'Soft' Arsenal flourish when the pressure is off, says Richard Buxton
Surely this is a case of too little too late for Wenger
(Danny Welbeck 7, Alex Iwobi 42)
From the embers of a midweek malaise, Arsenal rediscovered their mojo.
Arsene Wenger's players took the fight to Everton with the freedom and swagger of legitimate English Premier League title contenders as they emerged comfortable 2-0 victors last night.
But, true to form, their latest epiphany arrived too little and too late.
Belated flourishes used to be a trademark of the Gunners of bygone days.
Indeed, they have fond memories of rising to the title challenge in the final third of the season, not least on Merseyside.
Nowadays, however, their springtime surges are only associated with preserving a top-four finish.
When the pressure is off, Arsenal manage to turn on the style.
Memories of their previous league triumph, in 2004, are becoming as hazy as the iconic smash-and-grab affair at Anfield in 1989.
Wenger cannot shake the autopsies and inquisitions which continue to plague him, especially after this likely barren campaign.
Away from the Emirates Stadium, he has seen designs of ending a 12-year wait to be crowned champions of England disintegrate again.
This victory at Goodison Park constituted only his side's third win from the previous 10 Premier League away games.
Out of the Champions League and the FA Cup and having ceded the title fight to Leicester City and arch-rivals Tottenham, the elephant in the room is no longer standing over the Frenchman's shoulder but firmly tapping on it.
Wenger has been more reminiscent of a relief teacher than "Le Professeur" in recent times.
He has become little more than a glorified caretaker, keeping Arsenal ticking over as a mandatory footnote both in the EPL and the Champions League.
Until now, that remit had been largely unchallenged, but the tide is finally turning.
Disenfranchised supporters now actively demand change in the dugout, and even after a performance as rousing as this one, they will continue.
As Arsenal's players strolled across Goodison to bask in the adulation from their travelling support, the banners were once again unfurled.
The current evidence vindicates the message that Wenger is no longer fit to lead.
Only back-to-back successes in the FA Cup had delayed the current inquiry into his tenure from taking place sooner.
There are only so many times Arsenal can allow themselves to be embarrassed by the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich while being forced to play catch-up to Leicester on the home front - a battle they look increasingly destined to lose.
Once a pioneer of English football, Wenger is now its elder statesman.
Against a backdrop of new-found challenges from their free-spending challengers and unlikely usurpers to their former throne, he has failed to truly adapt to the altering parameters.
Forward thinking is now what Arsenal require, not continually harking back to yesteryear.
Morale-boosting victories cannot stop a rot that has festered for close to a decade in north London.
But that is not enough to stop some Gunners fans (above) from calling for manager Arsene Wenger’s head. PHOTOS: REUTERS
It’s not bad. I enjoyed the moment. but I’m happy that the team won. That’s the positive. That’s what we’re going to take into the next game. We’re all confident in training. Even though we had a difficult week, we’re trying to put that aside and concentrate on the league.
- Alex Iwobi on his first goal for Arsenal
The character of my players was questioned. We know if we don’t win today we were out of it. I think it was a mental test for the side. I am not masochistic enough to consider us out. Mathematically we have a chance and (have) a game in hand at home. We are not the flavour of the week but if we don’t believe, no one will do it for us.
- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Today was a one-off. I don’t think we were ourselves... We didn’t really turn up in terms of intensity. I haven’t seen us play that badly this season.
-Everton manager Roberto Martinez