Arsenal run riot at Goodison
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Arsenal produced a stunning opening-day performance to underline manager Arsene Wenger's belief his young stars can win the title. The Gunners exposed Everton's frailties in defence and lack of depth.

The last time the Toffees lost 6-1 at home was back in 1958, and Arsenal did the damage that time as well. Their passing, movement and finishing left their opponents in shreds, and the north Londoners were three up at the break through Denilson, debuting defender Thomas Vermaelen and his centre-back partner William Gallas.

Everton manager David Moyes had suggested beforehand the Joleon Lescott saga had destabilised his team, but few would have predicted to this extent. After the interval, Cesc Fabregas struck with two fine goals, and Eduardo added a sixth before a Louis Saha consolation. 

The hosts included Lescott despite Manchester City's attempts to sign him, which prompted Moyes' angry outburst yesterday at the Eastlands club's tactics. Brazilian striker Jo had recovered from an ankle problem, while Steven Pienaar was passed fit after knee trouble.

Arsenal gave their new Belgian defender Vermaelen his league bow, but were without Theo Walcott (back), Abou Diaby (groin), Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) and Johan Djourou (knee). But their absences did not seem to matter as they systematically took Everton apart at the back.

Moyes got a hero's reception from the Goodison Park faithful, and Lescott's name was greeted with far more cheers than jeers from a sell-out crowd. But the Scottish manager then had to sit and watch as his usually reliable rearguard, admittedly missing the excellent Phil Jagielka, fell apart before his eyes.

Gunners seize the early initiative
Arsenal were sharp from the start and their passing game was quickly on song. And when Phil Neville misplaced a ball in midfield, the Gunners flowed forward before Nicklas Bendtner drove a shot over the bar. Then the Danish forward headed down for Robin van Persie to see his shot on the turn deflected wide by Lescott.

Everton were having to work tremendously hard in midfield to contain the tempo of Arsenal's game, and the Toffees barely created a chance in the opening half. The goal Arsenal had been threatening arrived on 26 minutes.
Bendtner surged in from the left before flicking a pass to Cesc Fabregas, who instantly turned the ball into Denilson's path. The pace of the move left Everton floundering, and the fine strike from the Brazilian from just outside the area dipped and curled into the top corner.

Everton's response was predictably furious and they had Arsenal hemmed into their box for a spell. Only a goal-line clearance from Denilson following Marouane Fellaini's header from a Leighton Baines corner stopped an equaliser.

Arsenal, though, were cutting through Everton with movement and accurate passing, and after 37 minutes they were two ahead. Van Persie's free-kick from the right found Vermaelen beyond the far post, and the defender headed back into the bottom corner for a fine goal.

Everton's marking for that was dreadful, with Fellaini and Joseph Yobo seemingly at fault. But four minutes later, when Gallas headed home another free-kick, this time from Fabregas, the defending was even worse. The Frenchman had a free run into the six-yard box to guide his header home completely unmarked. Goalkeeper Tim Howard appealed for cover as colleagues stood motionless.

Fabregas takes centre stage
Everton were shell-shocked, and it got worse three minutes after the interval. They were caught by a pitch-length move from Arsenal that ended with Fabregas cruising into the box to send his shot past Howard. Denilson had started the surge deep on the left and found Van Persie, before a neat pass left the Arsenal captain to do the rest.

Moyes then made a triple substitution. Saha replaced Leon Osman, Dan Gosling came on for Tony Hibbert while Jack Rodwell took over from Jo. The reshuffle included Neville reverting to full-back from midfield, where he had struggled.

Rodwell, Fellaini and Pienaar both had chances as Everton struggled to get some pride back. Arsenal sent on Emmanuel Eboue for Bendtner after 63 minutes, the game long won.

But Fabregas was not finished. After 69 minutes he collected a throw from Manuel Almunia and ran from inside his own half, without facing a tackle, to drive home the fifth. Their jobs done, Arsenal took off Fabregas and Van Persie, sending on Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo.

With the ground emptying fast, and the Gunners' fans in full song, Everton just wanted this embarrassment to end as quickly as possible. But Eduardo still had time to score the sixth, netting from close in after Andrei Arshavin's shot had come back off a post with two minutes to go.

Everton finally got onto the scoresheet in injury time, when Saha netted after Pienaar's shot had been blocked.