Arsenal’s new dawn (which may last a week...)

So scintillating were the skills and movement of this refreshed Arsenal side that seasoned manager Arsene Wenger felt it prudent afterwards to quash talk of a new generation of trophy hunters.

Arsenal’s new dawn (which may last a week...)

Although Wenger could not recall a better home debut than that of attacking midfielder Henrik Mkhitaryan in his 20-odd years in charge, and goalscoring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was not far behind, he was aware that this weekend’s trip to Tottenham will serve as a more accurate marker than perennial whipping boys Everton.

The match was over when they led by four goals at half-time, just as it was in their last home game against Crystal Palace, as Aaron Ramsey scored two and Laurent Koscielny headed in before Aubameyang chipped a delicious debut strike.

Sam Allardyce’s terrorised team and returning former Gunner Theo Walcott were better after the break and even scored through substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin before Mkhitaryan produced his third assist of the match for Ramsey’s first Arsenal hat-trick.

And as much as the adoring Arsenal fans fawned over club record signing Aubameyang, it was his erstwhile Borussia Dortmund team-mate Mkhitaryan, signed in exchange for former favourite Alexis Sanchez, who really impressed.

Wenger said it was not his concern that his new signing did not thrive at Manchester United, but acknowledged he might have found a more natural home at Arsenal.

He explained: “I met Mkhitaryan before he came here. I liked always his game but he’s a player completely focused on football.

“He comes from a country, Armenia, where you need special character to become a great football player.

“You have to really love it, and that’s why he looks happy to play football because he just loves it.”

With Mesut Ozil celebrating his eye-watering new contract with a commanding performance too, it was the Wenger-ball the much-maligned manager lives for.

“I like it,” he smiled. “One part of me is always worried, because I’m such a long time in football, but one part as well is just purely a football-lover.

“Your main target is just to get the players to enjoy the game they play, to share it with the fans, so when you have that positive experience it’s great for you. Yeah, pure enjoyment, I love that the team plays, and my regret is that it doesn’t last for 90 minutes, unfortunately.”

But coming directly after one of too many dismal away defeats, at Swansea in midweek, the French coach said it was too soon to tell supporters they were witnessing the latest regeneration of a Wenger Arsenal side.

“Let’s not predict too far ahead. Let’s see how we go into the next game [against Tottenham]. It’s a better test. If I tell you the same, I have a positive mood after the next game, we’ll say ‘yes’ and be positive until the end of the season.”

That is something Allardyce also aspires to at Everton as they followed an impressive midweek win over Leicester with a performance he labelled “pathetic” in his post-match press conference.

In a more considered chat later, the experienced manager said he would shoulder his share of the blame, but would always criticise players for not following his simple brief.

“It was the implementation,” he pleaded. “Systems will mean nothing if the players played crap. I have got to stop using that word otherwise my wife will tell me off. They were very poor the lads, very poor.

“They have had a lot of changes and so many new faces not only on the pitch but new faces behind the scenes too.

“Let’s write this season off as quick as we can by staying in the Premier League and then sort it out for the start of next season.

“That’s the thing that I can try to do. If we can get safe quick and start performing again like we did on Wednesday, then try to finish in the top half and not put any pressure on by slipping down the table.”

One player Allardyce tried to shield from criticism was his big January signing Walcott, who was twice denied a goal against his former club by some phenomenal blocking from Shkodran Mustafi before he was withdrawn with half an hour to go.

“He really wanted to go out and shine, but we gave him very little service and very little quality for him to shine,” Allardyce lamented.

“I protected him in the end. We weren’t going to come back and get a result and the last thing I want him to do is fatigue and pull a muscle.

“He hasn’t played many games this year and he is our top, top, top player for his physical output in terms of speed and the distance he covers. So there was no point in risking him any farther.”

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1):

Cech 6 (Ospina 70, 6); Bellerin 6, Koscielny 6, Mustafi 7, Monreal 6 (Kolasinac 45, 6); Ramsey 8 (Wilshere 75, 6), Xhaka 6; Mkhitaryan 9, Ozil 7, Iwobi 6; Aubameyang 7.

Subs not used:

Chambers, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Lacazette.


Pickford 5, Keane 4 (Davies 45, 6), Williams 4, Mangala 4; Kenny 5, Martina 4, Schneiderlin 5, Gueye 5 (Tosun 78, 5); Walcott 6 (Calvert-Lewin 61, 6) Niasse 5, Bolasie 4.

Subs not used:

Robles, Holgate, Sigurdsson, Rooney.


Neil Swarbrick (6/10)



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