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ARSENAL forged ahead with an eye on Champions League qualification with an impressive 5-1 victory over Everton on Saturday, with four of their goals coming in the first half.
Both of Arsene Wenger’s two big January signings made an immediate impression.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, signed for £56 million, delighted the home crowd with a debut goal and Henrikh Mkhitarayan chipped in with three assists in his first start.
“It was pure enjoyment,” said Wenger afterwards. “My only regret was that it doesn’t last for 90 minutes.
“The two players integrated well into our game. They have similar qualities to what our game is about. They looked like they had played with us forever.”
That was just half the story, with Gunners stalwart Aaron Ramsey netting a career-first hat-trick, opening the scoring in six minutes.
A well-worked team goal combined the best of old and new. Mesut Ozil, reinvigorated after signing a new contract last week, played the ball inside from the right to Aubameyang, who flicked the ball smartly with the outside of his heel to the on-running Mhkitarayan. He squared it to Ramsey to finish the move.
If the defenders were feeling left out, they didn’t have to wait long to get involved. It was 2-0 before the quarter-hour mark. Shkodran Mustafi flicked a corner across goal towards fellow centre-back Laurent Koscielny, who scored with a diving header at the back post.
Ramsey bagged his second shortly after with a long-range effort. A deflection off Toffees defender Eliaquim Mangala proved decisive in wrong-footing keeper Jordan Pickford.
The Gunners continued to probe, at one point committing too many forward and allowing Oumar Niasse to play in Theo Walcott, making his return to Ashburton Grove since moving to Everton last month.
One-on-one with Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech, Walcott should have shot with his left, favouring instead to cut back on his right, allowing Mustafi time to recover and block.
Mhkitarayan and Aubameyang rekindled their Dortmund partnership for Arsenal’s fourth. Replays showed the latter was a yard offside but, if it bothered him, he wasn’t showing it, no doubt relishing his deft chip over Pickford.
The slower tempo after the restart allowed the visitors more freedom, eventually being rewarded by substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin as he met Cuco Martina’s cross with a header past Cech just after the hour mark.
But any glimmer of an Everton comeback was put to bed 10 minutes later. Mhikitarayan beat Calvert-Lewin to the ball, and for a second time picked out Ramsey in the middle, who slotted the ball home to complete his hat-trick.
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