Aug 162009

Everton 1 (Saha 90) Arsenal 6 (Denilson 26, Vermaelen 37, Gallas 41, Fabregas 48, 69, Eduardo 88)

As Wenger was at pains to point out after the match, you can only get three points for a win, but what a statement of intent this was. The biggest opening day win in Premiership history, the biggest defeat for Everton at home in decades, and two fingers to all the doubters – this was simply scintillating.

As expected, Wenger went with 4-3-3, Arshavin, Van Persie and Bendtner the forward trio. Remarkably, despite us scoring six, none of the three were amongst the goalscorers, an indication that there is yet more to come from this team. Frightening for the league, exciting for us.

It was a day for the oft maligned to step up and prove themselves worthy, no more so than with the first goal – Bendtner showing great skill before Cesc set up Denilson for a 25 yard belter. At the end of last season, the Brazilian was looking extremely jaded, but on yesterday’s evidence (not just the goal), a break has done him the world of good.

Next came two goals we are more used to conceding the scoring – Vermaelen and Gallas heading in free kicks, both unmarked just yards from goal. David Moyes was rightly tearing his hair out.

In the second half, Cesc scored from a fluid counter, before running around 50 yards unchallenged to slot a fifth past an Everton side that looked like they just wanted to go home. But they were to suffer once more – Eduardo coming off the bench to tap in after Arshavin hit the post. Saha’s consolation was barely that.

It would be remiss to suggest that we were only good going forward. Certainly a six goal haul at Goodison is no mean feat, and Cesc especially was ripping Everton to shreds. But defensively, we were excellent, with one player outstanding – take a bow, Alex Song. Hurrying around with an urgency we never used to associate with him, he dominated Everton’s midfield and is completely unrecognisable from the player who was deemed hopeless by countless fans, myself included. How wrong we were.

Vermaelen had an excellent debut, putting himself about, and his partnership with Gallas has real promise. But the real key for me was the hustling by all eleven players – we won the ball back high up the park on numerous occasions, because we were pressing so hard.

It was, in truth, the perfect start, and predictably the media have now gone from writing us off to tipping us for the title. Betting companies have slashed our odds from 8/1 to 5/1. It is truly hilarious.

Match of the Day, on the other hand, still can’t bring themselves to give us credit – last night’s focus was entirely on how bad Everton were. And while they certainly were that, we didn’t let them play, and we forced the mistakes.

Still, I have no problem with the pundits continuing to write us off. We have always been at our best with our backs to the wall, fighting to prove the critics wrong. Yesterday everyone was determined to prove a point, and they did that in style.

It is only one game, it is only three points, but somehow, it is so much more than that.

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