ lead with a header into the far corner.
It was a harsh lesson, but one Everton failed to heed for barely five minutes later another Van Persie free-kick, this time from the left, found Gallas unmarked in front of goal and with the simplest task to glance his header in.
Any fight David Moyes may have drummed up in his side at half-time was knocked out of them two minutes into the second half as Van Persie fed Fabregas through on goal and his shot found its way under the onrushing Howard and into the net.
No positives for Moyes after 6-1 defeat
The Spanish midfielder – the creative force at Arsenal’s heart – showed just why he is so coveted by European champions Barcelona when he scampered through and struck a low drive into the bottom left corner for his second and the Gunners’ fifth.
Eduardo, making his Premier League return after his lengthy absence through injury as a late substitute, got himself in on the act when he found himself in the right place to tap in a simple sixth for the Gunners.
Andrey Arshavin’s toe-poke had struck a post and fallen at the Croatian’s feet leaving the easiest of finishes.
Everton introduced Saha in an attempt to register a presence on the scoreline, and while the French forward did indeed side-foot in a goal after Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia had parried a shot from Steven Pienaar, it was far too late to garner any respectability for the home side.
Everton manager David Moyes:
“You deal with it and you move on so we’ll look it at it and try to do better next time.
“We have to pick ourselves up quickly.
“There’s no positives you can take out. We didn’t play well today and we have to take the blame.
“We’ve had pre-season problems but mainly because we haven’t been able to get players playing.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
“You have to accept that one game is only one game, what is important is that we have the desire and believe in our qualities.
“Everybody in our team can score goals and everybody likes to go forward so when things go for us like today, anyone can score.
“The Champions League (against Celtic on Tuesday) is a big game for us and we know we need a positive performance.”