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Rampant Arsenal deliver blow to Walcott return

HEAD BOY: Laurent Koscielny heads in for the Gunners against the Toffees

ARSENAL MADE their intentions clear - to fight for a Champions League place after an impressive 5-1 win against Everton at The Emirates on February 3.

Theo Walcott returned to play against Arsenal, this time as a member of the opposition after Everton second the £20m player last month.

After last week’s woeful performance at Swansea, Arsenal desperately needed a win and the Gunners certainly delivered.

Club record signing £56m Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang debut was a doubt as Arsene Wenger confirmed illness ahead of the game.

However, the manager rested Alexandre Lacazette opting for the Gabon international who netted on his home debut. Topped off with Aaron Ramsey’s first hat trick on a drizzly night in North London.

In the first 20 minutes, Everton were totally disorganised and Arsenal took quick advantage. Amid the lack of a tight Everton defence, new signing Henrik Mkihtaryan drove a sublime cross into the box, passing the ball to Aaron Ramsey, who side footed home from close range.

The game stepped up another gear when Mesut Ozil's corner was eventually met by Laurent Koscielny, who dutifully headed the ball home. Minutes later Ramsey scored his second courtesy of an Everton deflection.

Aubameyang struck Arsenal's fourth seconds before half-time. Television replays showed the goal clearly off-side, though this made no difference to the visitor’s or the score line.

The home crowd cheered loudly at the half-time whistle, clearly enthused about what they witnessed from their new heroes in the first half.

At the pre-match press conference, Sam Allardyce claimed Arsenal were 'defensively weak'. However, the huge score prompted the Toffees manager to re-think his plans by changing his three-man defence to a back four after the break.

The decision gave Everton a much needed surge of energy, as the Toffees pushed forward. This released Walcott into the centre of the pitch. The winger tried one shot at goal but Shkodran Mustafi made a sliding tackle clearing the threat.

Allardyce eventually made the decision to substitute Walcott. Dominic Calvert-Lewin who came on, headed the ball into the top left of the goal pulling one back.

Even this failed to spark the visitors into life. Ramsey upset Everton’s rhythm again securing his hat trick after another divine Mkhitaryan cross. However, Arsenal goal keeper Petr Cech limped off with calf injury after colliding with Oumar Niasse as the striker hit the post.

Arsenal simply ran amok with Allardyce’s defence ruining his 500th game for the Premier League. Players frequently played out of position making very few tackles.

Former Manchester City centre back Eliaquim Mangala seemed out of his depth, powerless in handling Mkhitaryan’s many assists. His deflection certainly helped Ramsey’s shot to fly over Jordan Pickford for the third goal.

Arsenal boss Wenger explained in his programme notes exactly why he let Walcott leave the Emirates: “Theo wasn't getting the game time he deserved here anymore. I didn't stand in his way because he played more than 300 games for Arsenal and has been a long servant.

“At some stage, when he felt that he needed to go to have a chance to play at the World Cup and rediscover his confidence, I didn't stop him because I couldn't guarantee him that he would play the number of games he deserved.”

A broken Allardyce said post match: “I was hoping Theo was going to score but, then there was a massive tackle from Mustafi who got back there.

“But, it is a shame. Not only the players let themselves down but when someone comes back to a club like Arsenal and been here for twelve years, he wants to put on a good show. But I mean clearly the pathetic performance that we showed
just didn’t give him the opportunity to go out against his old club and shine.”

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