Alex Iwobi is Arsenal's new star as Wenger's men get back on track
Arsenal got back to winning ways with a convincing victory at Goodison Park, as first-half goals from Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi were enough to beat a poor Everton side 2-0 on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger chose to stick with 10 of the 11 players who played in the Champions League round-of-16 defeat at Barcelona in midweek, with the introduction of Francis Coquelin the one change. That meant a first Premier League start for Nigerian Alex Iwobi, who enjoyed an excellent full domestic debut.
It remains to be seen whether this result can help reignite Arsenal's title challenge, or if it's simply too little too late, but Iwobi's form is a real positive at present.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK David Ospina, 7 -- Although generally an assured deputy, the Colombian has a nasty habit of palming the ball back into danger when making saves. But those missteps went unpunished in this game. He was injured conducting a particularly brave piece of goalkeeping, diving at the feet of Romelu Lukaku, but recovered to see out the 90 minutes and keep an important clean sheet.
DF Hector Bellerin, 8 -- After a difficult night in midweek against Neymar, Bellerin seemed liberated at Goodison Park. He broke forward time after time, drawing fouls from an Everton defence that struggled to cope with his remarkable speed. The Spaniard also created Arsenal's second goal with an excellent pass over the top for Iwobi.
DF Laurent Koscielny, 8 -- Arsenal's stand-in skipper was very impressive at Goodison Park, especially considering Lukaku's form. Koscielny was first to almost everything, using his speed and power to keep the Belgian relatively quiet.
DF Gabriel Paulista, 7 -- Wenger seems determined to persist with a central defensive partnership of Koscielny and Gabriel, with Per Mertesacker left on the substitutes bench once again. The Brazilian looked better in this game than he has in recent weeks, though. His infamous temper never flared, and he was fairly solid in the air.
DF Nacho Monreal, 7 -- You know what you're going to get from Monreal. The Spaniard is one of the most consistent players in the Premier League and turned in a typically solid display at Goodison Park.
MF Francis Coquelin, 7 -- Brought into the side for the injured Mathieu Flamini, Coquelin was a busy presence in front of the Arsenal back four. His form has dipped slightly since he returned from a knee problem, but this performance was a sign he is getting back to somewhere approaching his best.
MF Mohamed Elneny, 8 -- This was another convincing performance from Arsenal's January signing. His partnership with Coquelin was hugely important in this result, as they worked hard to pressure Everton in the middle of the park and force multiple errors. Elneny keeps it simple, dropping deep to receive the ball from the back four and helping keep the play moving. It's not flashy but it's incredibly important.
MF Mesut Ozil, 7 -- Instrumental when Arsenal were at their mesmeric best in the first half. Also involved in the build-up to the opener, playing a neat one-two with Alexis Sanchez to allow Welbeck in on goal. His combination play with Sanchez and Iwobi tormented Everton until he was eventually withdrawn as a precautionary measure.
FW Alex Iwobi, 8 -- What a week it's been for the Nigerian youngster. After starting his first Champions League game, at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, he opened his Premier League account against Everton, racing on to Bellerin's pass to fire underneath Joel Robles. The touch and composure he showed for his goal was of a player mature beyond his years. On this evidence, Iwobi could have a big part to play between now and the end of the season.
FW Alexis Sanchez, 7 -- Playing from the right once again, Sanchez was an energetic if erratic presence on the field. He deserved a penalty after being tripped inside the box but appeared to be punished for trying to stay on his feet.
FW Danny Welbeck, 8 -- The England international now has three goals in his eight Premier League appearances since returning from a 10-month layoff. He took this one well, rounding Robles before rolling the ball into the empty net. His form in the second half of the season has been a real positive for Arsenal, and he seems to be developing an intriguing understanding with Iwobi.
MF Kieran Gibbs, N/R -- Came on for the injured Ozil (74) and helped shore up the left flank.
FW Olivier Giroud, N/R -- Replaced Welbeck (75) and had a goal harshly disallowed. It looks as if it will be difficult for him to reclaim his place from the Englishman.
MF Calum Chambers, N/R -- Came on for Iwobi (86) and played in an unusual advanced midfield role.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.