After just a few minutes at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon, you could see what was about to unfold. Arsenal were far and away the better side, and looked like they were going to cut Everton open at will.
And as surprising as Wayne Rooney’s opening goal, which came against the run of play, was to most onlookers, it probably shouldn’t have been. Although the Gunners managed to assert their dominance in a heavy victory away to what should be a top seven side, you always get the feeling that they can throw it away at times, too.
Although there will always be accusations that any hope for Arsenal is false hope, Aaron Ramsey’s display is cause for optimism for a team who are level on points with Chelsea, and who are still only four points behind Manchester United and Tottenham, despite suffering three defeats already.
The Welshman’s goal and assist will be the headline stats from a rousing performance, but they only underline what was impressive about his performance: namely, his ability to both create and finish moves himself. As we’re seeing all over the top of the league, attacking midfielders who can provide both of those services to their teams are vital, and an in-form Ramsey could propel Arsenal further up the table.
Beyond a goal and an assist, Ramsey took five shots and created five chances for others, taking the game by the scruff of the neck and getting involved at the business end. His 68 touches of the ball mean that he saw only half as much of the ball as his midfield partner Granit Xhaka, who controlled the game, but that allowed the Welshman to roam forward and join up with the attack: clearly, when he got the ball, he used it wisely.
What’s also interesting, though, is Ramsey’s five crosses. It’s an unusual for a central midfielder, perhaps, but it’s also telling that two of Arsenal’s goals – those from Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette – came from crosses or cutbacks. And although Ramsey found himself putting five crosses into the box, he was also the second option in the box for both of the above goals. In a phrase, he was everywhere.
In an era where, after every poor Arsenal performance, it’s the effort and commitment which is questioned, it’s encouraging to see such a swashbuckling performance away from home by a midfielder like Ramsey.
There have been plenty of false dawns for Arsenal, so any optimism must be tempered by a sense of realism, but this was encouraging nonetheless.